If Big Business Came to France
‘THESE people are way behind us in everything, ain’t they?’ observed my chauffeur, on beholding Europe for the first time. In that sincere question one recognizes the American attitude toward the older civilizations. Martin is typical of all of us. We approach Europe with little knowledge, and with our ideas of European peoples colored by the streams of ‘wops, dagos, and bohunks’ that once streamed through Ellis Island and accepted menial work no self-respecting American would perform. What lie meant by his comment was that everything was on a lesser scale — the motor cars smaller, the bathrooms scarcer, the breakfasts scantier, the houses lower, the elevators fewer, and the railway carriages shorter. Everything was different, foreign, unlike our own, and therefore not so good.
Martin was born and reared in New York. He is an excellent chauffeur, with a mechanic’s interest in mechanical achievement, in the motor car, the airplane, and the submarine, not without some response to beauty, especially natural beauty as manifested in some of the bolder aspects of the Alps and the Pyrenees, and with sincere admiration for the expertly engineered roads which carried us so comfortably through the gorges and over the cols of famous mountain ranges. He has now been across four times, and has driven us safely many thousand miles through England, France, Italy, Spain, and Switzerland; and it has been interesting to watch his conversion, to see his contempt and condescension change to tolerance, and his tolerance to admiration, as he learned, like the rest of us, how many things the older nations do exceedingly well.
Some such education should be prescribed and made compulsory for the talkers and writers who are so sure that all Europe needs is a replica of our own industrial civilization. Hardly a week passes in which the American Chamber of Commerce in Paris is not addressed by some visiting vice president or sales manager, who describes in glowing terms our standardization, mass production, national distribution, advertising, and recommends them to the backward races of Europe as glibly as a man prescribes his own favorite remedy to a friend with a cold. This wholesale advice takes little or no account of the people to whom it is given, of their philosophy of life, age-long habits, aims, and ideals. Indeed, it is inspired not by a study of the European civilization, but by close contact with our own, where such methods seemingly work to perfection. The speaker knows his system, but nothing of the people who are to apply it. It has worked well for us, since material prosperity is apparently our aim — and I am casting no stones at material prosperity; it is a mighty comfortable thing. But even if one assumes that material prosperity is what the people of Europe want, — and even that might be interpreted differently, — they can arrive at it only by methods growing out of their ways of life. And these ways of life are the slow result of ages of living, through a long period in which communication was limited to a degree that we cannot comprehend. In this period not only did each separate country develop according to its own genius, but each separate community, each town and village, acquired habits and customs different from those of its nearest neighbors, and these differences obtain to this day. For intercommunication in Europe has not yet remotely approached the fluidity and pervasiveness of that in our country. It is held back partly by the difference of language, but even more by the difference of point of view, of what constitutes life and a desirable aim in life. Not only is there no such thing as a United States of Europe, but there is hardly a United States of France, in the sense that Carolina and Connecticut are unmistakably a part of the United States of America. The Bretons and the Basques do not even speak French. They cannot understand a Tourangeau, nor can they understand each other. They speak not merely different dialects, as Yorkshire and Lancashire are dialects, but different languages.
In Northern Italy there are three lakes lying not more than two hours’ automobile ride apart — Garda, Como, and Maggiore. Upon these lakes fishing is an ancient occupation, developed by its practitioners according to their own ideas, and handed down from father to son uninfluenced by methods used elsewhere. So even to-day the fishing boats on these three lakes continue to be markedly different in shape, rigging, and equipment. It would be difficult for a manufacturer of fishing boats to disrupt these hereditary and ancestral practices and substitute identical vessels on all three lakes, however modern and efficient the new craft.
We make much of local peculiarities in our country, and think a Yankee farmer and a Southern cotton planter sharply differentiated; but their differences are as nothing to their likenesses, and especially to their like-mindedness. Two shires in England or two provinces in France, lying side by side, are further from standardization on any tenet of what constitutes fife than the people of Maine and the people of California.
