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Facts On France And The French

Updated on October 20, 2009
Facts On France And The French - The Arc du Triomphe in Paris
Facts On France And The French - The Arc du Triomphe in Paris

Facts On France And The French

Facts On France And The French

France is the largest country in Europe after the Ukraine in the former USSR, with a surface area of 551,000 sq Km - approx the size of 3 Britains, yet only one 9th the size of Australia - and a population of 57 million.

Facts On France And The French

It is shaped like a pentagon, and serves almost as a springboard to the rest of Europe, sharing land borders with Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Italy & Spain (via the Pyrennes) ; and the watery border of the English Channel with Great Britain, recently ‘bridged’ by the Channel Tunnel (6th May,1994) - a set of three 50 Km tunnels running under the Channel at an estimated cost of  $20 billion - one of the world’s biggest engineering projects.

If the French seem self-righteous, self-important and aloof, it is partly because of this lucrative trade position and geographical sphere of influence; partly because the country has the resources to be two-thirds self-sufficient; and partly because of the crucial role of the French peasantry in turning Europe from feudal enslavement into a semi-democratic society at the end of the eighteenth century. (the French Revolution, 1789)

As a result of these key factors the French see themselves as being right at the centre of the life, times and events of European history - the heartbeat of modern Europe, if you will - and the home of European culture.

Thus, the key word to understanding the French people, is pride : Proud of who they are, and what they have achieved on an international and global scale.

With this in mind, it is, perhaps, not so surprising that the French seem less inclined to roll out the red carpet for all and sundry visiting their country.  Indeed no, if anything, it is they who feel the privilege is all ours, and they are quite happy to wait for you to show your hand before laying their own on the table.

This may account for many people perceiving the French to be stand-offish, or arrogant.  But no matter what we wish, the French have this pride, and will wait to see how we approach them, and determine our worth on how we do so.

For example, walking into a cafe on the Champs Elysees and asking in brisk English for ‘sausage, eggs, beans and chips’ is likely to illicit no more extravagant a response than a wearily raised eyebrow and a rather rueful sigh as your waiter patiently directs you to the menu.  However to turn this situation around requires little more than, at least, showing some small measure of respect by, for example, attempting to converse in the Frenchman’s own language.  A simple “Bonjour monsieur, cava ?” (hello, how are you?) is often enough to take the edge off any opening encounter.

Okay, but should we have to do this ?  You may not think so - but your French waiter will - and that’s what matters.  In France, service received and overall enjoyment can often rest on such small gestures of respect.

[If this still seems overtly snobbish, imagine your own reaction to a Frenchman walking into your cafe and demanding, “Deux Sanges et beaucoup des stylos, s’il vous plait.”  How would you react ?  (He’s just asked for 2 monkeys and a handful of pens, by the way.)]

My name is Robee Kann, for four years I was a tour guide throughout Europe. I loved my job and I would love to hear from you. You are most welcome to message me to say hello or request a hub about a European subject. Please look at my other hubs and leave a comment for me.

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    • profile image

      Lady_Tenaz 6 years ago

      Another fabulous hub! Loved it.

    • travelingineurope profile image

      travelingineurope 6 years ago

      Hi, that's all very interesting. I wrote a similar blog post in my travel journal. :) Perhaps, you'd like to go here ( and tell me what you think

    • Robee Kann profile image

      Robee Kann 7 years ago

      You are right James making an effort to speak french in France goes a long way

    • James Mark profile image

      James Mark 7 years ago from York, England

      Just found this, so this is a comment that's not likely to be read!

      An interesting summary: our French students and colleagues recognised this national trait, but beneath it I wonder if there is not a certain amount of embarrassment about the WWII defeat and the collaboration during the occupation.

      I would advise sticking with "Bonjour monsieur" and missing out the "ça va" in the restaurant situation. The former is normal and to omit it would be impolite. The latter is just too pally, but this is only my point of view. You might want to change "sanges" to "singes" too. Your comment about making an effort in the language, even at an elementary level, is important.

    • Robee Kann profile image

      Robee Kann 8 years ago

      Thanks Paddycat, I love France and Europe and you are so right they have their own traits that make them all so different. Great to hear from you!

    • Paddycat profile image

      Annabelle Johnson 8 years ago from Charente, France

      Well written hub, Robee. You obviously know the French well! I always find it amazing how every county seems to possess its own national personality, even though it's made up of so many unique individuals.