French restaurants are famous all over the world for being elegant and expensive, but that is only a stereotype. In reality, in France, you can eat very well without spending a fortune. Just bread (baguettes have been invented there, hello!) is fantastic and super tasty even though it is made only with flour, water and a bit of salt.
France is the birthplace of crepes; on almost every street corner you will be able to find a small kiosk serving crepes. There are savory crepes (with cheese and ham) or sweet ones (with chocolate cream, marmalade or just a bit of sugar). The smell in the air around those shops is so good that it’s difficult to pass by without stopping to get a bite.
France is the country of cheese and wine. Every little village produces its own wine and cheese and many are excellent. It will probably take a lifetime just to try all of them, but some people could say that that is a life worth living. A couple of the most famous French dishes are, ratatui (ratatouille), a mix of garden vegetable such as zucchini, pepper, eggplants (made famous by the latest Disney cartoon) and French onion soup, a very tasty soup made from onion, bread, and melted cheese.
In France, there is no national dress, but there are many traditional costumes that were inspired by the garments of people from the countryside. These are often worn during holidays and religious celebrations. France has many regions (22), each with their own traditional dress.
Those costumes can be very different from one region to another. Women’s hats, in particular, vary greatly, from small straw hats to huge starched lace veils very similar to something a bride might wear. Women’s costumes mainly consist of a long, simple white dress with a wide, brightly colored overdress, which may also be decorated. Over this is worn a lacy apron and a shawl that can be worn over the shoulders or across the chest. This is all topped off with a very complicated hairstyle.
Men´s costumes are much more simple, just trousers, shirt, jacket and a hat similar to ones worn by the local farmers on market day. The shirt is always white (made of silk or cotton depending on the person’s status) and the basic color of the whole costume is a dark color, such as blue, brown or black.
The 20th century brought a lot of change and very quickly the traditional dress fell out of use, only to be worn for special occasions such as performances, historical recreations or traditional music and dance shows.
Nowadays, everybody dresses much more casually. French fashion and style (together with the Italians) are famous all around the world and the names and addresses of the most important shopping centers in Paris (such as the Primtemps or Galerie Lafayette) are listed in all the city guides.
Still today, French fashion signifies elegance and a high lifestyle and French brands (Maison de mode) and designers (couturier) such as Chanel, Yves St. Lauren and Lavin still dress royal families all across Europe.
Among these designers, one of the most famous is Coco Chanel, who, born in a small village in the countryside in 1883 created the brand Chanel, which, still today, epitomizes elegance and style. With her creations, she made women feel beautiful and comfortable, and she invented one of the world’s most famous perfumes, Chanel no. 5.
Fashion is not just a hobby for wealthy people and many quality pieces of clothing can be bought in the second-hand markets (called Marché de pusses or Brick brack or Brocantes) open weekly or monthly in every city.
Festivals, holidays, celebrations in France
Besides Christmas and New Year’s Eve, one of the most important French holidays, especially for Parisians is the 14th of July. On this day, the French remember the event that began the French revolution. The event was the taking of the Bastille (14th July 1789). The Bastille was a very big prison in downtown Paris where political prisoners (mostly people that were opposing the king and his power) where kept. Following months of political crisis, the citizens of Paris entered the Bastille and freed the prisoners. As mentioned, this is considered the beginning of the French revolution, a few months after this event King Louis XVI and the Queen, Maria Antoinette was arrested and the Republic was proclaimed. During this time the French national Song La Marseillaise (the song from Marseille) was composed and the motto ` Liberté, Fraternité and Egalité´ (Freedom, Brotherhood, Equality) become famous all around the world.
Still today, people have a party in the street to commemorate the event and a big parade is organized every year in Paris.
On the other hand, a much more Hollywood – style event takes place every year in the South of France: the Cannes Film Festival. For about a week, all the most important directors, actors, and producers meet on la Croisette (the area of the city where the festival takes place) and present the new movies of the season. The winners get a small golden palm branch and become the person that every TV and magazine want to interview.
Famous French stories & epics
Among the most famous French legends, we would like to remember those ones linked to a beautiful place situated in the Northern part of the country: Mont San Michel. This cliff over the Atlantic sea hosts a beautiful church dedicated to San Michel Angel. The difference between low and high tide in this region is so strong that every 6 hours the church gets completely isolated from the coast. So the place can be reached from the mainland only when the tide is low. It is a very unusual place to build a church, but the legends go that, during the Middle Ages, a pregnant woman was taking advantage of the low tide for picking up mussels from the beach. Suddenly she went into labor. Incapable of moving, she began to pray to St. Michel Angel for help.