This startling resemblance of our people was noticed by a keen observer as long ago as 1890. In a chapter on ‘The Uniformity of American Life,’James Bryce said: —
Scotchmen and Irishmen are more unlike Englishmen, the native of Normandy is more unlike the native of Provence, the Pomeranian more unlike the Würtemberger, the Piedmontese more unlike the Neapolitan, the Basque more unlike the Andalusian, than the American from any part of the country is to the American from any other.
In the thirty-odd years since, with the motor car, the movie, the radio, syndicate newspapers, national magazines, and other forces all tending to deepen the likeness and iron out the idiosyncrasies, Americans have been prepared for a collective effort toward uniform prosperity without parallel. But Europe remains Europe — a little wistful concerning our material success, but unable, even if willing, to become enough like us to do what we do and have what we have and be happy while doing so. And I am one of those who are glad that this is as it is.
In the course of a recent vacation in France I amused myself by imagining the effect on that country and its people of the introduction of our business methods: huge manufacturing plants making goods distributed by advertising to every town, village, and hamlet; the pleasant land of France mapped out in red-headed tacks on the glasstopped desks of sales managers; salesmen primed with sales psychology from instruction books; brief cases stuffed with portfolios of advertising campaigns; sales conventions, drives, ‘ Eat-more-tripe-à-la-mode-de-Caen weeks,’ chain stores, the Rotary Club holding its weekly luncheon at the Grand Hôtel de I’Europe et de I’Épée; the sky line of Paris broken by steelskeletoned skyscrapers dwarfing the towers of Notre Dame; l he picturesque individuality of the rues nationales punctuated by the standardized store fronts of chain stores, and everywhere houses built of the same materials on the same plan, filled with the same furniture and inhabited by people wearing the same clothes. France would lose her great national industry, tourism, but worse, she would lose her point of view, her philosophy, her individualism; and that would be a catastrophe. The world would be poorer with France other than she is.
The open road is not a bad place from which to study a people. One soon gets away from the sophisticated spots where contact with outsiders has blurred individuality and produced a sort of hybrid civilization which, like all hybrids, retains the worst features of each. The motor car gives us a cross section: cities, villages, open country; farms, olive orchards, vineyards; mountain, seacoast, river; and the changeful life that is lived in all of them. I have the deaf man’s facility in using his eyes, and my conclusions are based on observation, on what I see as I go about. All I have to contribute to an important controversy are the habits and character of the French people as seen by a man who has few means of contact, but who long ago learned that what people are speaks louder than what they say.
In cities the problem of motorcongested streets affords us an index to national temperaments, for we Americans too have a traffic problem. Compare the three great capital cities, New York, London, and Paris.
The New York traffic cop is an autocrat. He likes to disregard the red and green signals to show you, as Don Marquis says, ' who is king.’ The supreme sin of the motorist, in his eyes, is lèse-majesté. And he is often quite violent about it.
The London bobby is an opportunist. His only concern is clearing the traffic, He winks at violations of the rules if they are intelligent and successful. He is less assertive, and yet obeyed more implicitly, than his New York counterpart. But he is dealing with a more law-abiding populace.
The Paris gendarme is not concerned with the motor traffic at all. His care is the pedestrian. At regular intervals he cleaves a swath through the moving stream of vehicles, like Moses dividing the Red Sea, and the swarms of piétons cross over. Then he waves his white baton and the cars resume their struggle for gangway without interference from him. And yet it is easier to go about in a car in Paris than in London or New York. In the country there is no speed limit, but drivers are held strictly accountable — a more intelligent regulation than our own.
Another comparison shows the different applications of a similar idea. Feverish activity on the New York Stock Exchange recently caused the market to outstrip the ticker, and our inventive ingenuity is being directed toward producing a recording device to register sales and quote prices as fast as they are made.
