Given the recent strengthening of wetland restoration and protection policies in France, there is need to develop rapid assessment methods that provide a cost-effective way to assess losses and gains of wetland functions. Such methods have been developed in the US and we tested six of them on a selection of contrasting wetlands in the Isère watershed. We found that while the methods could discriminate sites, they did not always give consistent rankings, thereby revealing the different assumptions they explicitly or implicitly incorporate. The US assessment methods commonly use notions of "old-growth" or "pristine" to define the benchmark conditions against which to assess wetlands. Any reference-based assessment developed in the US would need adaptation to work in the French context. This could be quite straightforward for the evaluation of hydrologic variables as scoring appears to be consistent with the best professional judgment of hydrologic condition made by a panel of French local experts. Approaches to rating vegetation condition and landscape context, however, would require substantial reworking to reflect a novel view of reference standard. Reference standard in the European context must include acknowledgement that many of the best condition and biologically important wetland types in France are the product of intensive, centuries-long management (mowing, grazing, etc.). They must also explicitly incorporate the recent trend in ecological assessment to focus particularly on the wetland's role in landscape-level connectivity. These context-specific, socio-cultural dimensions must be acknowledged and adjusted for when adapting or developing wetland assessment methods in new cultural contexts.