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Ethnographic Research Paper: French Culture

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Essay title: Ethnographic Research Paper: French Culture

Ethnographic Research Paper: French Culture

A common saying goes like this, “You cannot judge a book by its cover.” This saying may have many meanings, but to a social and cultural anthropologist, it signifies that no-one should pre-judge others on their values, beliefs and interests just by their appearance. In order to understand and be familiar with a culture, one has to perform a series of ethnographic research from fieldwork, participant observation, ethnology to something as accessible as interviewing someone in your community. From this, you can unearth what influences people’s personalities and beliefs, which may involve a mixture of their culture, family values and personal beliefs. I have done an ethnographic study by interviewing my co-worker, Laurent, whom does not mind having his identity revealed. In my study, I will research schooling along with the role of children, corporate bureaucracies and the overall values of the French through interviewing Laurent and how he was brought up in France.

Laurent is currently 34 years old. He was born and raised in Paris, France. When he turned 18, he then moved to Tahiti for two years to fulfill mandatory military training rather than fulfilling it in France. At 20, he moved back to France to attend a university for 4 years and after he graduated, he worked for Air France until he was 27. At 27, he moved back to Tahiti for 5 years, until 2002 when he moved to San Francisco, California. He recently moved to Alameda, California where he lives with his wife and newborn son today.

France is an industrialized European country that is known as being a “western society” and has had a big influence on other Western societies like the United States. Although it is similar to our culture, it is none-the-less important to learn about a variety of societies in order to understand how each intertwine and are affected by another. According to my textbook by Haviland, “anthropology developed and its practitioners found that to fully understand the complexities of human ideas, behavior and biology, all humans, wherever and whenever, must be studied.” (Haviland p 7)

I will also discuss some of the colonies of France, especially Tahiti, since Laurent spent a good deal of his life there. Some colonies of France and where French has had influence are South Africa, French Polynesia and Vietnam. These countries today speak the French language and have adapted some French Traditions, values, morals in terms of having a monogamous marriage, their way of life and even their food has adapted French style of cooking and type of foods eaten, although not completely.

When Laurent was young, he admired people who volunteered for a humanitarian group called “Mйdecins sans Frontiиres” or Doctors without Frontier. This group is comparable to The American Red Cross we have here in the United States. Doctors without Frontiers are people who find ways to help others in suffering countries such as Somalia, Angola and Sudan, to name a few. He admires these doctors because they could easily leave their peaceful lives for months and travel to dangerous countries where globalization has taken its toll and help people out in the fields. Tents are the only things they can use because there are no hospitals and buildings. Having admired these people, it shows that the French are humanitarians are willing to help with many world issues involving international poverty and devastating disasters. In their own country, the French try to spread wealth evenly. Although their society is still stratified, it is not as stratified as we are here in the United States with extremely large wealth gaps. In France, they have a universal health care system whereas in the United States, we have no government paid health care system. Many go without health care today because it’s too unaffordable. France has a state style government with a president and hierarchy of people in different offices under the president who hold most of the power, like the United States. However, it is a democratic society where the people are able to vote for laws and candidates in office.

When I asked Laurent of an important lesson he learned as a child, he said to “Never give up.” He believes that if you want to achieve something bad enough, you should just go for it. He believes that education is very important in helping him achieve his goals.What he aims for in life is a good education because he doesn’t like people who are ignorant of others. His parents were very supportive of him as a child.

He comes from a nuclear family, and says that most families in France are also structured as nuclear families. They believe in monogamy relationships. This is the norm for most families in France. Laurent’s only close kin are his brother and parents, the rest of his extended family lives scattered all over France.

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