In France they are installing at race courses near Paris a calculating machine which will work out the odds on the pari mutuel system in less time than the old hand-and-head method. In one country a machine to measure business; in the other a machine to measure pleasure.
Or consider the telephone. The French cannot organize a system that works, but they design a telephone instrument so attractive that we, whose telephone system is a marvel of efficiency, adopt the French phone for our desks when we wish to give our offices or homes an æsthetic touch.
In France one is never at a loss to identify a road. The companionable white kilometre stones accompany one everywhere, recording on the hither side the next two communes and their distances, on the front the number and class of the road, tying up perfectly with the map. The name of each village is displayed in its civic centre, white letters on a blue plaque — a device so obviously useful one wonders why it has not obtained here. Have you never tried in vain to learn the name of the town you were passing through? Nor is all this a development of motoring; it preceded the gasoline era by many years. For the French realize that roads are civilizers. The motorist merely inherits them, but they make France a motorist’s paradise.
As we follow these French roads, each short section under the paternal care of a cantonnier, we see at our ease the neat and tidy farms and vineyards, maintained with what seems to our Western eyes incredible toil. They are so sightly, so perfectly husbanded, so carefully tilled — as trim and kempt as a garden tended with loving care. There is no sharp break between nature and cultivation. The farms blend into the landscape. It all satisfies the eye. It is something more than intensive cultivation, this æsthetic effect. It is love of the land. With all his backbreaking labor, the peasant is never too tired to add the last touches. He caresses the land because it is his, and part of France. It is a happy mingling of proprietorship and craftsmanship.
You see everywhere the pride of the worker in his work. He seems to know secrets of soil and sun, of growing things, which we with all our tractors and twine binders, our soil analyses and synthetic fertilizers, have never penetrated. On the terraced hillsides the vineyards lie in the sun, like giant staircases, the risers stone walls, the treads gardens of growing vines. The water comes down in thin silver rills between the small vineyards, gravitation distributing it to every vine. It is all human work, handwork, because the French cannot bear to turn over any part of living, even the most arduous, to machines.
Such intense individualists will never consent to become sufficiently standardized units to have big business as we understand it. They prefer small holdings, — shops, farms, and factories, — yielding to all the satisfaction of proprietorship. They must express themselves in their work, whether an omelette aux fines herbes, ploughing and planting a patch of ground, or shearing a toy dog. Each has a pride in his métier of which we have no conception. It is this trait which has produced so much that delights us, which makes the differences in shops, houses, dress, trades. France is less changed by the war than any other nation. She is going on as she always went, still clinging to the same ideals, because she has tested those ideals and found them good. An American works to get money to enjoy life, but a Frenchman’s work is his life, and he must enjoy it, and keep his hand on it, and find in it his self-expression; and as far as possible his skill and address must be expended on something he owns, however small.
The other day I walked through one of the largest brass factories in the world, acres of shops filled with huge machine tools stamping out a shape in brass for every conceivable purpose. In the party was the president of the brass company. As we approached a row of machines stamping out a part that did not easily explain itself, I picked one up and said to the president, ‘What is this for?’ He smiled apologetically. ‘I have no idea,’ he said; ‘but we will ask the man that’s making it.’ The man making it shook his head: ‘I don’t know, either.’ Here was a man earning his living stamping out bushels and bushels of gadgets without knowing their function — what part they played in the economy of the world.
That is mass production. That is the secret of our great commercial success. But it could not happen in France. The French mind does n’t work that way. The Frenchman cannot rest content in making a part unless he comprehends the whole. It is, as Hilaire Belloc said, a nation of small proprietors.
