France is a popular tourist destination, especially for those who are looking for a romantic location, a place to explore and meet new people, or even just to relax on a beach. There’s so much conversation around this beautiful country that sometimes tourists think they understand the French culture and the history behind the country without doing any research. This incredible country deserves more research before you travel there so you can immerse yourself in the culture in a respectful and educated way.
Besides having the best taste in fashion and beautiful architecture, there are things you must understand before meeting the French face to face. An example of this is that the French find it very respectful to be greeted in French. Imagine if you went to France not knowing that! You would not leave a good first impression in your wake. Read through these interesting facts about France and familiarize yourself with the culture before visiting the country of love.
1. The French Love Their Cheese
When you think of food in France, chances are, you’re thinking about wine, cheese, and croissants. While it may be called a stereotype in some circles, it really is the truth! France takes great pride in its high-quality cheeses, as well as the amount of variety they have to offer.
To be exact, there are up to 1200 varieties of cheese made in France which weigh around 1 billion tonnes. 1 billion! If you thought your family eats a lot of cheese, chances are, the French eat more.
2. France is the First Country to Make Throwing Out or Burning Food Illegal
If you want to take a peek into what North America’s future may look like, take a look at France. At many grocery stores in Canada and the United States, it’s actually illegal to give away leftover supermarket food. In fact, this rule applies to food that is still perfectly good.
However, as of 2016, France has made it illegal to throw away unsold food that is perfectly edible. Instead of tossing it in the trash, you must donate all unsold food so those who need to eat, can benefit from stores having a surplus of food.
3. The Word “Salut” Has Two Meanings
In English, every word has an unmistakable meaning. For example, if you were to say “Hello Friend!” no one would ever think you were saying goodbye. While this is quite convenient in English to ensure proper communication of a single message, the French are a little more complex.
The word “Salut” is used as a greeting and as a goodbye. If you are touring France, don’t be surprised if you realize that your conversations with the locals begin and end with the same word. If this is too complicated for you to catch on to, you can always say “Bonjour” for hello, and “Au Revoir” for goodbye.
4. The French Love Their Sleep
Do you ever feel like you’re a hamster that cannot get off the hamster wheel of business? Many Americans and Canadians feel that way, however, we need to catch up with France. While we are running around to work, then soccer, making supper then running off to a social event, the French are sleeping! They place a high value on their sleep and may even get more sleep than you do!
On average, the French get approximately 8.83 hours of sleep per day. Sleep is so crucial to our well-being that we should make it a higher priority in our lives. Getting more sleep could also reduce stress and illnesses! Hopefully, when you travel to France, you can get lots of rest along with the rest of the country.
5. Some “French” Food Isn’t Actually French
While you may be eating French fries and French toast in preparation for your upcoming France trip, you may want to stick to indulging in wines, cheese, and croissants. This is because French toast and French fries were not actually made in France!
French fries were actually introduced to the American soldiers during World War one by Belgian soldiers who spoke French. As such, the Americans called them French Fries. As for French toast, it can be traced back to being in existence during the Roman Empire.
6. The Eiffel Tower is Named After a Special Individual
If you thought the Eiffel tower has always been a beloved landmark in France, think again. When it was first built, the tower was considered very ugly by most people. It really took quite a while for people to warm up to it.
The Eiffel tower is named after the mastermind and genius who designed it. Gustave Eiffel was this tower’s engineer who took all the backlash after creating it. If only he could see now how popular his best art piece is today.
7. Greet The French In A Respectful Way
When you meet a tourist in your own country, it always feels good when they know how to say a few things in your language. The French are no exception to this courtesy when you are visiting their country. Many French citizens speak a variety of languages and expect tourists to do the same.
Before traveling to France, make sure you are able to order food from a restaurant, ask where the washrooms are, and how to say “I’m lost”. That last one will serve you well once you arrive to this busy city. Another phrase that is important to learn is how to tell locals that you are very sorry but you do not speak very much French. While they may prefer to communicate in their language, your attempt at speaking French will be much better received than just speaking in English.
8. Not All Of France Speaks French
Coming from North America, it can be hard to picture what the landscape of Europe looks like, especially how close every country is. One side of France is actually connected to Italy, making the French along that border very fluent in Italian.
Much like greeting the French in French, always ensure that you are extending this courtesy no matter where you are in the country. If you find that you are surrounded by more French people who speak Italian, make sure you have a few Italian phrases in your back pocket. This is also a wonderful aspect of the country’s landscape and would be an excellent cost-effective way to experience a variety of cultures in such a small area.
9. France has the Most Time Zones in the World
Did you know that the United States has 6 time zones? From ocean to ocean, desert to desert, there is such a diverse range of landscape and time zones here in North America. It truly demonstrates how incredibly vast this country is. Or does it?
Surprisingly, France is a tiny country compared to Canada or the United States but it is riddled with time change no matter where you go. France actually has 12 different times zones. This can change in a matter of hours, so it’s important for you to keep your eye on the clock and constantly check to see what the time zone is in your area so ensure you are on schedule.
10. Tour De France Is A Lot Older Than Most People
The idea of a bicycle race through a gorgeous city sounds like a fairly modern development. A bunch of people in bright, athletic company-sponsored gear getting broadcasted across the world is also quite modern.
