French Culture Through Pictures: The Amazing French
French culture is quite unique. Did you know Paris is home to more than two million people? While this is a large number, it’s no where close to France’s total population of 67 million, not to mention all those other millions of people can be quite different from the Parisians. Beyond the stereotypes of Dior obsessions and the Eiffel Tower, what are the French people and French culture really like?
Language, Family, and Love
Unsurprisingly, the official language of France is French, however, some small percentages of the country speak German or Italian dialects around certain parts of the country’s border. There is also the minority language of Breton which actually originates with the Celts.
The country’s motto is, “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité,” (liberty, equality, fraternity), which reflects France’s core values. More than that, the French are typically very proud of their nationality and highly value their country’s long history of beauty, artfulness, and sophistication. Families are also of great importance, including extended family, and it’s typical that time is made in the day for families to eat together or gather on the weekends.
This, however, does not negate French passion and romance which is perhaps one stereotype that may be true. The French are known for viewing romance and sex differently than other cultures, having a much more open view of having love affairs outside of marriage or having a long line of lovers. This is because, regarding the concept of sex, the French, instead of being prudish, ashamed, or highly restrictive of it, view it very naturally as one of many human needs such as food and sleep.
French Culture in Cuisine
Speaking of food, there are countless variations of French cuisine depending on the region. However, what is common to all of France is an appreciation for cheese, bread, and wine. Sauces are also highly valued which range from heavy to light. More specific foods are boeuf bourguignon, which is a beef stew cooked with rich red wine, mushrooms, onions, and garlic, as well as coq au vin, which is very similar but chicken is used instead of beef.
Eating habits are different than what Americans might be accustomed to. Instead of a hearty breakfast of eggs, toast, pancakes, and bacon, etc., the French breakfast is very light and can consist of a sweet pastry or toast and fruit preserve along with a cup of coffee or tea. Lunch and dinner are larger meals and, in more formal occasions, these meals consist of four courses.
Is it possible to think about France without art coming to mind? Home of the Louvre Museum which is where the Mona Lisa is held, France has a long history of famous and influential artists such as Edgar Degas, Paul Cezanne, and Claude Monet, among others, not to mention the golden age of French cinema: nouvelle vague, or new wave movies. You can also see the influence of different art periods on French architecture.
The Notre Dame cathedral is a perfect example of Gothic architecture while many palaces are in the Rococo style. The Eiffel Tower is unique because of its industrial, neo-gothic look, which is perhaps why it’s so unforgettable.
French art also includes great musicians such as Claude Debussy, Camille Saint-Saens, and Erik Satie. French in the 1800s placed great significance on opera, which was the most popular kind of music at the time, as well as ballet. In fact, in France and only in France, there was the practice of starting operas with ballets so both could be enjoyed in one evening. One of the most gorgeous and most famous opera houses in France, and perhaps the world, is Paris’s Palais Garnier which is a mix of baroque and Renaissance architectural styles.
French Culture and Traditions
There are three big holidays in France: Christmas, Easter, and Bastille Day which is the country’s independence day. However, there are many other celebrations and holidays held throughout the year. For example, instead of April Fools Day, they have Poisson d’Avril, or “April Fish,” which is more or less the same as April Fools with the exception that the most common prank is children pinning drawn paper fish to their parents’ backs. Chocolate fish snacks are also popular on this day.
Another important holiday is Epiphany on the 6th of January. It is tradition to have a sugary, flakey “cake of kings” which has a hidden charm baked into it. It is sliced into many pieces and whoever finds the charm is named “the king” for the whole day and gets to wear a paper crown which is usually sold with these cakes.
More personal traditions include greetings which often consist of a kiss on each cheek (except when it’s two men greeting each other, in which case a handshake is used). In public, it is expected to be polite, reserved, and quiet. Also, don’t be afraid of ever being overdressed in France. The French often wear the best clothes they have every day and never cease to be fashionable. Casual dressing is not a common practice.
If you plan on visiting France and are worried about not fitting in, just watch and learn from the locals. You’d be surprised how much you can learn of France’s beautiful way of life from simple observation. What do you love about French culture?
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I love the idea of ballet before the opera. This blog was full of info I did not know until now. France is definitely on my bucket list 🙂