French Culture Essay
1280 Words6 Pages
The French are all about preserving their culture and being individualized. They often take great pride in the French products and the French style, and believe in keeping the French culture “pure” so they also limit the amount of foreign goods that are being imported. But during the World Wars the French began to allow foreigners to immigrate into France to take jobs due to an increase in job shortages. The immigration from the World Wars added to the diversity of the French culture. Ever since the 1850’s there has been a steady flow of immigration into France, and now nine percent of the French population is made up of immigrants (Gofen 62). The break down of the cultures in France is eighty-five percent of the French population is Roman…show more content…
But, France did allow foreigners to immigrate into France after the World Wars, but this is of coarse is going to add to the diversity of culture in France. When the French needed foreigners, they did not mind that they came into their country, knowing that it would create diversity of religion. But now, they are not allowing religious symbols in schools because the French want to “preserve their language and culture.” So, it seems a bit ironic don’t you think?
Currently, the French want to ban the wearing of religious symbols in public schools so that there is no social tension, and to keep the main religion in France (Roman Catholicism) ‘pure’ (Gofen 63). But even though the French say they want to keep their culture pure, in reality since the world wars, religions such as Islam and Judaism have in fact become a part of their culture. Once again, the French let in other cultures knowingly, and once the cultural diversity begins, all the religions are apart of a country’s culture. An example of a religious symbol that the French are considering to ban is the Burka. A Burka is an outfit worn by Muslim females that cover them head to toe. Some, who want to ban the burka say that it is disrespectful to women and can be degrading. But, 64 million people in France are Muslim. By wearing a Burka they are just following their religion and are also following tradition (French). One other big controversy regarding religious symbols is the banning of
Culture plays an important role in the development of all countries. The culture of France and of the French people has been shaped by geography, by profound historical events, and by foreign and internal forces and groups. France, and in particular Paris, has played an important role as a center of high culture since the 17th century, first in Europe, and from the 19th century on, worldwide. From the late 19th century, France has also played an important role in cinema, fashion, cuisine, literature, technology, science and mathematics. The importance of French culture has waxed and waned over the centuries, depending on its economic, political and military importance. French culture today is marked both by great regional and socioeconomic differences and strong unifying tendencies. A global opinion poll for the BBC saw France ranked as the country with the fourth most positive influence in the world (behind Germany, Canada and the UK) in 2014.
Main articles: French language, Languages of France, and Language policy in France
The Académie française sets an official standard of language purity; however, this standard, which is not mandatory, is occasionally ignored by the government itself: for instance, the left-wing government of Lionel Jospin pushed for the feminization of the names of some functions (madame la ministre) while the Académie pushed for some more traditional madame le ministre.
Some action has been taken by the government in order to promote French culture and the French language. For instance, they have established a system of subsidies and preferential loans for supporting French cinema. The Toubon law, from the name of the conservative culture minister who promoted it, makes it mandatory to use French in advertisements directed to the general public. Note that contrary to some misconceptions sometimes found in the Anglophone media, the French government neither regulates the language used by private parties in commercial settings, nor makes it compulsory that France-based WWW sites should be in French.
France counts many regional languages, some of them being very different from standard French, such as Breton (a Celtic language close to Cornish and Welsh) and Alsatian (an Alemannic dialect of German). Some regional languages are Roman, like French, such as Occitan. The Basque language is completely unrelated to the French language and to any other language in the world; it is spoken in an area that straddles the border between the southwest of France and the north of Spain.
Many of these languages have enthusiastic advocates; however, the real importance of local languages remains subject to debate. In April 2001, the Minister of Education, Jack Lang, admitted formally that for more than two centuries, the political powers of the French government had repressed regional languages. He announced that bilingual education would, for the first time, be recognized, and bilingual teachers recruited in French public schools to support teaching these other languages. In French schools, pupils are expected to learn at least two foreign languages, the first of which is typically German or English.
