Lifestyle & Belief

Cadillac's viral ad glorifies America's crazy work ethic — but my French in-laws don't buy it

By now, you may have seen the TV ad for Cadillac that's gone viral. It's the one where an American guy starts out questioning how hard he works, then indirectly thumbs his nose at Europeans and their short work weeks and long summer vacations.

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His conclusion: that America is just the best, and the best buy Caddies.

But my French in-laws don't buy the bluster.

I live in Spain, but my house is more like a French enclave. When Francine and Bob, my in-laws, arrived from France this week, they pulled out their French cheeses, gourmet olive oils and pates.

They come about every two months and stay for a week. Because they can. Bob's retired. And Francine, a public sector employee, has so many days off she doesn't know what to do with them.

So when I told them about this Cadillac ad, where an American guy waxes philosophical about work, they were interested.

"Why do we work so hard? For what? For this? For stuff?" asks the man in the ad. "In other countries they work. They stroll home and stop at the café. They take August off. Off. Why aren't you like that? Why aren't we like that?"

He's pretty much talking about Francine. Francine works 195 days a year. Between French holidays and vacation days, she has more than 12 weeks off each year. In other words, a week off every month.

Again, Mr. Cadillac (actor Neal McDonough): "Why aren't we like that? Because we're crazy-driven, hard-working believers, that's why. Those other countries think we're nuts. Whatever. Were the Wright brothers insane? Bill Gates? Les Paul? Ali?"

"It's pretty simple. You work hard. You create your own luck. And you gotta believe anything is possible. As for all the stuff, that's the upside of only taking two weeks off in August, n'est-ce pas?"

Bob, my father-in-law, is shaking his head.

"This way of life is so materialistic," he says. "The only important thing are the things you own."

"What a shame," Francine says. "What a shame; If that's his way of thinking and his purpose in life."

"He doesn't talk about art," Bob says, "or culture or anything else."

And, Francine chimes in, "I couldn't give a you-know-what about owning a pool. I prefer walking on the beach. And as for the car, it just needs to run well. To get me to a place where I can park it, and go for a walk."

So there you have it.  A little European spunk to even the score.

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