However, the truth of the matter is the first race was on July 1, 1903, making this incredible, 23-day long bike race over 100 years old! Can you imagine what those athletes were wearing for that first race? Certainly not Nike or Adidas! If you’re traveling to France in July, this is something you will definitely not want to miss. If you’re feeling extra enthusiastic, you can wear yellow to match the jersey of the person who is winning the race on each leg of the race.
11. Roundabouts Control Traffic
France has one way to keep traffic flowing in the city centers and that does not include stopping at stop signs. While this may sound dangerous, roundabouts contribute to encouraging the natural flow of traffic throughout cities to help with traffic jams.
France loves their roundabouts so much that they have more than half of the world’s roundabouts right there in France. The thing is to remember to yield to anyone who is already in the roundabout and signal when you are ready to exit. This ensures safe entry and exit so you don’t have to deal with getting in a car accident on your vacation.
12. Historial Sites Are Common In France
If you are looking for incredible sights to see in France that carry a lot of historical meaning, head to any of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. UNESCO stands for The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization which is actually based in Paris, France.
In many places, UNESCO sites are forests, lakes, rivers, and other incredible natural terrains. However, in France, the architecture and historical value of entire towns are protected under UNESCO. This gives tourists an amazing opportunity to see locations where major historical events happened without worrying about the sites being destroyed.
13. France Is Popular Among Tourists
If you’re looking for an escape from the hustle and bustle of life, you can find some peace and quiet in the countryside of France. In contrast, the cities are very busy and packed with tourists. This makes it an amazing place to meet new people from all over the world and to enjoy the exciting buzz of civilization.
France is the number one most visited country in the world, so you can be sure that you will not be the only ones stopping for a photo in front of the Eiffel Tower, or buying a baguette for the first time at a bakery.
14. Raise Children Well, Get Rewarded
Sometimes it feels as if parents who work hard to raise fantastic kids don’t get the credit they deserve. Well, France has a solution for that and it comes in the form of a medal! This may add pressure to parents, but at the same time, maybe it’s a healthy pressure to ensure that each child has their needs met, and they become contributing citizens to the country of France.
The medal is called the Medal of the French Family and it is awarded to those who have raised several children with dignity. If you are considering moving to France, chances are, you’ll be surrounded by some very involved and responsible parents who care deeply for the well-being of their children.
15. The French Take Reading Very Seriously
If you are an avid reader and are looking to do some serious French reading, well, Marcel Proust’s book called A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu will not leave you empty-handed. This is the world’s longest novel and consists of 13 volumes!
The English translation of this book title is “Remembrance of Things Past”. If you have a hard time keeping up with complicated plots like from the movie Inception, this may not be the book for you. With 3,000 pages forging through a grand story, you can be sure to find many, many different plots woven together into a beautiful symphony of imagination.
16. Visit The Birthplace of Napoleon
You’ve probably heard of the French icon named Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon was born in Corsica, a beautiful French island, which is located in the Mediterranean sea. Not only is it a French island, but it is one of the 18 regions of France that you won’t want to miss.
It is truly impossible to capture the beauty of this place in words or photos. The water is a flawless aquamarine blue, the buildings reflect the history of the island with incredible architecture and bright colors, and the beaches are to die for. If you are looking for a tropical vacation in Europe that will simultaneously make you feel like you’re in the Bahamas, this is the island for you.
17. France Has Art Outside Of Art Galleries
While France is renowned for its one-of-a-kind museums that house some of the most iconic pieces of art in the entire world, it’s landscape is also hiding some artwork in other places. While we find artwork that is 100 years old to be impressive, the most impressive artwork is located on French walls of stone. The Lascaux Caves give viewers an inside look into what life on earth looked like around 200,000 years ago.
It truly creates a reflective environment where viewers are humbled by the beauty and intelligence that has preceded them. The Paleolithic artwork on the interior of these stunning caves is located in the region of Dordogne which is in the south-east area of France.
18. France Invented A System Of Measurement
As if France needed any more credit for creating icons, geniuses, and beauty in just about every way, they had the mathematical world covered as well. Gabriel Mouton was a vicar at St. Paul’s Church which is located in Lyons, France. He introduced the concept of a decimal system, which ended up being the beginning of a massive change in measurement starting in the late 1600s.
As such, if you are used to the Imperial method of measurement, adjusting to the Metric system may be a bit of a shock to your brain. Before traveling to France, make sure you have an idea of the difference between miles and kilometers, inches and centimeters, and Fahrenheit versus Celsius. This is a great way to stay informed in case you get lost, or are trying to plan out your next few days of travel.
19. Women Are Finally Legally Allowed To Wear Pants
While this law was not actually enforced consistently, Paris, France was a little behind on the women’s empowerment movement. This was probably because no one in France truly paid attention to it anymore, but just the same, the law needed to be updated!
According to the law, women needed to gain permission from the local police if they wanted to “dress like a man” and wear trousers. Thankfully, in 2013, the French government overturned this very outdated law and now, Parisian women are free to wear whatever they want.
20. The Name “France” Isn’t French
Ironically, the name France is technically not French. France is actually from a Germanic tribe and the original name was actually Frank. This word meant “free” which is why it was chosen for this beautiful, progressive country.
The original name of France was Gaul, however, when the Germanic barbarian tribe destroyed the Gauls, the name France came into existence. This tribe was called Frank, hence the name of the free tribe which now owned France.