English: It is a wise man who lives with money in the bank, it is a fool who dies that way.
French: “C’est un homme sage qui vit avec de l’argent à la banque, il est un imbécile qui meurt de cette façon.”
I heard this proverb in my last year of AP French during high school (in Dallas,
TX). I remember this proverb because my teacher forced the class to memorize French proverbs for an end of the year quiz.
I thought this proverb said quite a lot about the attitudes of the French people. Beginning my studies of French in middle school, I had only a vague idea of what French culture was like. All I knew were a bunch of common French stereotypes (as shown in American media).
In my later years of high school French, I realized that the French are quite different from what I originally envisioned. I thought that the French were likely to be heavily focused on money, work, etc. much like the United States and most of western Europe. What I discovered was that quite a lot of French people put emphasis on being able to have time for recreation and for enjoying life, instead of working as much as possible to further their material wealth.
What the quote seems to illustrate about the French is that many of them believe you just need to have enough money to enjoy life, while still actually being alive. The quote suggests that they believe it is foolish to horde up vast amounts of wealth and to never be able to enjoy it.