U.S. Pop Culture References in France

We all know that globalization is a phenomenon currently taking place around the world.  People from different countries are having more contact with one another on a regular basis, and the world is growing smaller.

International businesses and the brands associated with them are a great example: you could go to almost any country in the world and the people there would probably recognize a can of Coke (even if they couldn’t read the writing).

But what about more obscure cultural references?  Can they move around the world as well?  It turns out that they can, and one of my favorite pastimes while abroad was figuring out which American pop culture references had found their way into France.  Here’s a list of the little things I noticed that really made me take a step back.  I was left to contemplate whether the U.S. is actively exporting its pop culture overseas, or France is actually importing it.

Host Brothers (left to right): Antoine, myself, and Tibo!

  • Hearing everyone around me constantly using American slang like “OK” and “cool” in their own accent.  This was true of French people as well as a lot of the Asian students at my school.
  • Watching American TV shows like “The Simpsons,” “House,” and “How I Met Your Mother” with my host brothers (that last one was their favorite—and was the reason I gave them both a copy of Barney Stinson’s “Bro Code” at the end of my semester!)
  • Imagine my surprise when I learned that my host brother was a huge fan of Creedence Clearwater Revival… and that there was an unused Fender guitar lying around the house!
  • I found the Lieutenant Blueberry comic series to be rather curious, as it followed the adventures of an American cowboy but was written in French.And I got a bigger surprise when I learned that many of the cowboy movies of the 1960s (the so-called “Spaghetti Westerns”) were shot in the Italian and Spanish countryside, not the American West!

The surprise works both ways, though.  It wasn’t long after my arrival that I learned that

  • “The Adventures of Tintin” was originally a Belgian comic.
  • Daft Punk and David Guetta are French artists? No way!
  • And although Bob Marley is not an American export, I was still intrigued by the fact that I saw images of him and heard his music in a lot of different places around town.

Lieutenant Blueberry

So it seems that a number of different elements from within the realm of pop—movies, TVs, music, comics—had crossed the Atlantic in both directions.  Social movements were another thing that seemed to readily cross cultural boundaries.  Hippies and punks had a definite presence in many parts of the country that I visited, and over the semester I learned that France had one of the largest hippie protests in history during 1968—along with the rest of the world.  It shut down the country for weeks!

All in all, it seems that a good amount of pop culture has a universal appeal.  I also learned that while the U.S. is exporting a lot of its pop culture around the world, it also imports quite a bit as well.  Moments such as these do make you stop and realize that the idea of a global citizenship is becoming more of a reality every day.  Those who study abroad have a big advantage in seeing just how true this is!

·I found it curious that this Lieutenant Blueberry comic, which followed the adventures of an American cowboy, was written in French.And I got a bigger surprise when I learned that many of the cowboy movies of the 1960s (the so-called “Spaghetti Westerns”) were shot in the Italian and Spanish countryside, not the American West!

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