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The French lifestyle

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Many of the countries of the world which are famed for their quality of life are to be found in Europe. However, few manage to reconcile joie de vivre with strong economics, innovation and opportunities for the highly skilled in the way France does. Burdened with clichés and approximations, France has long been considered by foreign observers as a country where lunches last two hours, drowned in copious amounts of wine, followed by a 5pm departure from the office.

Unfortunately, this is not necessarily true, but with strong labour laws, generous holidays, a refined culture and a centuries-long history which is still visible on every street corner, it is no surprise that the French lifestyle is lauded as one of the most attractive in the world.

A country in eternal reinvention

Located at the crossroads between Northern and Southern Europe, France is a multicultural country, blending Nordic rigor and the warmth of Southern countries. Despite what you might have read or heard, France is an immensely welcoming country. The French are curious, well-travelled and educated to the highest standards. In a country where philosophy is compulsory, you will find yourself in a country whose people continuously question and seek to reinvent themselves. Yes, there are rude bartenders in Paris, but go beyond the clichés and the facades and let yourself be enthralled by a profoundly unique country. And if you find Paris to be inhospitable, start your integration process by heading to one of France’s smaller towns or villages. Despite everything you might have heard, the French are patient, polite and respectful - especially towards expatriates.

One aspect of France which cannot be overseen is that the French are very attached to their traditions and culture. But why wouldn’t they? After all, France is the country which holds the trademark of the word “Champagne”, is home to a city where sidewalks can be confused with catwalks and creates dishes which fascinate the world over. France is truly astounding and is buzzing with elegance and dynamism.

Working, the humane way

Whilst clichés abound about the French and their inclinations towards work, many are surprised to learn that France is one of the most productive nations on the planet. But efficient work does not mean eternal work: since the institution of the 35-hour week, the French have witnessed a drastic improvement of their working conditions. The French are entitled to five weeks of annual leave and a system called Récupération du Temps de Travail (RTT) which was created for those working more than the legal work duration of 35 hours. As a result, many employees end up with 10 extra days off per year.

Whilst the standards of excellence expected at work in France are very high, the French are able to combine quality of work with quality of life. For instance, the French never hesitate to take a 10 minute morning break to have a coffee at the bar next to their office. Sometimes, entire teams are likely to have lunch together in a pleasant, sunny setting at midday. In general, the work environment and culture is more laid-back than in Anglo-Saxon countries. As an example, most French companies either need to have canteens at the disposal of their employees for lunch, or alternatively need to provide them with meal coupons (called Ticket Restaurants). Eating a sandwich at one’s desk is a rarity.

Religions in France

France is a secular nation, but has longstanding Catholic traditions. The country is very tolerant and respectful of other religions and communities. France is very diverse and is home to a strong community of Jews and Muslims. The separation of religion from the state is a widely respected concept, even though there have been repeated cases of abuse in recent years. However, it is still possible to enroll your children in private Catholic, Judaic or Muslim schools that you can find in most major cities. You will also find churches, synagogues and mosques in most cities. In some areas, you can even find temples and pagodas, which is a testament to the incredible diversity of the country.

French gastronomy and wine

France is inseparable from fine gastronomy and great wines. The country has a longstanding tradition of producing some of the world’s best chefs, and is home to a great collection of traditional dishes. When in France, do allow yourself the luxury of Michelin-starred restaurants every now and again, but rest assured that quality does not necessary mean overpriced bills. An average restaurant in France will most probably serve excellent food. This is particularly true of cities famed for their excellent cuisine, more specifically Lyon and Bordeaux. Do try the classics – frog legs and snails – but bear in mind that the latter are not as popular for the French as guides or foreigners seem to think. However, after the customary frogs and snails, try dishes such as the Aligot, the Raclette, the Magret de Canard, to name a few, and indulge in a gastronomic exploration of France, couple with one of the fine wines produced in the country’s famed estates.

History and culture in France

French history dates back to the 5th century. As a historically rich country, France has much to offer, especially through its magnificent architecture, museums, forts and monuments. However, France is not stuck in the past. It has a buzzing modern art scene, perhaps best epitomised by the pyramid of the Louvre and the Pompidou Museum in Paris. When travelling by bus or subway, do not be surprised to see most travellers aboard with a book in their hands. Indeed, the French read a lot, and the country’s writers are extremely prolific.

Regions

As at the 1st of January 2016, France consists of a total of 18 regions against 27 since many years. Each of these regions has its own unique characteristics. Find more information in the “Useful links” listed below.

Education

The French education system comprises three main levels: school (pre-primary and primary), college and high school. Education is compulsory for all children as from 6 years and until a minimum of 16 years. Note that primary and secondary education is free of charge and secular. At the tertiary level, France boasts some of the world’s best institutions. This includes icons such as the Ecole Polytechnique and Ecole Normale Superieure, which produce some of the brightest brains roaming the earth. To study in France, one does not necessarily need to speak French, as many institutions of higher learning offer courses exclusively in English.

 Good to know:

Higher education is often cheaper in France than in many other countries. This explains why the country attracts foreign students in large numbers every year.

 Useful links:

Departments – Specialties
Cartesfrance
France.fr
Frenchentree

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