First, thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Frenchy for letting me post on this site. Viva France!
Here are the top five things that Americans need to learn from the French:
1) In architecture, style matters: I know what you're thinking: DUH! But one doesn't have to be in France very long before one sees that just about every building - public and private - is constructed in such a way that it contributes positively to the overall impression of a place, be it village, city, or metropolis. Beauty is an afterthought in American buildings, something that gets cut when the building budget shrinks.
2) Power generation isn't just about burning fossil fuels: We Americans are addicted to foreign oil, something which has potentially disasterous affects (That's a whole other post!). The French -- and all Europeans -- have figured out that thinking outside the "oil and coal" box means cleaner electricity.
3) Vibrant cultural/artistic heritage isn't just about history: The French are fiercely protective -- sometimes, I'll admit, to a fault -- of cultural and artistic expression. In America, we fund the arts minimally, then get upset when artists dare to express themselves in ways that are offensive to a vocal minority of people. If Americans -- like the French -- treat modern culture with the reverence with which we hallow historical culture, then our art/culture will be a living thing, instead of a museum relic.
4) You don't need a damn traffic light at every intersection: The roundabout just makes so much more sense! Of course, roundabouts would require Americans to pay attention to their driving. And, if they don't have to stop at stoplights, then who would have time to admire their gleaming, two-ton metallic behemoths they drive? The biggest benefit is that cool space in the center where you can put something artistic! See #1 and #3.
5) Slow down and eat: The first meal I ever ate in France was incredibly annoying -- The garcon brought food and drink, but disappeared for about an hour. No one at the restaurant seemed to have any interest whatsoever in taking my money. And, the spaghetti didn't have any meat. Quelle horreur! By the time I left a month later, I learned that eating a nice meal means enjoying good company, good wine, and a whole evening. Slow the hell down. Have a conversation. Stare up at the trees, the intricate designs on the ceiling, or your wine. Talk about the beautiful architecture, the sculpture in the middle of the roundabout, or football (either one!). Eat lots of bread. And order your spaghetti Bolognese if you must.