As one of the largest countries in Europe, it can be difficult to take the entire country of France in, but it is possible to travel to France and enjoy the best of its culture. Those who visit France will find it has a varied topography, which includes everything from the French Alps to the sandy beaches of the Mediterranean, offering visitors a chance to personally design their trip. What’s more, France is a country rich in history, making it home to some of the most famous museums, monuments, architectural feats and historical sites in the world
The climate of France is generally cold in winter and mild in summer, but mild winters and hot summers are usual along the Mediterranean sea (French Riviera) and in the South West of France. Along the Rhône Valley a occasional strong, cold, dry, north-to-northwesterly wind blows known as the mistral.
EXPERIENCES AND ADVENTURES
Visit wineries in Champagne and Bordeaux, the hearts of French wine country, or head to Normandy for delicious, locally produced cider and apple brandy while basking in the region’s history
• Take in the best of the French Riviera by visiting the cities of Marseille, Nice and Montpellier
• Experience French Basque culture in Biarritz, located on the French-Spanish border
• See The Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Tuileries Garden and other unforgettable sights in Paris
• Head to Grenoble for easy access to skiing, snowboarding and mountaineering in the French Alps
• Check out the city of Strasbourg, which shares both French and German cultural heritage and serves as the seat of the European Parliament
• Follow the footsteps of Vincent Van Gogh and stay in the exceedingly charming city of Arles where he created some of his most amazing works
Food is one of the great passions of the French people. French cooking is highly refined and involves careful preparation, attention to detail, and the use of fresh ingredients.
The handshake is a common form of greeting. Friends may greet each other by lightly kissing on the cheeks, once on the left cheek and once on the right cheek. First names are reserved for family and close friends. Wait until invited before using someone's first name. You are expected to say 'bonjour' or 'bonsoir' (good morning and good evening) with the honorific title Monsieur or Madame when entering a shop and 'au revoir' (good-bye) when leaving.
Arrive on time. Under no circumstances should you arrive more than 10 minutes later than invited without telephoning to explain you have been detained. The further south you go in the country, the more flexible time is.
For the French, a certain politeness and courtesy is a necessary and expected behavior. This politesse, or pleasantries, is pervasive in everyday life: saying bonjour, au revoir; merci, and s'il vous plait, giving up seats to the elderly or pregnant women, minding others' personal space (audibly and physically). While the list is not very long, these pleasantries are expected behaviors, and it is considered very rude if they are not practiced.
French is the official language, is the first language of 88% of the population. Most of those who speak minority languages also speak French, as the minority languages are given no legal recognition. 3% of the population speak German dialects, predominantly in the eastern provinces of Alsace-Lorraine and Moselle.
The currency of France is the Euro, as with the other countries in the Eurozone, and was launched at the beginning of 2002. The euro replaced the French Franc that had previously been the French currency.