What is French Culture?
When you talk of France to anybody or with anyone, Paris is quickly a topic of interest; Paris is commonly known as the city of love. Paris is also well known as a centre of French culture for fashion, art, architecture, cuisine and so it is easy to ignore the diverse culture outside of Paris. It is interesting to note that the word “culture” originated from France although there are many German influences. Celtic and Gallo-Roman cultures have greatly influenced the culture of France. Culture is determined by the way of life of its people and by location. So the characterisation of the French culture revolves around its language, fashions, religion, history, local events and much more. Politeness and courtesy is often associated with the French; but we have all experienced the haughtiness of French waiters! We have envied the short working week and the generous pensions! So many aspire to the French lifestyle ….
Culture and French Lifestyle
First lets discuss the influence of language on the French people. Although there are variants in different regions, most people in France speak French, which is the dominant language in France. A country of above sixty million people is mostly speaking French (the official language) and so its is the first language among the French people. Over eighty percent of the population speak the language daily. The border with France and Germany has changed dramatically over history. Therefore about three percent of the French people speak in dialects associated with the German. The Arabic speakers are the minority speaking group in France. Catalan, Breton. Occitan dialects, Basque and even Italian are some of the languages also spoken in France.
Religion is an integral part of the community and its culture. The dominant religion in France is Catholicism with most people identifying themselves as Roman Catholics. There is a significant percentage of Muslims who mostly speak Arabic. There are Jews and Hindus as well practising their religions and many not affiliated with any religion. The laissez-faire attitude of the French is being challenged by the hate crimes towards Jews and Muslims.
The French are profoundly offended by negative comments about their country and government – probably more than any other country on earth. It emphasises the high level of pride in their nation. They invented the expression commonly referred to as chauvinism. Their culture accepts romance and passion and even sex outside marriage openly. The wealthy and the powerful do not hide their extramarital affairs, and this is an indication of how secular this nation is. Perhaps this reflects the influences of the Romans and their art.
They believe highly in equality and liberty and their motto is Liberté, Equalité, Fraternité (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity). This is a nation that enjoys a 2 hour break for lunch and lengthy dinners. Wine with a meal is a long established practise. Wine consumption is enjoyed at all socio-economic levels in France. The quality of dishes is so important that the Michelin Guide was launched in France in 1900 by Ándre and Édouard Michelin. Restaurants in France are still rated by Michelin and the award of 3 stars is a major event. Michelin ratings are now acknowledged world-wide.
Fashion and Art
France is associated with high fashion – clothes are often made to order and / or handmade. The Paris fashion show is an important date in the fashion calendar. You will find art across France from church buildings to public edifices. Gothic, Romanesque Rocco, neoclassic sculptures are from France. Many of the famous world artists are from France: Monet, Renoir, Degas to name a few. The world’s largest museum is found in Paris: Musée du Louvre.
The French love a celebration …
The French celebrate holidays such as Christmas, Easter, Labour Day and Bastille Day (which is associated with the French revolution). The lifestyle of the French people is related to some of the following: more life and less work, gastronomy, wine and terroir, haute couture, home cooking (with quality over quantity), preferring trains to air travel, graceful slim and slender women and rule number one always takes breakfast!! It is, however, important to note that older generation French say that this is changing and declining over time as the younger generations want change.
Property and Architecture in France
One of the attractions of property in France is the wide variety of styles with many regional variations. Who cannot be impressed by the magnifcent chateaux? The hot spot is the Loire Valley with many splendid examples: Chateau de Chambord, Chateau de Chenonceau, Chateau de Villandy, and Chateau d’Amboise. Of course, there are many privately owned chateau across France. The Manoir is another grand example – typically owned by a noble person. Examples of regional property types: Longere, chalet, Fermette, Mas, Domaine, and bastide.
French Culture quiz
Now that you are familiar with French Culture – how is your knowledge?
1. Which king reigned during the French revolution?
2. Which year did the French revolution begin?
3. What is the Ancient Regime?
4. What was the Third Estate declaration?
5. Which Englishman in Paris was the term “haute couture” referred to?
6. Who was a founder of French Impressionist painting?
- King Louis XVI
- Absolute monarchy – one ruler has supreme authority
- A political pamphlet written in January 1789, shortly before the outbreak of the French Revolution
- Charles Frederick Worth
- Claude Monet