In the town of Grasse, where the mimosa, violet, jasmine, and rose are raised on the neighboring hills and braised and distilled to obtain essential oils which are the basis of perfumes, there is no large factory, but there are hundreds of small ones. In the little village of Vallauris, where are produced casseroles, marmites, and those lovely wine jars we use for garden ornaments, nearly every house is a factory with at least one kiln, tended perhaps by the daughter, firing a few trays of the red earthenware for which the clay of that country is so well adapted. These small individual factories never amalgamate. Not only does the small proprietor object to becoming the vice president of a large pottery company, but he probably objects to becoming even the president. Certainly the French temperament is not the kind that makes vice presidents. And this economic system, far older than ours, has by-products which should not be lost to the world. One is that touch of individuality, of taste, of art, which makes the thing manufactured delightful. The other and greater is the state of mind of the maker, the satisfaction he gets from his work. It is a far finer thing in terms of civilization that the worker should enjoy his work than that he should merely work in order to get the means and the leisure to enjoy himself outside of his work. Creation is always a stimulating thing. Manufacture often is not. This is without prejudice to either method. We are satisfied to manufacture, — that is our genius, — but the Frenchman prefers to create, and to accept the small business, the hard work, the long hours, for the ecstasy of beholding something he has made himself.
In the last quarter-century three currents of American commercial influence have flowed to France like the Gulf Stream which washes its shores, and have had their effect on its industrial climate. On the steamship Paris, from New York to Havre, in January, there were seven hundred and fifteen passengers, and with the exception of a few winter tourists they all belonged to that class known as ‘foreign buyer.’ And on the other ships sailing about that time there were other large contingents. And again in August the same great army invaded France. These people go abroad to buy the products of French taste: unique pieces, individual patterns, the things which France, because of her individualistic temperament, makes better than any other nation; artistic craftsmanship expressed in hats, gowns, wraps, furs, gloves, lingerie, hosiery, handkerchiefs, parasols, and jewels — things so far removed from the products of mass production that by mass production they could n’t be produced at all. These buyers seek ideas as well as goods. Gradually their buying range has widened from women’s wear to include objects of art, pictures, hangings, tapestries, furniture, all kinds of beautiful articles in glass, china, lacquer, enamel, leather—everything that can be given distinction and individuality by craftsmanship.
This trade is welcome to France. It gives her a market for the things she does best, things the quantity of which can be increased only by multiplying the number of small producers. Popularity tempted some houses to enlarge and increase their outputs, but such efforts have not been successful. The actual result is to multiply the number of houses rather than to increase their size. There are few instances of enlarged businesses proving successful in France. The attempt has been particularly disastrous with hotels and restaurants.
Frequent conferences with American buyers have had reflex influence. Slowly but surely, as the couturiers and ateliers make goods to please their best customers, the ideas of those customers are impressed on them. A change comes over the methods of the sellers. American sizes and systems of measurement are adopted and displace the older ones. American business habits — billing, shipping, the use of typewriter, adding machine, and other devices—press a little nearer all the time. Famous and elect houses arc using advertising in American magazines and newspapers to enlarge their reputation and their market in the States, and this effort unconsciously shapes their commercial thinking. It is instinctive for the seller to try to make his goods and his manners acceptable to the buyer. And in the case of such merchandise there must be much actual contact between the two. Thus there began to fall on France the shadow of American business, which, at first a cloud no larger than a man’s hand, may in time cover the whole commercial sky. But the effect is in most cases wholly beneficial. It enables the French to expand along the lines of their genius. While the buyer is in a position to enforce his demands, and the French are quick to adapt themselves to conditions that improve their market, it was, after all, the French touch that was sought. It was what the French workmen put into them, and few demands were made that hindered or changed the full expression of the creator’s or designer’s personality. Also, the goods the buyers buy in France have the qualities lacking in our own products. They supply individuality to those who miss it in a machine civilization.
