As a hub of sorts including fashion, cuisine, art and architecture, Paris is what many people think of when it comes to French culture. Yet that is a rookie mistake… because life outside of the City of Lights is very different and varies by region. Here we break down French culture to its customs and traditions so you have a better understanding of the country and its people.
While French is the official and dominant language of the country, spoken by the 70+mil residents, you will also find a small percentage of the population speaking German, Flemish, Arabic, Italian, Chinese, Vietnamese, and even Creole and Breton. Migration plays a large part in this and so does the geographic location of these residents, as they may be living close to the borders of neighbouring countries (Spain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium). Nevertheless, when you go, it pays to know some basic French phrases as locals often appreciate the efforts put in by visitors who try to speak their language. Just don’t confuse faire la tête (to sulk) with faire la fête (to party)!
France is a foodie capital for a reason. French cuisine speaks of expression and passion; and much socialising is done around lengthy meals. Over the years, cooking styles have evolved from the heavier, saucier and more complicated dishes to what is now a reflection of a modern yet still highly sophisticated society. Of course, the classics like boeuf bourguignon, coq au vin and ratatouille remain firm international favourites.
As a fashioncapital, Paris is home to numerous high-end fashion houses including Chanel, Christian Dior, Hermes and Louis Vuitton. You will notice that many locals have a distinct sophisticated style, which seems effortlessly thrown together. That’s the French magique! Typical outfits include demure flowy dresses, well-cut suits, long coats, scarves and berets.
Art and Architecture
The French LOVE their art. And we love that about the French! Art is everywhere and you simply cannot escape from it, particularly in Paris and other major cities. As you explore the cities and towns, you will no doubt appreciate the many different architectural styles that decorate the cities’ interior and skylines. Gothic, Renaissance, Romanesque Rococo and Neoclassic influences can be seen in many churches and public buildings, mixed in with somef modern architecture. As for some of history's most renowned artists such as Claude Monet, Edgar Degas and Camille Pissarro, Paris was a major source of their inspiration, which gave rise to the Impressionism movement in the 19th century. When you visit, you must make it a point to visit the Louvre Museum in Paris. It is among the world's largest museums and is home to many famous works of art, including the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. Tip: grab a Paris Pass to get access to over 50 of Paris’ attractions. For more travel inspiration and information on France Rail Passes and tickets, head to www.raileurope.com.au, where you can use the destination guide and interactive map to help with the trip planning.