A revision of the French constitution creating official recognition of regional languages was implemented by the Parliament in Congress at Versailles in July 2008.
Religions in France
Main article: Religion in France
France is a secular country where freedom of thought and of religion is preserved, by virtue of the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. The Republic is based on the principle of laïcité, that is of freedom of religion (including of agnosticism and atheism) enforced by the Jules Ferry laws and the 1905 law on the separation of the State and the Church, enacted at the beginning of the Third Republic (1871–1940). A 2011 European poll found that a third (33%) of the French population "does not believe there is any sort of spirit, God or life force. In 2011, in a poll published by Institut français d'opinion publique 65% of the French population describes itself as Christians, and 25% as not adhering any religion.
According to Eurobarometer poll in 2012, Christianity is the largest religion in France accounting 60% of French citizens.Catholics are the largest Christian group in France, accounting for 50% of French citizens, while Protestants make up 8%, and other Christians make up 2%. Non believer/Agnostic account for 20%, Atheist 13%, and Muslim 6%.
France guarantees freedom of religion as a constitutional right, and the government generally respects this right in practice. A long history of violent conflict between groups led the state to break its ties to the established Catholic Church early in the last century, which previously had been the state religion. The government adopted a strong commitment to maintaining a totally secular public sector.
Main article: Roman Catholicism in France
Long the established state religion, the Roman Catholic Church has historically played a significant role in French culture and in French life. Kings were considered head of the church and state. Most French people are Roman Catholic Christians; however, many of them are secular but still place high value on Catholicism.
The Roman Catholic faith is no longer considered the state religion, as it was before the 1789 Revolution and throughout the various, non-republican regimes of the 19th century (the Restoration, the July Monarchy and the Second Empire). The Official split of Catholic Church and State ("Séparation de l'Eglise et de l'Etat") took place in 1905. This major reform emphazised the Laicist and anti-clericalist mood of French Radical Republicans in this period.
At the beginning of the 20th century, France was a largely rural country with conservative Catholic mores, but in the hundred years since then, the countryside has become depopulated as people have become urbanized. The urban populations have become more secular. A December 2006 poll by Harris Interactive, published in The Financial Times, found that 32% of the French population described themselves as agnostic, some 32% as atheist, and only 27% believed in any type of God or supreme being.
Main article: Protestantism in France
France was touched by the Reformation during the 16th century; some 30% of the population converted to Protestantism and became known as French Huguenots. Some princes joined the reform movement. But the national monarchy felt threatened by people who wanted to leave the established state religion. Protestants were discriminated against and suppressed. On August 24, 1572, the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre took place in Paris and the French Wars of Religion are considered to have begun. this French civil war took place between Catholics, led by Henry I, Duke of Guise, and Protestants, led by Henri de Navarre. Henri de Navarre became king after converting to Catholicism in 1589.
Louis XIII, Henri IV's son, began to suppress Protestants in violent attacks, such as the Siege of La Rochelle. After Louis XIV revoked the Edit de Nantes in 1685, Protestants who did not leave the country were generally suppressed. Thousands of Protestant Huguenots emigrated from France for their safety and to gain religious freedom, generally going to Protestant nations such as the Netherlands, England, South Africa, and the North American colonies. Their exile continued during the 17th century and until 1787, when religious freedom was re-established by Louis XVI.
Main article: History of the Jews in France
The current Jewish community in France numbers around 600,000, according to the World Jewish Congress and 500,000 according to the Appel Unifié Juif de France. It is concentrated in the metropolitan areas of Paris, Marseille and Strasbourg.
The history of the Jews in France dates back over 2,000 years. In the early Middle Ages, France was a center of Jewish learning, but persecution increased as the Middle Ages wore on. France was the first country in Europe to emancipate its Jewish population during the French Revolution, but despite legal equality anti-Semitism remained an issue, as illustrated in the Dreyfus affair of the late 19th century. However, through the 1870 Décret Crémieux, France secured full citizenship for the Jews in then French-ruled Algeria. Despite the death of a quarter of all French Jews during the Holocaust, France currently has the largest Jewish population in Europe.
