The official name for France is the French republic. It's landscape covers western Europe and other overseas regions and territories. It is bordered by Andorra, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Luxemborg, Monaco, Spain and Switzerland. France is the second largest country in Europe and 85% of the population live in urban areas. The official language is French and its capital city is Paris. It is the most visited country in the world with 80 million visitors a year.
Geography & Travel
France is known as the the Hexagon because the outline of France is roughly 6 sided. The mountains in France consist of the French Alps, Jura mountains, and the Pyrenees. The French Alps are located near the bottom of France. The Jura Mountains are located near Germany. And the Pyrenees make the barrier between France and Spain. The 4 major rivers in France are the Serine River,Loire River,Meuse and the Rhone River. The climate of France is generally cool winters and mild summers. Most of the people In France live in the middle of the country because that is where there are not big mountains and there are gentle, rolling hills. France's cities and towns have lots of transportation methods. The cities have underground subways or lite rail systems to move people around the country. However, driving remains the simplest way to move around the country.
Government & Foreign Policy
The political system of France consists of an executive branch, a legislative branch and a judicial branch. There is a President of the Republic and the Government that exercise power. The Government consists of the Prime Minister and the ministers. The current president of France is Francois Hollande. The French government is a limited government. France's economy is overburdened and the country needs to either earn more money, sell more goods or spend less money. The citizens of France are more politically active than people of the United States. Both the US and France have a President who works with a legislative branch. Both governments have a supreme court. France has more political parties than the US and the French are socialist, which means the society is owned and controlled by the government rather than individual people and companies. France is a founding member of the United Nation and NATO. Its main allies are the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, the United States, the other NATO countries and the European Union. France is a key country because of its size, location, strong economy, membership in European organizations, and strong military power. France is the world's 4th biggest overseas development assistance donor. They contribute almost 10 billion Euro annually. Africa is the primary beneficiary of the aid.
The currency of France is the euro (EUR). 1 euro is equal to $1.11594 US dollars. That means if you want to buy something that costs EUR100 you would need $111.594. France has the 7th largest export economy in the world and is the 5th largest importer in the world economy. The top exports of France are planes, helicopters, cars, vehicle parts and refined petroleum. France's main imports are crude petroleum, refined petroleum, cars and gas. Gross domestic product or GDP is the monetary value of all finished goods produced within a country. France's GDP per capita was last recorded at 35,669.59 US dollars. The major contributors to France's GDP are from the services, manufacturing, and transport sectors. France is a wealthy country compared to the world, but compared to the US it's GDP is only 1/8 the size of the US GDP.
Social and Ethnic groups
Approximately 94% of France's population holds French citizenship. The largest ethnic group is French (92%) followed by Arab/North African (4%) and German (2%). The schools in France are highly centralized and organized. It is divided into 3 stages: Primary, Secondary and Higher Education. 80% of schools in France are state schools. The 20% that are private are almost all catholic schools. education is required from the ages of 6 to 16, however often children start school as young as age 2 and 50% of 18-21 year olds are still in full time education. Basic rights in France are equal among men and woman. France has world class child protection laws. Literacy rates in France are 99% male and 99% female. That would prove that France is a well educated country.
Religion, Language and Country Flag
Primary language in France is French, with almost at almost 100%. France is a country where freedom of religion is guaranteed. Major religions practiced in France include Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim, with close to 88% practicing Catholicism. The national flag of France, officially adopted February 15, 1794, is a tri-color flag featuring 3 equal vertical stripes colored blue, white and red. White is the traditional color of the House of Bourbon, who ruled France from the late 16th century until the French Revolution. The red and blue in the flag represents Paris. Other interpretations of the colors of the flag include the following: 1) the colors symbolize nobility (blue), clergy (white), and bourgeois (red), which were the estates of the old regime in France; or 2) colors also symbolize the values of the French Revolution which were liberty, equality, brotherhood, democracy, secularism, and modernization; or 3) lastly, some say the colors represent important people in French history.
National Holiday: Bastille Day
Bastille Day, known in France as French National Day, commemorates the Storming of the Bastille and July 14, 1789. This holiday celebrates the beginning of the French Revolution. The French celebrate Bastille Day as the end of the monarchy and the beginning of the modern republic.
France does not have a national dress because it is divided into many different regions. Each region has their dress and they are very different from each other. The only thing they have in common is that the men wear pants, women wear skirts and they both wear hats of different styles. Traditional dress for men was to wear a chemise (knee length cotton or linen shirt), breech cloth (pair of knee length pants), hose (pair of cotton or wool knee high socks), and guillette (short sleeveless vest) worn over the chemise. French women traditionally wore a jupon (similar to a skirt), chemise (underskirt), mantelet (a short women's waistcoat) and a fichu (square piece of cloth used as a modesty scarf on the neck and shoulders). In recent times, traditional regional dress is only worn at festivals and celebrations. Today, most people in France wear what American's call business casual. French is a leading country in fashion design. Paris hosts fashion week twice a year and it is a highly anticipated event.
Food in France is very simple, yet full of flavor. Traditional food of France can change throughout France as each region has its own type of food. Traditional foods in France are:
- Soupe a l'oignon - traditional French soup made of onions and beef stock
- Wine - France is the country to find a suitable wine for every type of food
- Cheese - there are over 1000 different types of cheese made in France; the blue/green-veined Roquefort is the oldest variety, dating back to the 17th century.
- Boeuf bourguignon - stew made of beef braised in red wine, beef broth, seasoned with garlic onions and mushrooms
- Chocolate souffle - chocolate creamy filling with a chocolate crispy crust