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France History, Language and Culture

History of France

Prior to the French Revolution in 1789, France was a monarchy known for its colourful (and often extravagant) royals – not least Louis XIV, or the Sun King, who moved his court from Paris to Versailles in the 1680s. The revolution itself brought about a sea change in the way the whole country was structured, shifting power from the church and nobility to the state.

The Napoleonic era oversaw the expansion of the French Empire, before defeat at Waterloo in 1815 which resulted in the restoration of the monarchy. Napoleon himself was exiled to a South Atlantic island, where he died.

Back in France, the abdication of King Louis-Philippe in 1848 established the formation of the Second Republic, and since then, different heads of state have led the country. In the latter half of the 19th century, much of Paris' famous architecture - including its avenues of Haussmann buildings and the Eiffel Tower - was constructed.

In the 20th century, France played an important role in both world wars (where notably, the country's surrender to Nazi Germany in 1940 resulted in the temporary Vichy Regime), but the post-war presidency of Charles de Gaulle restored stability. The famous anti-government protests of 1968, however, eventually led to de Gaulle's downfall.

In modern times, Emmanuel Macron, the founder of a new party 'La République En Marche!' was elected president in 2017. At age 39, he became the youngest President in the history of France. His aim to reform the public sector, welfare benefits and the French pension system has been met with waves of protests - in April 2018, rail workers announced a three-month strike challenging the government's employment reforms, and from November 2018, Gilets jaunes (yellow-jacket protesters) have marched the streets in Paris and other French cities against fuel tax increase and tough austerity measures.

Did you know?
• France has around 1,000 chateaux and roughly 1,600 kinds of cheese.
• In February 2016, France has become the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food.
• King Louis XIX had the shortest reign of any French monarch: 20 minutes.

France Culture

Religion in France

63-66% Christians, 23-28% unaffiliated and 7-9% Muslims.

Social Conventions in France

Shaking hands and, more familiarly, kissing both cheeks, are the usual forms of greeting. The form of personal address is simply 'Monsieur' or 'Madame' without a surname and it may take time to get on first-name terms. At more formal dinners, the most important guest or host gives the signal to start eating. Mealtimes are often a long and leisurely experience.

Casual wear is common but some clubs, casinos, and exclusive restaurants warrant more formal attire. Eveningwear is normally specified where required. Topless sunbathing is tolerated on most beaches but naturism is restricted to specific beaches - local tourist offices will advise where these are. A smoking ban for workplaces and public spaces has been in place since February 2007.

Language in France

French is the official language. There are many regional dialects, but these are rapidly declining with the exception of Basque, which is spoken as a first language by some people in the southwest. Breton is also spoken by some in Brittany. Most French can also speak English.



  • Beer = Bière
  • Closed = Fermé
  • Danger = Danger
  • Do you speak English? = Est-ce que vous parlez anglais?
  • Doctor = Médecin / docteur
  • Eight = Huit
  • Eighty = Quatre-vingt
  • Entrance = Entrée
  • Exit = Sortie
  • Fifty = Cinquante
  • Five = Cinq
  • Forty = Quarante
  • Four = Quatre
  • Friday = Vendredi
  • Goodbye = Au revoir
  • Hello = Bonjour
  • Hotel = Hôtel
  • How are you? = Ça va?
  • How much does it cost? = Combien ça coûte?
  • I'm very well = Ça va bien
  • I don't understand = Je ne comprends pas
  • I feel ill = Je ne me sens pas bien
  • Menu = Menu
  • Monday = Lundi
  • My name is … = Je m'appelle …
  • Nine = Neuf
  • Ninety = Quatre-vingt dix
  • No = Non
  • One = Un (Une)
  • One Hundred = Cent
  • One Thousand = Mille
  • Open = Ouvert
  • Please = S'il vous plaît
  • Restaurant = Restaurant
  • Saturday = Samedi
  • Seven = Sept
  • Seventy = Soixante-dix
  • Six = Six
  • Sixty = Soixante
  • Sunday = Dimanche
  • Ten = Dix
  • Thank you = Merci
  • Thirty = Trente
  • Three = Trois
  • Thursday = Jeudi
  • Today = Aujourd'hui
  • Toilets = Toilettes
  • Tomorrow = Demain
  • Tuesday = Mardi
  • Twenty = Vingt
  • Two = Deux
  • Wednesday = Mercredi
  • Where is …? = Où est …?
  • Wine = Vin
  • Yes = Oui

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