In the early 21st century, French Jews are mostly Sephardic and of North African origins. More than a quarter of the historic Ashkenazi Jewish community was destroyed during the Holocaust of World War II after German forces occupied France and established the Vichy Regime. Jewish religious affiliations range from the ultra-Orthodox Haredi communities to the large segment of Jews who are secular and identify culturally as Jews.
Main article: Islam in France
After Catholicism and atheism, Islam is the third-largest faith in France in the early 21st century. The Grande Mosquée was constructed in Paris in 1929 in honour of French colonial troops from North Africa who fought in the First World War. Arabs from North Africa started to settle in France after World War II. In the early 21st century, France has the largest Muslim population (in percentage) of any Western European country. This is a result of immigration and permanent family settlement in France, from the 1960s on, of groups from, principally, former French colonies in North Africa (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia), and, to a lesser extent, other areas such as Turkey and West Africa. The government does not collect data on religious beliefs in census records, but estimates and polls place the percentage of Muslims at between 4% and 7%.
Main article: Buddhism in France
Buddhism is widely reported to be the fifth largest religion in France, after Christianity, atheism, Islam, and Judaism. France has over two hundred Buddhist meditation centers, including about twenty sizable retreat centers in rural areas. The Buddhist population mainly consists of Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants, with a substantial minority of native French converts and "sympathizers". The rising popularity of Buddhism in France has been the subject of considerable discussion in the French media and academy in recent years.
Cults and new religious movements
France created in 2006 the first French parliamentary commission on cult activities which led to a report registering a number of cults considered as dangerous. Supporters of such movements have criticized the report on the grounds of the respect of religious freedom. Proponents of the measure contend that only dangerous cults have been listed as such, and state secularism ensures religious freedom in France.
Regional customs and traditions
Modern France is the result of centuries of nation building and the acquisition and incorporation of a number of historical provinces and overseas colonies into its geographical and political structure. These regions all evolved with their own specific cultural and linguistic traditions in fashion, religious observance, regional language and accent, family structure, cuisine, leisure activities, industry, and including the simple way to pour wine, etc.
The evolution of the French state and culture, from the Renaissance up to this day, has however promoted a centralization of politics, media and cultural production in and around Paris (and, to a lesser extent, around the other major urban centers), and the industrialization of the country in the 20th century has led to a massive move of French people from the countryside to urban areas. At the end of the 19th century, around 50% of the French depended on the land for a living; today French farmers only make up 6-7%, while 73% live in cities.Nineteenth century French literature abounds in scenes of provincial youth "coming up" to Paris to "make it" in the cultural, political or social scene of the capital (this scheme is frequent in the novels of Balzac). Policies enacted by the French Third Republic also encouraged this displacement through mandatory military service, a centralized national educational system, and suppression of regional languages. While government policy and public debate in France in recent years has returned to a valorization of regional differences and a call for decentralization of certain aspects of the public sphere (sometimes with ethnic, racial or reactionary overtones), the history of regional displacement and the nature of the modern urban environment and of mass media and culture have made the preservation of a regional "sense of place or culture" in today's France extremely difficult.
The names of the historical French provinces — such as Brittany (Bretagne), Berry, Orléanais, Normandy (Normandie), Languedoc, Lyonnais, Dauphiné, Champagne, Poitou, Guyenne and Gascony (Gascogne), Burgundy (Bourgogne), Picardy (Picardie), Provence, Touraine, Limousin, Auvergne, Béarn, Alsace, Flanders, Lorraine, Corsica (Corse), Savoy (Savoie)... (please see individual articles for specifics about each regional culture) — are still used to designate natural, historical and cultural regions, and many of them appear in modern région or département names. These names are also used by the French in their self-identification of family origin.
