Université Paris 3 – Sorbonne Nouvelle

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					 “Being an American
 expatriate in Paris”

DUMESNIL Charlotte
PETIT Christine
ROBERT Yves Paul
THELOT Eléonore

                  Université Paris 3 – Sorbonne Nouvelle
                  DESS Communication des Entreprises et des Institutions
             Table of contents

Plan             ------------------------- page 3

Do               ------------------------- page 7

Review           ------------------------- page 14

Special thanks   ------------------------- page 17

Appendix         ------------------------- page 18


      The English project was launched soon after US elections results. We
wished to organize an event that would keep up with international events
and found the French-American relationship worth analysing, especially in
such a context. Therefore we first planned a political debate in a fancy USA-
related gathering point.


      The relationship between the USA and France has been deteriorating since the war in Iraq.
On the one hand, an “anti Bush” trend has developed in France, yet its political elite remains truly
attached to the American model. On the other hand, the American opinion seems torn between
kinship and “guilt” from a mostly democrat fringe and outraged resentment from a more liberal
trend who felt betrayed by France. As a result of this latter wave of disagreement, “French
bashing”, as a dumping attitude towards France, has spread among US medias, political fields and
part of the population. This state of things reached a climax on the day of the US elections which
represented a turning point for expatriates in Paris, bound to find a position between two cultures.


      Dwelling upon this issue, we chose to investigate on the American expatriates in Paris, as a
culturally attractive microcosm. Indeed, American expatriates are in a tricky situation, yet
benefiting from the ideal critical distance enabling them to assess the situation. Living in Paris,
what kind of links do they maintain with their mother country, and through which channels do they
keep it? How can they conciliate their cultural origins with the country they live in? How do they

adjust to the French political zeitgeist and orientations? To what extent can this ideological gap
affect expatriates‟ integration or acculturation?


      In such a context, English language should work as a cultural medium, but also as a symbol
of French students‟vow to acknowledge a given community‟s inner feelings, opinions, and ideas for
a better understanding between our two nations. As students in communications, we wanted to go
ahead of traditional medias and build our own idea of American expatriate‟s Parisian way of life.
      To us, this option offered a double advantage: we have the opportunity to get a glimpse of
the American way of life and, at the same time, to be given a foreign feedback on the French‟s
image. Hopefully in the end we will build a network of acquaintances through this interactive

Pedagogical purposes

   1. Practice of American English
      Most French students are used to learn English with an English teacher. As a result, it could
      be difficult to understand the American accent which is very different from the English one.
      We are convinced that this “face to face meeting” with American people is the best way to
      improve our understanding of American language.

   2. Sharing experiences of a different culture
      It will be the opportunity for French students to learn how American expatriates perceive
the French way of life. Furthermore, they could be aware of the difficulties and the advantages of
being expatriated. We hope that this meeting will convince them to live the same experience in
the future.
   Do French people really know American people? Favouring the dialogue, we are willing to break
set ideas on them.

   3. Comparing impressions on global and burning issues
   The debate was first focused on American Elections. This topic may engender differences of
opinion. First, we think it will be relevant to know the point of view of the American expatriates.
   Next, we are convinced that French students will participate to the debate because everybody
has something to say about this burning issue. This main topic should lead to other connected
topics that will nourish the debate.

   4. Adjusting ourselves to our subject
      As we will see in the second part dedicated to the organization and means provided for the
project, the search for US contacts lead us to re-evaluate our first aim and broaden the scope of
our activities. The project evolved because of and thanks to the Americans we met, their
personalities and individual experiences, thus making us adjust ourselves to the human part of the
project, and its subsequent unpredictable dimension.