In recent years there has been another American invasion of France, another stream of commercial influence breaking on the shores of an old established industrial system. This movement is as different as possible from the first. Instead of buyers, it is composed of sellers; and the products which they hope to sell, instead of being characterized by the charm of handwork and individuality, are the ingenious products of ingenious machines, and, being such, they can be produced in indefinite quantities, and with a corresponding reduction in their cost. As the machine product differs from the hand product, in that its capacity for reproduction is unlimited, it is constantly seeking new markets, Thus there has descended upon France an army of American salesmen bristling with sales technique, promotion, and advertising. This movement is almost as old as the buying movement, but it has been of slower growth. On my earliest visits to Europe I used to see in even remote villages the characteristic window card of the Singer Sewing Machine, with its elongated S, one of the first of the American products to find a market in France. But in recent years the attempt to sell has been speeded up, and now typewriters, adding machines, electric utilities, vacuum cleaners, safety razors, and phonographs are pretty well distributed. More recently the motor car has been making extraordinary efforts to extend its market over there. The stretch of the ChampsÉlysées between the Rond Point and the Arc de Triomphe has become the gasoline row of Paris, and almost every other salesroom bears the name of an American car, Cadillacs, Chryslers, and Fords sandwiched between the Donnets, Citroëns, and Renaults.
It can hardly be claimed that the French have bought our goods with the same enthusiasm with which we have bought theirs for so many years. The buying power is less, for one thing; and their life is not organized to absorb these things, which arc after all an outgrowth of our own industrial civilization, and can only be applied experimentally in another. But the effect of this selling invasion has been great. The French goods we buy are taken out of the country, but American goods remain in France and have their effect on the life there. American goods are sold with American methods, which in themselves are a novelty and disturb French habits and traditions. To avoid customs duties American cars are made in France, in factories built or bought, with French workmen who learn American business habits which do not. fit into their life with their own people. The Ford plant at Asnières, for instance, is run on the Highland Park time-table, five days a week. But what is done, I wonder, about the midday meal, the ‘ breakfast with the fork,’ the cæsural pause of the working day? At twelve o’clock the key is turned in the doors of shops and ateliers, not to be unturned for two hours, and all France goes to luncheon. The hardestworking people in the world manage to inject into the middle of their arduous days a period of absolute leisure. Americans whose Paris is bounded by Ciro’s, Lanvin, the Champs-Élysées, and the Rue de la Paix never see the French, but frequent habitats altered by their presence and patronage, where everything is speeded up to the American tempo. We will not wait on the fine arts of cooking and serving. Famed restaurants deteriorate. Nothing remains but the high prices.
France has few big business men in our meaning of the word. To be sure, there is Citroën, who has been called the Henry Ford of France, and Coty — though I fancy his elevation to that eminence is due to his successful invasion of the American market.
The late Ernest Cognacq, founder of the magasin à la Samaritaine, whose obituary filled less than a column in the papers a few months ago, had a romantic career almost in the American manner, — the pushcart peddler who became the wealthy philanthropist, — but it was surprising how little was said of such a life career as an inspiration to young men. In fact, careers as we understand them have little place in the bright lexicon of French youth.
The third great stream of American influence at work all the time and growing stronger is our invisible export, the American tourist. Each year we read the large figures for the previous year and confident predictions that the present season will see them exceeded. In the summer Americans are so numerous, not merely in Paris, but throughout France, as to give a definite character to certain localities. It has never been the misfortune of any other nation to entertain so many of the citizens of another. Of course it is not an unmixed evil. This army of tourists pays a large amount of money to hotels, restaurants, and transportation companies, to say nothing of the things the tourists buy. Many institutions are almost entirely supported by American money. Indeed, they must be, as the natives could not afford to pay the prices that are charged. For while they still look low to us, acquainted with the amazing advances in the price of luxuries at home, they are impossibly high for the French, except the very rich, and there are not many of them, nor are they inclined to spend their money at places adapted to the American taste. To the Frenchman a franc is still a franc, just as a dollar is a dollar to us, however shorn of its buying power. He does not see it as a definite and final four cents, as we do, but as an immemorial financial unit, gone down because the cost of living has gone up.
The American dollars spent in France reach such vast sums that they can be talked about in high financial terms. But the effort to attract those dollars has produced changes which are most apparent naturally where the tourists most congregate, and it is steadily wearing down the distinctively French corners into a smooth rounded surface which is neither French nor American, but a peculiar hybrid.