Regional identification is most pronounced today in cultures linked to regional languages and non-French-speaking traditions - French language itself being only a dialect of Langue d'oïl, the mother language of many of the languages to-be-mentioned, which became a national vehicular language, like (in alphabetical order): Alsatian, Arpitan, Basque, Brezhoneg (Breton), Burgundian, Corsu (Corsican), Català (Catalan), Francique, Gallo, Lorrain, Norman, Occitan, Picard, Poitevin, Saintongeais, etc., and some of these regions have promoted movements calling for some degree of regional autonomy, and, occasionally, national independence (see, for example, Breton nationalism, Corsica and Occitania).
There are huge differences in life style, socioeconomic status and world view between Paris and the provinces. The French often use the expression "la France profonde" ("Deep France", similar to "heartland") to designate the profoundly "French" aspects of provincial towns, village life and rural agricultural culture, which escape the hegemony of Paris. The expression can however have a pejorative meaning, similar to the expression "le désert français" ("the French desert") used to describe a lack of acculturation of the provinces. Another expression, "terroir" is a French term originally used for wine and coffee to denote the special characteristics that geography bestowed upon these products. It can be very loosely translated as "a sense of place" which is embodied in certain qualities, and the sum of the effects that the local environment (especially the "soil") has had on the growth of the product. The use of the term has since been generalized to talk about many cultural products.
In addition to its metropolitan territory, France also consists of overseas departments made up of its former colonies of Guadeloupe, Martinique and French Guiana in the Caribbean, and Mayotte and Réunion in the Indian Ocean. (There also exist a number of "overseas collectivities" and "overseas territories". For a full discussion, see administrative divisions of France. Since 1982, following the French government's policy of decentralisation, overseas departments have elected regional councils with powers similar to those of the regions of metropolitan France. As a result of a constitutional revision which occurred in 2003, these regions are now to be called overseas regions.) These overseas departments have the same political status as metropolitan departments and are integral parts of France, (similar to the way in which Hawaii is a state and an integral part of the United States), yet they also have specific cultural and linguistic traditions which set them apart. Certain elements of overseas culture have also been introduced to metropolitan culture (as, for example, the musical form the biguine).
Industrialization, immigration and urbanization in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have also created new socioeconomic regional communities in France, both urban (like Paris, Lyon, Villeurbanne, Lille, Marseille, etc.) and the suburban and working class hinterlands (like Seine-Saint-Denis) of urban agglomerations (called variously banlieues ("suburbs", sometimes qualified as "chic" or "pauvres" or les cités "housing projects")) which have developed their own "sense of place" and local culture (much like the various boroughs of New York City or suburbs of Los Angeles), as well as cultural identity.🇫🇷
Other specific communities
Paris has traditionally been associated with alternative, artistic or intellectual subcultures, many of which involved foreigners. Such subcultures include the "Bohemians" of the mid-nineteenth century, the Impressionists, artistic circles of the Belle époque (around such artists as Picasso and Alfred Jarry), the Dadaists, Surrealists, the "Lost Generation" (Hemingway, Gertrude Stein) and the post-war "intellectuals" associated with Montparnasse (Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir).
France has an estimated 280,000-340,000 Roma, generally known as Gitans, Tsiganes, Romanichels (slightly pejorative), Bohémiens, or Gens du voyage ("travellers").
There are gay and lesbian communities in the cities, particularly in the Paris metropolitan area (such as in Le Marais district of the capital). Although homosexuality is perhaps not as well tolerated in France as in Spain, Scandinavia, and the Benelux nations, surveys of the French public reveal a considerable shift in attitudes comparable to other Western European nations. As of 2001, 55% of the French consider homosexuality "an acceptable lifestyle." The past mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, is gay. In 2006, an Ipsos survey shows that 62% support same-sex marriage, while 37% were opposed. 55% believed gay and lesbian couples should not have parenting rights, while 44% believe same-sex couples should be able to adopt. See also LGBT rights in France.
