clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Why France is quite possibly the United States’ best friend

New, comments

Let’s continue French Week with some historic and recent reasons why France is one of the USA’s closest friends. They may even be America’s best friends!

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Miami Heat v Washington Wizards
La France et Les États-Unis sont des amis proches, just like Ian Mahinmi and Bradley Beal!
Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

The Wizards will play the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night which is the team’s French Heritage Night. You can buy specific tickets for the event here from the French American Chamber of Commerce. Today, we will talk about why France is America’s best friend.


You may have watched on the news or read in newspapers that the United Kingdom is the United States’ closest friend and ally. There certainly is a case to be made for that. The U.K. has cooperated with the USA extensively in World War I, World War II and NATO. Both countries are also among each other’s largest trading partners. Finally, the Americans and British speak English as their common language.

But as you all learned in history class, the Americans declared independence from the British in 1776 in Philadelphia with a document Thomas Jefferson wrote. But America’s relations with the British weren’t particularly warm until the 20th century. In fact, America was at war with the U.K. once again in 1812.

To be clear, America’s relations with the U.K. are excellent. But some of our longest friendships were vital to the country’s existence as we know it today. One of those longest lasting friendships is with France. In fact, France and the United States may very well be each other’s best friends. Here’s why.

France was America’s first military ally

In elementary school, the history books often say that General George Washington led the Continental Army to defeat those “Lobsterbacks” in Valley Forge and the United States finally got their independence in Yorktown. That all happened more or less — but it’s more complicated than that.

The 13 colonies needed a lot of help from other European countries to defeat the British. The first country to sign a treaty with the colonies was France. In 1778, the two nations signed the Treaty of Alliance which promised military support to each other.

Other European countries like the Netherlands and Spain contributed economically to the American Revolution. But without France and their help economically and militarily at the time, the colonists could have lost the Revolutionary War.

Many, if not most of America’s Founding Fathers were multilingual ... and Francophiles

Most Americans view the Founding Father figures like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock and Benjamin Franklin in a positive light. But you also have to be aware that they didn’t view the British as positively as we do today. After all, they played major roles in the American Revolution against the King.

Since the French were America’s first allies, how well did the Founding Fathers speak French? Many as a matter of fact. Jefferson, Franklin and John Adams were among the Founding Fathers who spoke French. Jefferson in particular was a big fan of French cuisine when he was in Paris in the late 18th Century.

French cuisine is popular with Americans

Have you eaten something simple like croissants, or something more hearty like beef bourguignon (beef stew)? Finally, macarons, those sugar, almond-based confections and crêpes, or thin pancakes also originated in France. All are quite popular here in the United States. The late Julia Child also put French food on the map as something you could cook in your house instead of having to go to the bistro!

And no, french fries AREN’T from France. The consensus is that they originated in what’s now southern Belgium. There are some disputes about that but I think the French are fine with their northern neighbors “having that one.”

The Americans helped the French in both World Wars

In the United States’ earliest days, the 13 colonies leaned heavily on France during their Revolution. But it wasn’t until the 20th century when the Americans provided large scale military help.

In 1917, 14,000 American troops arrived in western France to bolster the Western Front which was in a stalemate until the Americans joined. And in World War II, the Americans once again entered the European front in 1944 by moving through Normandy, a region in northwestern France to fight the Nazi regime. We’ll talk more about Normandy later this week.

The French love basketball

Every year, the NBA proudly lists the number of non-American players who made opening day rosters. France is routinely one of the top sources of international talent to NBA teams each year. Ian Mahinmi is far from the only Frenchman on an NBA team. He is one of nine French players who were on rosters this season.

Basketball has grown in France since the 1960s, especially when American players played professionally abroad. Some players like Hornets point guard Tony Parker were children of American players who played in France. According to an article by Lindsay Sarah Krasnoff on CNN.com, that’s what happened. From there, NBA games were aired in France in the 1980s, and the sport grew even more from there to where the French are one of the best in the world where the men’s team is coming off a bronze medal in the 2014 FIBA World Cup.

Like the men’s basketball team, the French women’s basketball team is one of the best in the world and won a silver medal in the 2012 Olympics. However, France doesn’t have a stronghold in the WNBA. It isn’t due to a lack of talent outside of the USA. Rather, it’s because the WNBA season is played during the summer which overlaps into European tournaments which France plays in.

The timing of the WNBA season and a lack of a midseason break lowers the incentive for French (or any non-American player) to play in the WNBA, even if they’re otherwise good enough. We detailed about the lack of international talent in the WNBA here.

Don’t worry, the French still love Les États-Unis! (And America loves the French too!)

Okay, this article is a total love fest on France. But I will acknowledge that that has been strained at times depending on official government policy. In 2003, France was at odds with the United States over the second Iraq War and American Congressman Walter B. Jones, Jr. renaming french fries “Freedom Fries” in response to it — even though they’re not French. And currently, things aren’t the best on a political scale. Neither on the basketball court if you are holding Mahinmi’s contract against him personally. If you’re in that boat, come on now!

Americans certainly have their stereotypes of the French that aren’t so flattering. Things like their personal hygiene (despite the fact that it’s a Fashion and beauty capital of the world), the escargot and frog leg diets, the berets, mimes and accordion music like this:

You get the deal. These things are overblown. Just like the stereotype of a loud tourist in a cowboy hat who demands his or her Freedom Fries!

If you’re wondering whether the French view the American government differently depending on who the President is, you’re correct. According to an IFOP survey via Frenchly, seventy-seven percent of French people believed that the United States was a reliable ally when Barack Obama was the American President. But under current President Donald Trump’s administration, that’s down to 44 percent. And 83 percent of French people have a negative view of President Trump himself. But this statistic is more important. The French don’t have that same view of American people because 73 percent of French people view Americans in a positive light.

See? The French don’t hate America, unlike what some politicians or other Francophobes want you to believe.