France culture is largely dictated by strong regional differences throughout the country. Traditions and customs can change drastically, especially between the northern and southern regions of France. While the areas around Paris exhibit more metropolitan tendencies regarding etiquette, the south of France is known for a more laid-back atmosphere. However, there are several characteristics of France culture that are known throughout the country.
French culture places a high value on formality, especially in the north. Many French customs involve formal greetings meant to show respect, especially when cuisine is involved. Visitors should always remember to use the formal vous tense when speaking and always greet shopkeepers when entering and leaving their establishments. The French also highly value their language. When traveling through France, it is recommended that international travelers always begin a conversation with a basic French greeting or phrase, as this is seen as a sign of respect for French language and culture.
Cuisine plays a major role in daily life in France as well as the overall French cultural identification. The French pride themselves on excellent ingredients and highly developed culinary training, resulting in superior food that is meant to be enjoyed. The French specialize in wines and cheeses, offering an impressive variety of both. While France has 246 officially cheeses, some of the most popular include Camembert, Roquefort, Munster, and Brie de Meaux. Other uniquely French dishes include foie gras, coq au vin, and Bœuf bourguignon. Lunch and dinner are the largest meals of the day in France and often consist of three or four courses, including a starter, a salad, a main course, and a dessert or cheese course.
France is one of the centers of the art world, with the city of Paris serving as home to some of the greatest artists, authors, and philosophers in all of history. Art movements such as Impressionism, Cubism, and Art Nouveau began in the many artist communities of France. Today, many of the world’s greatest French artists, such as Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Paul Cézanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec are celebrated at renowned galleries throughout Paris. French culture still celebrates the ideals of intellectuals and philosophers of historic periods such as Belle époque and the Lost Generation, including Ernest Hemingway and Simone de Beauvoir.
Since the 1869s, one of France’s most celebrated cultures is fashion. As the birthplace of haute couture, many of the world’s largest fashion houses and publications call Paris their home. While cities such as London, New York, and Milan have since established their own fashion markets, Paris remains the pinnacle of fashion. The semi-annual Paris Fashion Week continues to draw clothiers and enthusiasts from all over the world.
France culture also embraces sports. Perhaps the most popular is association football. While it is called Le Foot in France, Americans recognize this sport as soccer. Another popular sport in France is cycling, culminating each year in the internationally renowned Tour de France cycling race. Other beloved sports in France are rugby, tennis, sailing, and a simple backyard ball game called boules.