Families and romantic relationships
Growing out of the values of the Catholic Church and rural communities, the basic unit of French society was traditionally held to be the family. Over the twentieth century, the "traditional" family structure in France has evolved from various regional models (including extended families and nuclear families) to, after World War II, nuclear families. Since the 1960s, marriages have decreased and divorces have increased in France, and divorce law and legal family status have evolved to reflect these social changes.
According to INSEE figures, household and family composition in metropolitan France continues to evolve. Most significantly, from 1982 to 1999, single parent families have increased from 3.6% to 7.4%; there have also been increases in the number of unmarried couples, childless couples, and single men (from 8.5% to 12.5) and women (from 16.0% to 18.5%). Their analysis indicates that "one in three dwellings are occupied by a person living alone; one in four dwellings are occupied by a childless couple.."
Voted by the French Parliament in November 1999 following some controversy, the pacte civil de solidarité ("civil pact of solidarity") commonly known as a PACS, is a form of civil union between two adults (same-sex or opposite-sex) for organizing their joint life. It brings rights and responsibilities, but less so than marriage. From a legal standpoint, a PACS is a "contract" drawn up between the two individuals, which is stamped and registered by the clerk of the court. Individuals who have registered a PACS are still considered "single" with regard to family status for some purposes, while they are increasingly considered in the same way as married couples are for other purposes. While it was pushed by the government of Prime Minister Lionel Jospin in 1998, it was also opposed, mostly by people on the right-wing who support traditionalist family values and who argued that PACS and the recognition of homosexual unions would be disastrous for French society.
As of 2013, same-sex marriage is legally recognized in France. Same-sex marriage was an important factor in the presidential election of 2012 between François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarkozy, who represents the right-wing UMP party, opposed gay marriage, while François Hollande, of the left wing socialist party, supported it. Hollande was elected in May 2012 and his government proposed the law known as "Mariage pour tous" ("marriage for all") to the parliament in November 2012. The law was passed in April 2013 and validated by the Conseil constitutionnel (the constitutional council, tasked with insuring that the new laws passed do not contradict the French constitution) in May 2013. The first French same-sex marriage took place on May 29, 2013 in Montpellier.
Role of the State
The French state has traditionally played an important role in promoting and supporting culture through the educational, linguistic, cultural and economic policies of the government and through its promotion of national identity. Because of the closeness of this relationship, cultural changes in France are often linked to, or produce, political crisis.
The relationship between the French state and culture is an old one. Under Louis XIII's minister Richelieu, the independent Académie française came under state supervision and became an official organ of control over the French language and seventeenth-century literature. During Louis XIV's reign, his minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert brought French luxury industries, like textile and porcelain, under royal control and the architecture, furniture, fashion and etiquette of the royal court (particularly at the Château de Versailles) became the preeminent model of noble culture in France (and, to a great degree, throughout Europe) during the latter half of the seventeenth century.
At times, French state policies have sought to unify the country around certain cultural norms, while at other times they have promoted regional differences within a heterogeneous French identity. The unifying effect was particularly true of the "radical period"" of the French Third Republic which fought regionalisms (including regional languages), supported anti-clericalism and a strict separation of church from state (including education) and actively promoted national identity, thus converting (as the historian Eugen Weber has put it) a "country of peasants into a nation of Frenchmen". The Vichy Regime, on the other hand, promoted regional "folk" traditions.
The cultural policies of the (current) French Fifth Republic have been varied, but a consensus seems to exist around the need for preservation of French regionalisms (such as food and language) as long as these don't undermine national identity. Meanwhile, the French state remains ambivalent over the integration into "French" culture of cultural traditions from recent immigrant groups and from foreign cultures, particularly American culture (movies, music, fashion, fast food, language, etc.). There also exists a certain fear over the perceived loss of French identity and culture in the European system and under American "cultural hegemony".
Main article: Education in France
The French educational system is highly centralized. It is divided into three different stages: primary education, or enseignement primaire, corresponding to grade school in the United States; secondary education, or collège and lycée, corresponding to middle and high school in the United States; and higher education (l'université or les Grandes écoles).