Our partners

   1. American Women’s Group in Paris (AWG)

      AWG Paris is a non-profit organization with a dynamic membership of several hundred
English-speaking women. They are professionals, mothers, executives and spouses - long-time Paris
residents as well as new arrivals to Paris. Membership is open to English-speakers of all
nationalities. Founded in 1949 to assist American women living overseas, today AWG Paris offers
educational, cultural and social programs to their membership. A monthly coffee get-together in
member's homes feature informative speakers and give members a chance to make new friends.
Monthly activities offer artistic tours and cultural courses. Members also receive the AWG monthly
bulletin including upcoming activities, informative articles and tips on living in France.

   2. Democrats Abroad France (DAF)

   DAF is an organization of U.S. Democrats living in France, acting to mobilize voters around
issues and candidates. They work on both a grass-roots and global level. There are approximately
2,000 members in France alone.
   DAF has regional chapters on the Riviera, Strasbourg & the Eastern region, and in Toulouse &
the Southwest, as well as other specific interest groups. They organize monthly dinner-debates
where experts address topics of timely interest. The talk is stimulating and informative.
There are several “Caucuses” like the Women's Caucus, the Gay and Lesbian Caucus, and the Young
Democrats Abroad France.

   3. Various participants

Matthew Smith: a twenty-year old American who has studied in France for one year.
Jonathan Goldstein: an American owner of a bar-restaurant in Paris (Coffee Parisian)
Sheila Malovany-Chevallier : an English teacher who left USA forty years ago.
Darrin Taylor: Breakfast in America„s manager.
Craig Carlson: Breakfast in America‟s owner
Jimmy Davis: photographer from New York.
Bérangère Parmly : a friend of Sheila‟s, belonging to the DAF‟s association
Wendy Richardson: American consultant in Paris


           Once our plan was decided, we went into action with enthusiasm. Our
      project was multifarious and involved many actors, so we constantly
      adapted our strategy to reality, until the last moment.
           Communication among our team was good: as we all efficiently reacted
      by mails1, we managed to gather for this project quite often between
      November and April, which helped building and leading the project to a
      satisfying conclusion.

Collecting information- Entering the “American Parisian” world

          We learned through this project that the best way to understand people‟s expectations, to
be appropriate and to make things happen, remains face-to-face communication. We used our
personal contacts but also dared go and meet several unknown Americans.

"Exploration Diving" in a bar
          Our first team gathering at Harry's Bar was aimed at meeting Americans in a mythical
American frame2. It was a little disappointing. We had heard of it as a legendary bar but when we
met there on a Monday evening of November, we found it small, empty, so expensive and we met
no American expatriates inside!
          The evening was useful though: it was a first trial to practice our English in "real conditions".
We spoke to English students and to a couple of Canadians on holidays.
          The couple was talkative and friendly and advised us to go and see websites of American
networks, such as the AWG, which turned out to be a good trail. They encouraged us, which was
very pleasant and we understood that it was quite easy to meet people, simply speaking in a bar,
and that the conversation could be quickly very interesting.

    Appendix 1 : e-mails exchanged

Interview of an English teacher3
         A cosy meeting:          Sheila Malovany-Chevallier, an English teacher at Sciences-Po and a
politically committed American woman living in France welcomed one of us (an ex-student of hers)
for an interview at home. She has been living in Paris for 40 years. Her point of view about
expatriation was very interesting and she gave us a lot of contacts, thanks to her numerous
networks : both politically involved and food-professional friends...
         She told us that HB was said to be Republican so American Democrats might not like to meet
us there. She kindly helped us to find another typical place to organize the debate : she gave us
the number of the“ Coffee Parisian ” „s boss, who didn‟t agree to rent his restaurant but then
recommended us to the Breakfast in America „s manager .

