Andrew Boucher at Volatility from Paris has a short post, entitled Christmas Shopping Lesson, on the large drop in Americans’ spending in Paris stores. He wrote:
Reuters had an interesting article on the Galeries Lafayette store in Paris today. Because of the weak dollar, boycott, or just lack of energy, the American consumer isn’t much of a force any more in Paris.
Chinese tourists have climbed from 20th position 10 years ago to the number one spot in terms of visitor numbers to the Galeries today – overtaking the Japanese, British, Russians and in fifth place, the Americans.
Big spenders are customers from the Middle East, Japan, Russia and the United States. But while Americans spend more than the Chinese, it’s the force of numbers that counts.
“An American spends twice as much as a Chinese customer, but … the Chinese are at least 10 times more numerous…,” the general manager at the flagship Boulevard Haussmann store said.
It’s followed by a similar post, entitled The New Hollywood Villain, in which he says:
“I don’t go to as many new films as I would like, but in those that I have seen, I’ve noticed a tendency which has become a trend. I’m speaking of the Frenchman as villain. ”
I’ve noticed it too. Last night I caught part of program on the History Channel on the French Revolution. The commercial they were running to promote the program, both before it aired and during the program itself, ends with this little jab:
“Now, for 2 hours, it won’t kill you to love the French.”
I had to laugh every time I heard that. Whoever wrote that certainly has their finger on the pulse of the American public. Say the words ‘France’ or ‘French’ to an American these days and the reaction you’ll get is one of outright disgust.
One fairly accurate measure of the enmity Americans feel towards the French can seen in the degree to which the French have become the butt of jokes. Tell a French joke and not only will everyone laugh, some caustic remarks will be added to boot; not to mention much head shaking and mock spitting.
(After writing this post, I checked the spelling of ‘enmity’ at Merriam-Webster Online and found this:
Etymology: Middle English enmite, from Middle French enemité, from Old French enemisté, from enemi enemy
: positive, active, and typically mutual hatred or ill will
I think that sums up feelings on both sides the Atlantic pretty well, don’t you? I also laughed when I saw that the word is from French.)
All this begs the question, Why? After all, the Russians opposed the war in Iraq, as did the Chinese and the Germans and many others. So why is all this animosity focussed on the French? I’d offer three reasons:
1. A sense of betrayal. Russians and Chinese have never been considered as allies. The French have been. There’s a sense among Americans that an agreement had been made prior to war, that we were led into a UNSC vote believing in that agreement, and were betrayed by a French led counter-stroke.
2. A sense among Americans that the French owe us something for WWII.
3. A widening discussion and understanding of the degree of anti-Americanism in France. Many people were shocked by what they read. Much of it appears little different than Soviet-style propaganda.
An interesting, related question is this: Why haven’t the Germans experienced the same backlash? Their media is certainly as anti-American. Schroeder is no different in his actions than Chirac. Is it because so many Americans are of German descent? Or possibly because so many Americans have been stationed in Germany in the last fifty years and feel connected to Germans on a level they don’t feel towards the French? Or maybe the Germans aren’t seen as a traditional American ally. I don’t know.