The evidences of this sort of Americanization are everywhere, spread like a veneer over the French life beneath — meat breakfasts; tea rooms; the naturalization of such words as ‘five o’clock,’ ‘touring clubs,’‘sport,’‘high life,’ ‘cocktail’; the New York Herald; American bars; Basil Woon; grapefruit; Maxim’s; posters in English; Hollywood films; American groceries and American drug stores; Dolly Sisters; soda fountains; gas pumps at the filling stations; display signs in English; frantic attempts to naturalize sweet corn and griddle cakes. YV hat wonder that many, seeing only these vestiges of American omnipresence, announce with complacence that France is rapidly adopting our ways. They do not suspect that the French regard these evidences with mingled distaste and amusement.
The transformations wrought by American influence are more obvious where Americans are thickest, and but few of the hordes of tourists who swarm through the American quarter ever see France, or taste French cooking, or come in touch with French character. They judge by what they see around them — hence the impression that France is being made over on the standard American model. Paris is no more France than is New York the United States. The Parisian is regarded in Nancy with the same suspicion and disapproval as is the New Yorker in Dubuque. There is still a very large area of country which is French and which proposes to remain so. This France is little known and not at all understood by Americans. France is more misrepresented by its politicians than perhaps any other country — unless it is our own.
The foreign buyer, the foreign sales agency, and the tourist are giving France object lessons in the way we do things, and apostles of big business drive the lessons home in speeches emphasizing the injunction that France will find financial salvation by following our example. France repels this economic propaganda with all the energy of which she is capable. She shows few signs of adopting mass production, high-power selling, and liberal advertising for her own products, and she is reluctant and alarmed at the increasing influx of American products. The motor car and the moving picture are two enterprises against which she has made characteristic, though futile, gestures. The rationing of American films appears at the moment to be in abeyance, and the automobile cartel discussed by both France and Italy was laughed at by American motorcar manufacturers, secure in their economic position of a real foreign demand. For it is true that we can make better motor cars than the French can make. As long as the motor car was a handmade product the French excelled, but now that it has become a machine-made product we have the whip hand. ‘America,’ says Paul Morand, ‘which does not yet create, manufactures.’ But how ill-advised to urge France, which can create, to manufacture. The French buy American goods, and will continue to do so, and no artificial or arbitrary restraints can check this tendency, though it is always amusing to hear an American manufacturer — the most tariff-coddled industrial in the world — give way to righteous indignation when any other nation adopts our tactics. If American ideas are so good for France, why not recommend our whole programme? Why not advise France to set up a stiff protective tariff against American goods? That is the way we got our supremacy. But such advice would be just as foolish as the recommendation of mass production.
The first requisite for the successful nation-wide advertising and distribution of goods is a certain homogeneousness which is more characteristic of our country than of any country in the world; because, after all, our civilization was produced, as it were, with one stroke of the brush, while since the beginning of history each district of France — each town and village, for that matter — has been developed in its own way, and it is only in recent years that there has been much intercommunication between them; not nearly enough yet to bring them to the same point of view about what is desirable, and especially not enough to break down old habits of thought, customs, inhibitions, and ambitions.
Moreover, the French resent these glib recommendations which tell them what to do to be saved — especially resent them as coming from us, a nation which has shown itself unable fo appreciate the French genius, and in which there is going on a lively and aggressive propaganda to keep large numbers of the people from liking Europe.
Not only does the average American fail to understand France; he does not want to understand her. His only measuring rod is his own country, and he condemns France by just, so much as she fails of fulfilling his idea of civilization. And those of us who, though we hold our own country in high esteem, admit that she is not perfect, and that other countries have something to teach us, are held up to scorn. It is this self-satisfied state of mind among the majority in the United States that has defeated such reasonable and logical measures as the League of Nations, the World Court, and the cancellation of the Allied debts, and threatened to influence Congress to refuse to confirm the Kellogg treaty, not because we prefer war, but because we want no relations, good or bad, with the countries of Europe.