Primary and secondary education is predominantly public (private schools also exist, in particular a strong nationwide network of primary and secondary Catholic education), while higher education has both public and private elements. At the end of secondary education, students take the baccalauréat exam, which allows them to pursue higher education. The baccalauréat pass rate in 2012 was 84.5%.
In 1999–2000, educational spending amounted to 7% of the French GDP and 37% of the national budget.
France's performance in math and science at the middle school level was ranked 23 in the 1995 Trends in International Math and Science Study. France has not participated in later TIMSS studies.
Since the Jules Ferry laws of 1881-2, named after the then Minister of Public Instruction, all state-funded schools, including universities, are independent from the (Roman Catholic) Church. Education in these institutions is free. Non-secular institutions are allowed to organize education as well. The French educational system differs strongly from Northern-European and American systems in that it stresses the importance of partaking in a society as opposed to being responsibly independent.
Secular educational policy has become critical in recent issues of French multiculturalism, as in the "affair of the Islamic headscarf".
Minister of Culture
Main article: Minister of Culture (France)
The Minister of Culture is in the Government of France, the cabinet member in charge of national museums and monuments; promoting and protecting the arts (visual, plastic, theatrical, musical, dance, architectural, literary, televisual and cinematographic) in France and abroad; and managing the national archives and regional "maisons de culture" (culture centres). The Ministry of Culture is located on the Palais Royal in Paris.
The modern post of Minister of Culture was created by Charles de Gaulle in 1959 and the first Minister was the writer André Malraux. Malraux was responsible for realizing the goals of the "droit à la culture" ("the right to culture") -- an idea which had been incorporated in the French constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) -- by democratizing access to culture, while also achieving the Gaullist aim of elevating the "grandeur" ("greatness") of post-war France. To this end, he created numerous regional cultural centres throughout France and actively sponsored the arts. Malraux's artistic tastes included the modern arts and the avant-garde, but on the whole he remained conservative.
The Ministry of Jacques Toubon was notable for a number of laws (the "Toubon Laws") enacted for the preservation of the French language, both in advertisements (all ads must include a French translation of foreign words) and on the radio (40% of songs on French radio stations must be in French), ostensibly in reaction to the presence of English.
Main article: Académie française
The Académie française, or the French Academy, is the pre-eminent French learned body on matters pertaining to the French language. The Académie was officially established in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, the chief minister to King Louis XIII. Suppressed in 1793 during the French Revolution, it was restored in 1803 by Napoleon Bonaparte (the Académie considers itself having been suspended, not suppressed, during the revolution). It is the oldest of the five académies of the Institut de France.
The Académie consists of forty members, known as immortels (immortals). New members are elected by the members of the Académie itself. Académicians hold office for life, but they may be removed for misconduct. The body has the task of acting as an official authority on the language; it is charged with publishing an official dictionary of the language. Its rulings, however, are only advisory; not binding on either the public or the government.
Until 1996, France had compulsory military service of young men. This has been credited by historians for further promoting a unified national identity and by breaking down regional isolationism.
Labor and employment policy
In France, the first labour laws were Waldeck Rousseau's laws passed in 1884. Between 1936 and 1938 the Popular Front enacted a law mandating 12 days (2 weeks) each year of paid vacation for workers, and a law limiting the work week to 40 hours, excluding overtime. The Grenelle accords negotiated on May 25 and 26th in the middle of the May 1968 crisis, reduced the working week to 44 hours and created trade union sections in each enterprise. The minimum wage was also increased by 25%. In 2000 Lionel Jospin's government then enacted the 35-hour workweek, down from 39 hours. Five years later, conservative prime minister Dominique de Villepin enacted the New Employment Contract (CNE). Addressing the demands of employers asking for more flexibility in French labour laws, the CNE sparked criticism from trade unions and opponents claiming it was lending favour to contingent work. In 2006 he then attempted to pass the First Employment Contract (CPE) through a vote by emergency procedure, but that it was met by students and unions' protests. President Jacques Chirac finally had no choice but to repeal it.
