France is one of the leading nations of Europe and the culture of France can be said to have influenced both the nation and the world, through art, music, fashion and film. While there are many facets of French culture that are instantly recognisable and defined as ineffably French, the culture of the nation is not a wholly homogenous one, but instead one of local customs and habits that is often split along regional lines.
There are, however, several unifying factors that have forged a strong French national identity, such as the educational system and the shared experience of major conflicts. Although religion, in the shape of Christianity, has played a dominant role in French life, France is a fiercely secular society with the principles of freedom of thought and of religion imprinted on all. It is also a nation influenced strongly by immigration from its former African colonies.
The French take their language seriously with the Académie Française the official standard bearer for keeping the French language pure. Regional languages, such as Occitan, Breton, Alsatian and Basque, have been enshrined in a revised French constitution that gives them official status.
The Home of Cuisine
Traditionally the French have emphasised the enjoyment of good food and fine wines. One of Europe’s oldest wine producing regions, France makes some of the world’s best wines, including Champagne, Burgundy and Bordeaux, and is also the source of grapes such as Sauvignon Blanc that are now grown throughout the wine regions worldwide. Wine plays a significant role in French culture and identity.
Fashion & Film
The French are known for their sense of style and French culture is reflected in the nation’s capital of Paris also enjoying the title of the world capital of fashion and design. Many of the leading fashion houses are also based in France. As the birthplace of cinema, courtesy of the Lumière Brothers, France has pioneered many cinematic movements and its films are often critically received.
Football is the national sport of France and the most visible symbol of the new, ethnically diverse France. Cycling is also popular, particularly through the Tour de France, and the national rugby team regularly challenges for international honours. Pétanque, a uniquely French game of bowls, is played all over the country.