March 10 lecture to compare cultures of France, U.S.

BEMIDJI, Minn. — Francois Fouquerel will discuss the cultural differences between France and the United States Tuesday, March 10, to open Bemidji State University’s spring Academy of Lifelong Learning lecture series.

The 90-minute lecture begins at 10 a.m. and is open to the public at no charge. It will be held at Bemidji State’s Center for Research and Innovation, an off-campus facility located at 3801 Bemidji Avenue North.

The dean of the French Year-Round Programs and the Les Voyageurs summer experience at the Concordia Language Villages near Turtle River, Fouquerel notes that while France and the United States share major political values, the two nations are often on opposite sides of an issue on international events.

“As an observer and participant of life in France and the United States, I see that funny tantrums find their fuel in the history and founding principles of both countries,” Fouquerel said. “I intend to point out the two histories and show their influences on people’s reactions to small and big events. I will also look at the creation of both countries as determining factors in their cultures.”

Fouquerel relays the “freedom fries” incident of 2003 as one funny tantrum that has deeper tones. On March 11 of that year, the chairman of the Committee on House Administration for the U.S. House of Representatives reacted to France’s opposition to the invasion of Iraq by declaring that French toast and French fries would be renamed at the building’s cafeteria as “freedom fries” and “freedom toast.”

While that might seem trivial, it does represent major differences in how citizens stereotypically view their counterparts in the other country. As a contrast, Americans see the French as people who are pessimistic and negative, valuing the past, good at analysis and criticism, interested in complexity, creative, and are seeking independence. The French perceive Americans as people who are optimistic and positive, valuing the present and future, good at action, interested in simplicity, process-oriented, and are seeking love.

A native of le Norandie, France, Fouquerel has lived in Paris and Toulouse and has taught French at Macalester College, Bemidji State University, Hibbing Community College and the Schoolcraft Learning Community in Bemidji. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Macalester.

The Academy of Lifelong Learning offers humanities-based programs that are made possible in part with private donations and support from Bemidji State University.

Individuals who wish to be added to the Academy of Lifelong Learning mailing list or have questions about this program should contact the Bemidji State University Center for Research and Innovation at (218) 755-4900; toll free, (888) 738-3224; e-mail,; or at

March 10
– 10 a.m. – Francois Fouquerel presents Academy of Lifelong Learning lecture, a comparison of cultural differences between the United States and France. Location: Center for Research and Innovation; 3801 Bemidji Ave. N., Bemidji. Free, open to the public. Information: (218) 755-4900; toll free, (888) 738-3224; e-mail,;