Healthcare and social welfare
The French are profoundly committed to the public healthcare system (called "sécurité sociale") and to their "pay-as-you-go" social welfare system.
In 1998, 75% of health payments in France were paid through the public healthcare system. Since 27 July 1999, France has a universal medical coverage for permanent residents in France (stable residence for more than three months). Using five performance indicators to measure health systems in 191 member states, it finds that France provides the best overall health care followed among major countries by Italy, Spain, Oman, Austria and Japan (The World Health Report).
Food and alcohol
Main article: French cuisine
Traditional French culture places a high priority on the enjoyment of food. French cuisine was codified in the 20th century by Georges Auguste Escoffier to become the modern version of haute cuisine. Escoffier's major work, however, left out much of the regional character to be found in the provinces of France. Gastro-tourism and the Guide Michelin helped to bring people to the countryside during the 20th century and beyond, to sample this rich bourgeois and peasant cuisine of France. Basque cuisine has also been a great influence over the cuisine in the southwest of France.
Ingredients and dishes vary by region (see: Regional cuisine). There are many significant regional dishes that have become both national and regional. Many dishes that were once regional, however, have proliferated in different variations across the country in the present day. Cheese (see: List of French cheeses) and wine (see: French wine) are also a major part of the cuisine, playing different roles both regionally and nationally with their many variations and Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) (regulated appellation) laws, (lentils from Le Puy-en-Velay also have an AOC status). Another French product of special note is the Charolais cattle.
The French typically eat only a simple breakfast ("petit déjeuner") which consists of coffee, tea or hot chocolate with milk, served traditionally in a large handleless "bol" (bowl) and bread or breakfast pastries (croissants). Lunch ("déjeuner") and dinner ("dîner") are the main meals of the day. Formal four course meals consist of a starter course ("entrée"), a salad, a main course ("plat principal"), and finally a cheese or dessert course. While French cuisine is often associated with rich desserts, in most homes dessert consists of only fruit or yogurt.
Food shopping in France was formerly done almost daily in small local shops and markets, but the arrival of the supermarket and the even larger "hypermarchés" (large-surface distributors) in France have disrupted this tradition. With depopulation of the countryside, many towns have been forced to close shops and markets.
Rates of obesity and heart disease in France have traditionally been lower than in other north-western European countries. This is sometimes called the French paradox (see, for example, Mireille Guiliano's 2006 book French Women Don't Get Fat). French cuisine and eating habits have however come under great pressure in recent years from modern fast food, such as American products and the new global agricultural industry. While French youth culture has gravitated toward fast food and American eating habits (with an attendant rise in obesity), the French in general have remained committed to preserving certain elements of their food culture through such activities as including programs of taste acquisition in their public schools, by the use of the appellation d'origine contrôlée laws, and by state and European subsidies to the French agricultural industry. Emblematic of these tensions is the work of José Bové, who founded in 1987, the Confédération Paysanne, an agricultural union that places its highest political values on humans and the environment, promotes organic farming and opposes genetically modified organisms; Bové's most famous protest was the dismantling of a McDonald's franchise in Millau (Aveyron), in 1999.
In France, cutlery is used in the continental manner (with the fork in the left hand, prongs facing down and the knife in the right hand). French etiquette prohibits the placing of hands below the table and the placing of elbows on it.
The legal drinking age is officially 18 (see: Legal drinking age).
France is one of the oldest wine producing regions of Europe. France now produces the most wine by value in the world (although Italy rivals it by volume and Spain has more land under cultivation for wine grapes). Bordeaux wine, Bourgogne wine and Champagne are important agricultural products.
Tobacco and drugs
The cigarette smoking age is 18 years. According to a widespread cliché, smoking has been part of French culture — actually figures indicate that in terms of consumption per capita, France is only the 60th country out of 121.
