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France Culture, Geography and History
Culture and Customs of France
Passionate about the arts, great food and even greater wine, French people are also fierce defenders of the 'French' way of life. The stereotype of the typical French person being a liberal, dog-loving, intellectual may not ring true but you will most likely see many dogs in cafes and an open attitude towards everything from sexuality to smoking.
France (Paris in particular) is a multicultural country with immigrants coming from Africa, the Middle East and other European countries. In fact, France has the largest Muslim and Jewish populations in Europe. In the recent past, this mix of cultures has created some tension among the population, with immigrant communities and students in particular protesting about employment rates and government restrictions.
With many different cultures co-existing in modern France, there are a wide variety of customs, cuisines and religions to be observed. Expect to see churches as well as mosques, Indian restaurants near French patisseries, and the sultry sounds of modern jazz right around the corner from a street beat-boxer.
Geography and Environment of France
Bordered by Spain, Andorra, Luxembourg, Monaco, Switzerland, Italy, Germany and Belgium, France has a variety of natural environments, from the rolling fields of Provence and the beaches of the Mediterranean to the urbanised cityscapes of Paris. Much of France is flat, except for the mountainous Pyrenees in the south and the Alps in the east, which are both popular places for outdoor sports like hiking, skiing, snowboarding and mountain biking.
The French capital is a fascinating mix of gritty charm and unusual beauty. Expect to see the full spectrum of life – from well-maintained boulevards lined with classy, up-market restaurants and boutiques, to neighbourhoods full of run-down housing and graffiti-clad industrial buildings. Paris is a city that has many different sides, where visitors can turn each corner and find something new.
History and Government of France
This timeline of events shows the major moments in early France:
- 768 to 814 AD- Charlemagne rules as King of the Franks
- 1066 - Duke of Normandy invades England leading to the Battle of Hastings
- 1099 – 1st Crusade, led by Count Raymond IV of Toulouse
- 1147 – 2nd Crusade led by Emp. Conrad III & King Louis VI of France
- 1163 – Construction of the Notre Dame Cathedral first begins
- 1190 – 3rd Crusade led by Richard the Lionheart, Phillip II of France and Emperor Frederick I
- 1200 – The French/Flemish advance on Constantinople during the 4th Crusade
- 1337 to 1443 – Hundred Years’ War with England
- 1348 – The Plague hits Europe, with one third of the population dying in the first year
- 1356 – The French are defeated at the Battle of Poiters
- 1415 – Battle of Agincourt
- 1430 – Joan of Arc is executed
- 1617 – Louis XIII crowned at the age of 17
- 1789 – The Bastille is stormed by the people of France
- 1792 – King Louis and Queen Marie-Antoinette are executed
- 1799 – Napoleon takes control of France and starts building an empire
- 1815 – Napoleon is defeated at Waterloo by the British and exiled
France has a fascinating history marked by war, invasion, imperialistic expansion and revolution. Enduring the ravages of the Black Death, and the uncertainty of political upheaval and civil unrest, it's probably these events that give the modern French people their passionate, fighting spirit.
France’s recent history is as interesting as its beginnings. Invaded by Germany during World War I and World War II, France suffered many losses during both of these wars. Civilian and military lives were lost, strict rationing created harsh living conditions, and regular airstrikes and shelling created a climate of fear. The French Resistance has been the subject of many books and movies, mainly because it’s such an interesting example of the French spirit. The French Resistance is the name given to pockets of men and women who rallied against the Nazi occupation of France during World War II. Using guerrilla tactics, as well as underground press and other means, these groups provided safe houses and escape networks for Allied soldiers trapped behind enemy lines. They also provided intelligence and other information to the Allies, as well as committed acts of sabotage against the German military. Visitors to France can choose to see many sites that reflect these times including the beaches of Normandy and the battlefields of Ypres and the Somme.
More recently, France has enjoyed the stability that comes with being a part of the European Union and NATO; even though unemployment remains high, France is currently enjoying more peaceful times than it has had in the past.
France at a glance
- Paris (population 2.1 million)
- 65.3 million
- (GMT+01:00) Brussels, Copenhagen, Madrid, Paris
- Type C (European 2-pin), Type E (French 2-pin, female earth)
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