The organized meetings

    1) January 3rd 2005: at BiA4 with Berengère Parmly ( a friend of Sheila‟s)
Discovery of the bar, first contact with a lady of the Young Dem‟s (Democrats abroad), food

    2)     January 5th 2005: at HB with Carmen and Ken (contacted through AWG‟s forum) + an
American student Mathew (a friend‟s friend ! )
A very pleasant evening, a long chat about everyday life in France. The 3 Americans seemed to
love Paris.
         After this joyful and enriching night, the expatriate couple asked us to send them our
project. This was an important turning point : they found it too politically orientated and serious
and turned down the invitation. We were disappointed to have frightened such nice people! Their
reaction was in keeping with our classmates‟ one: we had to vary themes and to set up a more
entertaining event.
    We therefore decided to change the plans: we would not deal with politics only but would
organize round tables with free discussions in a relaxed atmosphere.

  Appendix 2 : Harry‟s Bar‟spictures
  Appendix 3 : Interview with Sheila Malovany-Chevallier
  Appendix 4 : “Breakfast in America” „s pictures

   3)     March 29th 2005: at BiA with Berengère Parmly and Wendy :
   It was a kind of final rehearsal one week before the Breakfast but with just the team and 2
guests. Wendy was very talkative and willing to help us to learn English. A very active woman, she
was very nice to free herself on a Thursday morning!

Phone calls and mails
        During those 4 months, we communicated regularly between us, with the class and the
potential guests by phone calls and e-mails.


        It wasn't enough to be an enthusiastic team; we also had to convince several actors:

- the class : we submitted a questionnaire to our classmates filled in December in order to know
their preferences. The results of the survey helped us to build a well-orientated project and we
presented our Harry‟s Bar project very early in the year5. Later on (in January) we made them
choose between our 2 options: either HB by night or BiA on a Thursday morning. Letting them take
the right option proved thoughtful as they were automatically involved. The breakfast was
unanimously approved: a breakfast brainstorming is fashionable in firms and had the big advantage
to take place during an English lesson, which insured a high level of participation.
We intervened very regularly in front of the class to motivate our classmates and prevent them for
forgetting it…

- Mr Najab : we presented him the project in English and held a harsh negotiation to be sponsored
by the UFR in order to invite Americans to our meeting. We finally received 150 euros6.

- the Americans : we sent our project by mail or talked about it. We showed them that we were
very interested in knowing their point of view on France and their way of life. Very different
people (students, actress, cook man, teacher, commercial…) they were all very keen on sharing
their experience.
           Finally, it seemed to be a convincing argument to invite them to a complete breakfast rue
des Ecoles - a very Parisian district.

    - the Breakfast in America team : we gained the trust of the manager-Darrin- of the bar by
coming several times to the bar and promising to bring lots of people. We chose the menu together
and negotiated the prices. In the end we bargained a fixed price for 30 persons.
           We convinced the owner of the bar to take part in the interviews: as an ex-producer he
agreed to hold a table on cinema.


           The research of an appropriate place to organize a debate was a difficult part. The BiA was
the cheapest and biggest nice American place we could book: but finally the atmosphere was
intimate and friendly in this narrow "diner".
           We spoke at nearly each English lesson about our project, “the work-in-progress”, changes…
A good clue in the project‟s success was the decreasing price: the more we were, the lower it
would be!
           We also asked the class to register on a list one week before in order to have them

    Appendix 5 : Harry‟s Bar presentation


           Thanks to Mr Najab‟s helps we managed to invite 6 Americans and to lower the price for the
class. This was a good surprise at the last moment: 7.50 euros instead of 11 euros.
Obtaining the refunding by the UFR was very quick.
           The class was very cooperative too and gave us the money on the day of the meeting, so
that it was not too restricting to advance the money ourselves.
           At the last moment several participants cancelled: it is not that easy to come to a breakfast
for working people. We got worried the week before the meeting as we had only 2 confirmations
from our Americans guests! Fortunately, we had created an informal network during those few
months which helped us out of this crisis:
           Zachary Miller (thanks to Bérengère Parmly), Anna and Sarah thanks to Luc Shankland, and
Darrin “hired” the boss Craig Carlson and a cook man.
           And our guests were very impressive personalities.