France, from 1 February 2007, tightened the existing ban on smoking in public places found in the 1991 Évin law: Law n°91-32 of 10 January, 1991, containing a variety of measures against alcoholism and tobacco consumption.
Smoking is now banned in all public places (stations, museums, etc.); an exception exists for special smoking rooms fulfilling drastic conditions, see below. A special exemption was made for cafés and restaurants, clubs, casinos, bars, etc. which ended, 1 January 2008. Opinion polls suggest 70% of people support the ban. Previously, under the former implementation rules of the 1991 Évin law, restaurants, cafés etc. just had to provide smoking and non-smoking sections, which in practice were often not well separated.
Under the new regulations, smoking rooms are allowed, but are subjected to very strict conditions: they may occupy at most 20% of the total floor space of the establishment and their size may not be more than 35 m²; they need to be equipped with separate ventilation which replaces the full volume of air ten times per hour; the air pressure of the smoking room must constantly be lower than the pressure in the contiguous rooms; they have doors that close automatically; no service can be provided in the smoking rooms; cleaning and maintenance personnel may enter the room only one hour after it was last used for smoking.
Popular French cigarette brands include Gauloises and Marlboro.
The possession, sale and use of cannabis (predominantly Moroccanhashish) is illegal in France. Since 1 March 1994, the penalties for cannabis use are from two months to a year and/or a fine, while possession, cultivation or trafficking of the drug can be punished much more severely, up to ten years. According to a 1992 survey by SOFRES, 4.7 million French people ages 12–44 have smoked cannabis at least once in their lives.
Sports and hobbies
Main article: Sport in France
Football (French: Le Foot) is the most popular sport in France. Other popular sports played in France are rugby union, cycling, tennis, handball, basketball and sailing. France is notable for holding and winning the FIFA World Cup in 1998, and holding the annual cycling race Tour de France, and the tennis Grand Slam tournament the French Open. Sport is encouraged in school, and local sports clubs receive financial support from the local governments. While football is definitely the most popular, rugby union and rugby league takes dominance in the southwest, especially around the city of Toulouse (see: Rugby union in France and Rugby league in France).
The modern Olympics was invented in France, in 1894 by Pierre de Coubertin.
Professional sailing in France is centred on singlehanded and shorthanded ocean racing with the pinnacle of this branch of the sport being the Vendée Globe singlehanded around the world race which starts every 4 years from the French Atlantic coast. Other significant events include the Solitaire du Figaro, Mini Transat 6.50, Tour de France a Voile and Route du Rhum transatlantic race. France has been a regular competitor in the America's Cup since the 1970s.
Other important sports include:
- 24 Hours of Le Mans - The world's oldest sports car race.
- Skiing - France has an extensive number of ski resorts in the French alps such as Tignes. Ski resorts are also located in the Pyrénées and Vosges mountain chains.
- Pétanque - The international federation is recognized by the IOC.
- Fencing - Fencing leads the list of sports for which gold medals were won for France at the Summer Olympics (see: France at the Olympics).
- Parkour - Developed in France, Parkour is a training discipline with similarities to self-defense or martial arts.
- Babyfoot (table football) - A very popular pastime in bars and homes in France, and the French are the predominant winners of worldwide table football competitions.
- Bullfighting - Spanish style bullfighting is still very popular in the southern part of France.
Like other cultural areas in France, sport is overseen by a government ministry, the Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports (France) which is in charge of national and public sport associations, youth affairs, public sports centers and national stadia (like the Stade de France).
Main article: French fashion
Along with Milan, London and New York, Paris is center of an important number of fashion shows. Some of the world's biggest fashion houses (ex: Chanel) have their headquarters in France.
The association of France with fashion (la mode) dates largely to the reign of Louis XIV when the luxury goods industries in France came increasingly under royal control and the French royal court became, arguably, the arbiter of taste and style in Europe.
France renewed its dominance of the high fashion (couture or haute couture