France is today the melting pot of diverse cultures. However, it still retains its own unique appeal when it comes to ethnicity, geography and the French language. The once segregated local customs arising out of regional differences have matured to become a cultural identity that is unique to the heterogeneity. The culture of France has been largely influenced by mandatory defense service, the Franco-Prussian feud and World War I and World War II. The two world wars were responsible for the influx of cultural influences and centralized market forces.
France remains a nation of multiple ethnicity and religions, and of regional diversity that includes French people from around the globe. The French often take great pride in national identity and the positive achievements of France, yet today, there still remains differences in social class and important regional differences in culture pertaining to dialect/accent, cuisine and local traditions. Many fear this diversity will be unable to withstand contemporary social forces like, rapid globalization, immigration, market forces and the world economy.
Customs and Traditions
The slight regional differences in modern France are displayed in colorful linguistic tradition, religious tolerance, fashion, family structure, industries and cuisine. This lap of the Renaissance is now distinct in social, cultural and political scene of belonging. The modern urbanization and mass media have engraved French culture in regional autonomy and the phrase 'la France profonde', which means 'heartland'. Traditions followed in the overseas and metropolitan departments are specific in culture and language.
- An unusual French tradition of beheading bottles of champagne using a specially-made saber is popular at weddings. This tradition, which generated during the Napoleonic times, is said to symbolize victory.
- A popular tradition that is celebrated with fervor throughout France is Bastille Day, that commemorates the storming of a prison in Paris in 1789. Parades are seen with dancing in the street, culminating in fireworks display at night.
- It is customary to greet anyone with a warm handshake and say good day or good evening on entering a small shop, likewise goodbye while leaving. It is considered rude to point with your index finger, rather use an open hand.
- Another interesting fact is that almost all employees in France are entitled to 5 weeks of holiday a year with August being the traditional holiday month in France. A popular tradition of the French is that almost all locals clear out of their cities and leave on a vacation, either by venturing to other parts of the world or simply go camping in their own countryside.
French movies, music and literature are vibrant and multicultural. The language follows a predetermined official 'originality' standard that may not be mandatory in application everywhere, but sure has enthusiastic advocates. French is widely spoken across the globe, in spite of repression of regional and foreign languages in certain countries. It is part and parcel of the education forum and a popular option in many bilingual educational institutions. Even though France is a secular country, which implies that the state has no official religion it does play a part in defining the culture of this country. Christianity is however the dominant religion and France has the most concentration of churches and basilicas than other forms of religious buildings. A fine blend of followers of Catholicism, Protestants, Muslims, Jews and atheists live in France and add quality to the essence of French character.
The traditional cuisine of France banks heavily upon the secret sauces. Regional varieties do exist in the cuisine of France and ingredients and cooking techniques differ heavily from region to region. Traditionally, French culture specifies on the importance of haute cuisine. Cheese and wine are vital components of French food. Entrées with preplated appeal, inclusive of croissants and fruit yogurt are distinctive to French meals. France produces some of the finest wines in the world. Bordeaux, Champagne and Bourgogne French wines are essential components of French culture.
The national sport of France is soccer, which is colloquially referred to as 'le foot' followed by rugby. The French also enjoy basketball, tennis and sailing. Tour de France is an annual cycling race held in France, while the Grand Slam French Open is the nation's tribute to another favorite sport - tennis. Grand Prix racing, fencing, Parkour and babyfoot are hugely promoted by the Ministry for Youth Affairs and Sports.
Paris is the 'Fashion Capital of the World'. The presence of dedicated couturier houses, fashion shows and dedicated media like 'Elle' dominate the fashion industry. France's very own designers like Yves Saint Laurent, Claude Montana, Pierre Cardin, Sonia Rykiel, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Paco Rabanne and Christian Lacroix are world renowned fashion designers. Even though France's fashion industry has come under increasing competition from London, New York, Milan and Tokyo since the 1960s, many foreign designers still seek to make their careers in France.
The country's long, colorful and often tumultuous history is said to be responsible for the sheer extent of France's artistic wealth. France has produced several big names in art and architecture, that are world-famous and French art has made important contributions to Western Art. French music includes folk, Latin American, hip hop, rock and techno-funk genres.
Food is one of their great passions of the French and is a vital part of their culture with great attention being paid to detail. The French are known to value manners and politeness and every member in a family setup has responsibilities. With France being the largest nation in Europe and more tourists visiting France each year than any other country in the world, with 76 million annual tourist arrivals, French culture is definitely one of the most studied and respected around the globe.