           We sent a last e-mail two days before d-day to remind our guests and the class of the time
and the place of the meeting.
           The final touch: to be sure that discussions would be animated and content-interesting, we
prepared threads of discussions for our 6 themes : politics, movies, TV, Student life, cooking,

    Appendix 6 : Cover letter addressed to Mr. Najab
    Appendix 7 : Table discussions

The big Day

      7th of April 2005. Our team “Breakfast in America” was supposed to come at eight thirty in
the morning in the bar, half an hour before the time set with American guests and our classmates.
Everything was arranged very quickly, but another problem, that we hadn‟t even imagined,
appeared soon.

      Some of our guests turned up early, so we took some time at the beginning to organize
ourselves and the others in the same time. We didn‟t want them to stay alone sitting and waiting
for the others to come, but on the other hand we didn‟t manage to attend to them. Some of them
hesitated a lot before they finally decided at which table discussion they would like to participate.
So, the first ten, fifteen minutes we were standing in the middle of the bar, trying to establish the
contact with our first guests Wendy, Ana and Isabelle.

      Our big problem was the fact that two Americans, Berengère and Zachari Miller, hadn‟t
appeared yet. We didn‟t even know if they would come or not because we didn‟t have their phone
number.    Craig Carlson, the owner of the bar joined the table discussion “Cinema”, and he
proposed us his friend, Jimmy Davis, who worked in the bar that morning, to take part in table
discussion “Cooking”. So, we had in front of us someone who was not our real guest because we
didn‟t invite him, we hadn‟t met him before, and he didn‟t know what we were expecting from
him. Nevertheless, we were very glad to establish the communication with him in an absolutely
spontaneous way.

      Our small problem was the waitress. She was really in a bad mood and we felt that we were
not welcomed in the bar. She was unpleasant when we asked her for some extra glass of water and
so on…

      We were surprised and scared at the same time when some other people started to enter
the bar looking for a hearty breakfast made with a tall stack of pancakes covered with pure maple
syrup. During the preparations of our project we agreed with the manager that we would be the
only guests that morning. Finally, it didn‟t spoil the atmosphere but even contributed to it in a

positive way. It made people forget that they were doing some English project for their studies and
helped them to feel more confident about their English speaking skills.

      When we finally managed to organize five tables discussion with our American guests, big
plates with scrambled eggs, bacon and pancakes were served. The team “Breakfast in America”
helped Darrin and the waitress to serve the breakfast, as well as coffee, tea and orange juice. At
last Zachari Miller made it to the bar. The politics team was thrilled and finally each table had one
native English speaker. Our guest Sarah participated in table discussion “Television”, Wendy took
part in discussion about “Sports”, Craig Carlson joined the “Cinema” table and Ana and Isabelle
joined the table discussion “Student life”.
      In order to have a video of that big day, a member of our team filmed the breakfast and
took pictures.
      In order to welcome the guests, to thank them and to tell them something about our project
we had the idea to make a small introduction before people start to eat and discuss. We also
wanted to finish our meeting with resumes of each table but we realized that in the bar
atmosphere it would not be possible because of the noise, music and other customers. Maybe it
was even better without any formal way of communication. It enabled us to have a good and
relaxed atmosphere. Our American guests and our classmates could enjoy the breakfast and
exchange their points of view about not only the subject of their table discussion but also about
other interesting topics, about two different cultures, the French and the American ones.
We left the bar at eleven o‟clock, satisfied because we managed to carry out successfully this
project and, of course, because our guests and classmates spent a pleasant morning in a typical
American diner.

 A good lesson of adaptation and an authentic time!

We used all possible means of communication for the realization of our project.
We kept a regular link with the class and all the people involved, and the
distribution of the roles inside the team was optimum: these were certainly the
keys to our success.


After several months working on this project, and after having organized the
breakfast, we learnt many things from this experience.

Right after the D-day

           The day after the project, each group sent us their summary about the discussion they had.
This showed us how rewarding the discussions were and how the subjects were well-chosen8. We
got the feeling that people learnt a lot from our American friends and that the chemistry worked
out well.
           A few days later, we sent the whole class a questionnaire in order to get some feedback9.

