Today we will talk about France. France, in Western Europe, encompasses Mediterranean beaches, medieval cities and alpine villages. The capital of France is Paris. Paris is known for its classical art museums including the Louvre, monuments like the Eiffel Tower and fashion houses. To get into to the bottom of these, we bring you the 10 things you didn’t know about France.
French people tend to drink a lot of wine, consume plenty of pastries, pretty much eat whatever they want. But strangely do not suffer from an obesity epidemic like the United States and United Kingdom. While it is true that the French eat sweets and fatty foods? The portions are much smaller than other places. So, they just end up eating a lot less in general. Which means fewer calories, which means less obesity. If you’ve ever seen American food portions and compare them with French ones, you would immediately see the difference.
9: Horse Meat
Number 9 on our list about France is horse meat. When you think of French cuisine, you typically think of croissant, crepes and escargot. But what you may not know is that the French love horse meat just as much if not more. La Viande De Cheval or horse meat is so popular. There are specialized butchers, called Boucheries Chevalines in French, just for that particular type of meat. Where they offer a wide variety of choice cuts from the animal, to suit everyone’s cooking needs. You might turn your nose up at the idea of slaughtering cute ponies for your pony burger? But at the end of day, it’s all just a matter of culture and perspective.
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Number 8 on our list about France is the constitution. Laicite or secularity is one of the defining characteristics of the French government. In the simplest terms, this means separation of religion from the affairs of the state. The reality is a bit muddier than that, as is often the case with such matters. Unlike the American constitution, which only loosely defines a separation between church and state. The French constitution is far more direct about it.
Article 1 of the French constitution formally states the following. “La France est une republique indivisible, laique, democratique et sociale”. Or in English “France is an indivisible Republic, secular, democratic and social”. So, while there is freedom of religion in a similar fashion to that of the United States. When public life becomes too affected by religion, the French government worries. This is led to greater tension between the secular state about France and French Muslims, and long-term consequences of this remain to be seen.
7: Dog Feces
You probably don’t know this. France actually has a serious issue with feces, and by that we mean dog feces. The French certainly love their dogs. They don’t really seem to enjoy cleaning up after them. Dog feces on French urban streets has been a long-standing problem throughout the country. Even one American living in Paris put it in an article titled, “Paris: Dog Shit Capital of the World”. He wrote, “Paris lovers try not to notice the dog poop everywhere. They have to be careful anyway. In my neighborhood, if you don’t have your eyes riveted on the sidewalk as you walk? You will have a nasty surprise on your shoes when you get home. Hundreds of people a year wind up in the hospital after slipping in the dog poop. One of them was our ancient concierge, who died from the fall”.
So, the next time you’re walking around a major French city? Better look down on the ground as often as you look ahead because if you don’t you could be in for a nasty surprise. Given this problem, maybe France should just change its motto from “Vive la France” to “Vive la Crotte de Chien.”
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6: Infidelity About France
The French have a pretty laid-back attitude when it comes to marriage. Meaning that when it comes to affairs, people generally don’t seem to mind. Politicians have affairs that have caused huge scandals in the United States. But the French don’t bat an eyelash about it. Polls were given to French people asking their opinions and thoughts on infidelity and the answers might shock Americans. Most respondents said that cheating was natural and inevitable, and infidelity doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person. That attitude might not sit well with Americans but for the French, it’s just another matter of “Je M’en Fous” or in English “Whatever, Screw it.”
5: Strike Action
If you know French, you might know the expression “Faire La Greve” meaning “to go on strike”. Going on strike is more common about France than anywhere else in Europe and possibly the world. For the French, going on strike is a way of life. On any given day, there’s a shutdown of a service you’re familiar with, chances are that someone is on strike. The real question is, why they do in the first place? The historian Sirot stated that, while in other northern European countries, strikes tend to follow failed negotiations. In France, the strike action normally precedes negotiations or runs alongside with them. Meaning the French like to flex their muscles before taking on their employers in order to maintain their benefits. Next time you’re in France and the train doesn’t show up, you probably already know why.
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France is home to possibly the most dangerous city in Europe, Marseille. Muggings, robbery, theft, and the ongoing drug war are all commonplace events in Marseille. Gang life there can give the Crips and the Bloods a run for their money. To top it off, the city is filthy to boot, filled with trash, urine and feces. Which has occasionally earned it the title, “the dirtiest city of Europe”. The violence and crime affect even tourists, who report on being mugged and robbed. Marseille is sometimes referred to as one giant no-go zone for anyone sane. No one really knows the causes behind all the rampant crime. Though the usual suspects of lack of integration, unemployment, as well as cultural and religious differences are given blame. Regardless of whether or not you are French? Marseille is probably a place best avoided, if you value your life and property.
Number 3 on our list about France is Brittany. Located in the far northwest of the country, Brittany is quite different from the rest of France. In addition to the French language, they speak a Celtic language called Breton. Breton is very different from French. It is most closely related to Welsh since ultimately, they were once the same language at some point in time. Years of cultural dispossession have whittled down the number of Breton speakers though, from about 1 million in 1950 to about 200,000 in the early 21st century. It earns the language and the classification of severely endangered. Still, there’s been renewed interest in Breton language and culture. And there’s been a slight increase in bilingual education in very recent years.
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2: Charles Martel
Many people expressed concern over Islam in Europe but nearly 1300 years ago, there was a greater Islamic threat to Europe than it ever existed before. The Umayyad Caliphate had stretched from modern-day Afghanistan to encompass almost the entirety of the Iberian Peninsula. It was into this climate that many consider one of the greatest of pre-French heroes was born. Since at that time, France as a concept had not yet existed. The name of this hero was the Frankish statesman and military leader, Charles Martel. On October 10, 732, thus permanently ending the threat of a Muslim invasion and caliphate in Europe, laying down the foundations of the Frankish empire and further down the line, modern France. It was after this historic victory that chroniclers at the time gave him the name Martel, from the late Latin Martellus, meaning hammer.
1: L’Academie Francaise
There was a time when French was considered the language of diplomacy, science and polite conversation. French influence and trends had spread throughout Europe. One of the cornerstones of this belief in the French way of things was the founding of L’Academie Francaise or the French Academy. It was officially established by Cardinal Richelieu in 1635 and remains intact to this day. Its purpose is simple, to regulate and maintain the integrity of the French language. This task became increasingly important in light of the rise of English, as the de facto world language, with noticeable push back from the academy.
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So, that’s a wrap on our list of top 10 things you didn’t know about France. What do you guys think about France? Let us know in the comments down below. Don’t forget to check out our other lists and thanks for staying with us for a while.