An easy way for American manufacturers to improve the European market for their goods would be to exert their influence toward a scaling down or better still, a cancellation of the Allied debts. It would be shrewd sales policy, more in keeping with what these same manufacturers do to create good will in their home markets. There is no occasion to go into the sentimental side of this matter, though with some of us that has weight, but it would be good business from the hard-headed, practical point of view. It would lift the economic pressure, creating resources to buy our goods; but better still, it would generate friendliness, creating a disposition to buy our goods. The money some of us expect Europe to pay would come to us instead in the form of profits, and the good feeling would last long after the loans were forgotten. And the manufacturers would be doing merely what they expect their least enterprising sales manager to do — remove causes for resentment among prospective customers in his territory.
Frederick W. Peabody, manager of the American Association Favoring Reconsideration of the War Debts, says in one of his pamphlets that the Saturday Evening Post is the greatest obstacle to such reconsideration. It is gossiped among the writers living on the southern coast of France that Lorimer does not favor authors who live abroad and spend their money there. This is no doubt merely the alibi of disappointed aspirants, or it may mean that articles written in Europe are shorn of that disappointed note which is acceptable to the Post readers who constitute the antiEuropean sentiment in our hinterland which is so potent with Western Congressmen.
There is a hostility to the French — and to other Europeans, for that matter — among large bodies of Americans, and some of them seem to go abroad to exhibit their ill will. There is no need to catalogue the long list of such breaches of good taste and good manners, as plastering baggage with ten-franc notes, or cursing the waiter because he does not know how to mix an American drink. They have all been chronicled in the daily press. A good instance is Senator Caraway’s cock-and-bull story about Frenchmen defacing the graves of American soldiers. The story was promptly disproved ; indeed, it carried its own refutation, and Senator Caraway admitted he was speaking from hearsay. The serious thing is the prejudice behind this and all other efforts to discredit the French and the English, and other foreign nations, which is responsible for the natural prejudice my chauffeur had when he first went abroad.
The French do not dislike Americans. They probably dislike America, and can you blame them? They have the same reaction to a boorish, semiintoxicat ed, 100-per-cent-red-blooded American that we all have. Any visitor from this country or any other who cares for France and the things she does so well, and the wonderful remains of ancient civilizations of which she is the intelligent guardian, will find hospitality and friendliness and fair treatment.
Many things we prize are not essential to the French, but we cannot understand why our model, our scheme of life, is not accepted without question everywhere, just as we cannot understand why our business system is not. The French idea of a hotel is that it should be small, a one-man job, where his own individual skill will shine forth. It is a personal relation between the host and the guest, in which the host, who is often the chef, exhibits his skill as a cook and sommelier. The average tourist regards the kitchen with comparative indifference. His taste dulled by frequent cocktails, he sees little quality in vintage wines, and he judges the hotel by its bathroom. So the arts on which the innkeeper prides himself go for nothing. If the host is a philosopher he shrugs his shoulders and continues to cook for those who know. If his place is one where American patronage is inevitable, he learns to make cocktails, lets his cellar deteriorate, puts speed rather than taste into his cooking, and charges the prices the visitors expect. And the tourists go home and complain that French hotels are not good, and the prices outrageous.
We are in no position to advise France until we approach her with sympathy and understanding — until we realize that we owe a greater debt to France than to any other country, and that she still holds steadfast to certain ideals which must not be allowed to perish from the earth if the human race is going to realize its highest destiny.
The French are a people who are the least dissatisfied with their own country, and who emigrate in the smallest numbers. Therefore there is no large body of French in this country to act as a claque for French ideas. We must take France as she is, or leave her. We cannot change her. Her Americanization would destroy a nation we cannot spare. Such a transformation would be of little profit to us economically—spiritually, of less than none.