The things we have learnt

1. Concerning the organisation
We learnt:

      -    To team up together: we thought it could have been a difficult exercise but fortunately it
           was a real pleasure to work all together with the same objectives.

      -    To team up with outside contributors: they helped us setting up our definitive project as
           they redirected us to a workable event. We needed their professional experience to carry
           the “Breakfast in America” project through to a successful conclusion.

      -    To speak fluent English: as we were confronted with Native Americans, we had to be careful
           about our English in order to be properly understood.

    Appendix 8 : Discussions‟ summaries (a few examples)
    Appendix 9 : Questionnaire

   -   To adapt our plan: as we had to change the previous Harry‟s Bar project for the Breakfast in
       America one, we learnt to reconsider our ideas.

   -   To negotiate our budget: it happened twice. We had first to convince Mr.Najab to subsidize
       our event. We also had to negotiate the price for thirty breakfasts with the bar owner. This
       experience was not easy but we did it successfully as the whole of our team trusted the
       project 100%.

2. What we learnt on D-Day
   -   To be flexible and reactive: here again we had to adapt to the situation. The day before, we
       divided the work up among ourselves. Anyhow, things did not go as planned (the bar was
       finally not booked for us only, some of our guests did not come, some students were late).
       For these reasons, we changed our function: some of us help the waiters to serve breakfast,
       we did not necessarily supervise the theme we were previously devoted to etc.

3. What we learnt with American people
   -   As the Americans do not benefit from a good reputation in France nowadays, our project
       made us forget our prejudice. We discovered very open-minded people who were extremely
       interested in talking with French.

What we would have done differently

1. From our point of view
   -   We should have better welcomed our American guests. It seems that the first thirty minutes
       were a bit disorganised. Some of the Americans looked lost, probably because we did not
       look after them personally.
       If we had to do the experience again, we would organize individual receptions.

   -   We should have strongly insisted on the possibility to get the bar for us only. Even though
       that was previously decided with the owner, he finally accepted other clients. This left little
       space for us and noise disturbed our discussions.

2. From the students’ points of view
       We were very pleased that the whole class answered the questionnaire. They helped us
evaluating our mistakes and they gave us many ideas in order to improve this kind of project. This
would be very useful for our future professional career.

What they enjoyed most                          What they enjoyed less
The atmosphere +++                              Difficulty to understand or to speak English
The organization/discussions                    The price (too expensive)
Being together                                  The food
The breakfast
Meeting interesting people
Being able to speak English with Americans

Their suggestions:

   Find a bigger place
   Form groups before the meeting
   Lunch better than breakfast
   Turn over from one group to another

                               Special thanks

  We would like to express our deep gratitude to all the people who helped us
achieving this project:

  -   Mister Shankland, for his support all along the organization of the project. A lot of thanks
      for helping us and presenting us Sarah and Isabel.

  -   Mister Najab, for his financial support and his incentive attitude towards the project.

  -   The whole class for their participation. This could not have been realized without their

  -   All our American guest as they trusted our project. We address them many special thanks for
      participating and leading with enthusiasm our discussions.


Appendix 1 – e-mails exchanged

Appendix 2 – Harry‟s Bars‟s pictures

Appendix 3 – Interview with Sheila Malovany-Chevallier

Appendix 3 – « Breakfast in America » „s pictures

Appendix 5 – Hary‟s Bar presentation

Appendix 6 – Cover letter addressed to Mr. Najab

Appendix 7 – Table discussions

Appendix 8 – Discussions „summaries (a few example)

Appendix 9 - Questionnaire

    Members of our group have sent about fifty messages in
order to set up our project and get in contact with
Americans. We selected those exchanged with expatriates
and some others presenting the various organisational steps
of our plan.

    PS: first messages were sent to another group of
classmates as teams were not built yet.