Culture and History
The first inhabitants of France already left their traces in the Paleolithic area through rock painting. About 700 BC Celts migrated from northwest to France. After clashes between Gauls and Romans Julius Caesar finally conquered Gaul about 52 BC. The Romans occupied France until the immigration of the Franks and other Germanic tribes in the 5th century. From 768 to 814 Emperor Charlemagne ruled the country and expanded the Holy Roman Empire. In the 15th century, France won the Hundred Years War against England. A 17-year-old girl named Jeanne d'Arc led the French troops in Orléans to victory over England. Then followed in the 16th century, more religious wars tormented France.
In the 17th century, the monarchy returned to France. The extravagant Sun King Louis XIV reigned until 1715 and built numerous magnificent buildings, which are still tourist highlights today. In 1789, the French Revolution began with the storming of the Bastille. The citizens of France resisted the royal family and had the nobility imprisoned and executed. One major reason was the poor living conditions of the people. The monarchy was dissolved again and human and civil rights were decided for the first time. The slogans of the French Revolution were the words Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité (freedom, equality, fraternity), which still have a high status in the French constitution. The French Revolution influenced the fate of all of Europe and also contributed significantly to the secularization of France. Napoleon Bonaparte took power in 1799 in France, where he crowned himself emperor. During his reign many wars on mainland Europe took place during the following years. Consequently, many parts from Europe to Russia were in his possession. In 1815, Napoleon finally lost the Battle of Waterloo and the British banished him to the island of St. Helena. In the 19th century the age of emperors came to the end.
In the 1870’s there was the third republic, which lasted until 1940. After the arrival of the Allies in 1944, a fourth republic was drafted with Charles De Gaulle as head of state. As a result of a state crisis, the fifth republic was finally founded in 1958.
The culture of France and of the French people has been shaped by geography, by profound historical events, and by foreign and internal policies. France, and in particular the capital paris, has played an important role as a centre 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 the world of cinema, cuisine, fashion, technology, literature, mathematics and social science.
The importance of French culture has both shone and faded over the centuries, depending on its economic, political and military importance. French culture today is described both by great regional and socioeconomic differences, as well as strong unifying tendencies. France ranked as the country with the fourth most positive influence in the world (behind Germany, Canada and the UK) in a study conducted in 2014.
- Nice Carnival – takes place in mid-February and is one of the largest carnivals in the world. There are 15 days (and nights) of carnival parades with fantastically decorated floats and gigantic papier-mâché figurines.
- Fête de la Musique – street musical festivals held every year on 21 June throughout the whole country. Thousands of musicians gather in the streets, bars, and cafes giving free performances of all kinds of music, from jazz to rock and from hip-hop to electronic music.
- Bastille Day – on July 14th traditional military parade along the Champs Elysées and there is a festival atmosphere throughout the day, finishing with the night sky turned bright by magnificent and noisy fireworks shows. Festivities last until the late hours.
- Salon du Chocolat – typically begins end of October. Chocolate lovers who visit Paris can enjoy the delights of dozens of chocolatiers and see how chocolate is produced from the picking of the cocoa beans to the end product.
Next to the Christian holidays the following days are celebrated: May 1st is the “Fête du travail” (or Labor Day). May 8th is the unforgettable “Fête de la Victoire”, this signifies the triumph over the Third Reich in the year 1945. The most notable and recognized holiday in France is undoubtedly July 14th, which is the “Fête Nationale de la France” in honor of the French Revolution of 1790. November 11th represents the “Armistice de Compiègne” this was the ceasefire which ended World War I.
If you think all the French eat are frog legs and baguette, well guess again! French cuisine is one of the most influential and recognized in the world! A lot of famous sauces come from France such as Béchamel-sauce, sauce béarnaise, sauce Hollandaise, Mayonnaise and Remoulade. As well, a lot of famous stews: Pot-au-feu, Coq au vin, Poulet au pot, Cassoulet, and many more. Famous desserts, just to name a few, include Crème brûlée, Crêpe, Mousse au Chocolat and of course the classic and iconic croissant. France is known for having bakeries basically everywhere in the country. Take a 10min stroll in Paris and odds are you will stumble upon at least a dozen bakeries.