The water was rising but the Angel answered her prayer and she and the baby were saved. To remember this event a little altar was built where the miracle took place and many years later the bishop of Avranches financed the construction of the church that we can still visit today. However, this decision was not a spontaneous one since the Angel appeared twice to the bishop in his dreams asking him to make a new church. Only when the Angel gave him some tangible and terrible sign of his power did the bishop agree to collect the money necessary for the work.
Another famous epic story known by all French is about 19-year-old Jeanne d’Arc (a.k.a. Jon D’arc) during the 100 Year wars. Because of her leadership and courage, the French army won many wars but she eventually was captured by Burgundians and sadly burned alive in Rouen, Normandy.
French Children’s games
A pretty common French outdoor game for children is `La semaine´(the week) that can be played by 2 or more children (but a kid can play it alone as well, especially if he/she wants to get better at it) with only the aid of a piece of charcoal and a stone.
With the charcoal, the kids have to draw 7 squares (one following the other) on the ground naming them with the name of the day of the week.
Once that is done the first player throws the stone in the Monday box and if he misses it, it is the next player’s turn. If he/she throws on the correct square he/she has to hop on the square, pick up the stone, still standing on one foot, and jump back to the starting point.
The players have to do that at least 7 times (one for each square) and they have to go back to the beginning every time they make a mistake (for example they lose their balance and put their other foot down). The winner is the player that covers all squares and makes it back to the starting point.
Verbal and nonverbal communication in France
In France, greetings are a very important part of every social interaction. French people all shake hands with everybody they meet and they always do it twice, when they arrive and when they leave. Not doing so will be considered very impolite. On the other hand, kissing on the cheeks is a standard greeting practice among family and friends. This can be done in private and in public meetings (called randez – vous) and the double kissing (one kiss per cheek) often starts on the right side.
French people are extremely proud of being French and they like to express some of their thoughts with some very typical gestures. Among them, the most common are the following:
- ´very good´ (il est delicieux) : touch your fingers and thumb all together, kiss your fingertips, and then open your hand, as if tossing something in the air.
- ´Í have finished´ (c´est fini) : cross your arms in front of your body, with your palms out, then move them out, while saying, “C’est fini.”
- ´I promise it´(je le jure): place your hand on top of your head
For the same reason, French people are extremely protective over their language.
They don´t like to mix French with foreign words when they speak and they often translate them in a pretty funny way. For example the computer mouse, which is called mouse everywhere else in Europe, in France it became ´le souris´, which means mouse (the animal) in French. For the same reason, French radio cannot broadcast too much foreign music and a fixed ratio of French to foreign music has to be kept.
Music is not the only example. Their love for their country makes French people always choose French products over foreign ones even where kids’ entertainment is concerned. In fact, many families choose the Asterix and Obelix Village entertainment park (Asterix and Obelix are famous comics book characters created by a French author) over Euro Disney, even though the two places are situated outside Paris and they are pretty close to each other.
French people open their hearts to foreigners only when they speak (or make an attempt to speak) their language. The French are very proud of being French and they cherish every part of their culture. Some people might say that the French always feel superior to everyone else since they think they have the best wine, the best cheese, and the most beautiful women…
However, it is true that they appreciate their own comic books, their own heroes and their own music above everything else, and even though many differences exist between the history and the culture of each region, everyone considers themselves as French like everyone else.
They all share the same history and the same little rituals. On Sunday morning, they all walk with a newspaper and a large baguette under their arm.
When you see that, you can definitively be sure, you are in France
France Fun facts
As we were saying French cuisine is very famous all over the world, but not many people know that some of the ingredients of the most traditional foods are a bit unusual. In fact, in France, you can eat not only raw oyster, but also snails (not raw, but cooked) and rabbit. Moreover, one of the most famous French ingredients is the pate de fois gras, a creamy pâté made from the liver of an overfed duck. The pate de fois gras can be made and eaten in many different ways, and it is one of the traditional foods that people eat for Christmas Eve dinner.
In many homes, once the Christmas Eve dinner is finished and everybody goes to bed, the table is not tidied away, so if, during the night, the Holy family need to stop at the house for a short break they will get food and drinks for their trip.
For the same reason, back in the day, in many houses, the fire was kept going all through Christmas night and this tradition inspired a very famous French Christmas cake the bùche de Noêl, which is nothing more than a very sweet version of a log waiting to be burned on the fire.
Famous places in France
Like Italy, France is full of history, so it is very difficult to choose which places to mention first. However, we cannot forget Paris, which is not only the capital and a very beautiful and extremely romantic city but also the city of the Louvre, one of the most important museums in the world.
In the Louvre, people can admire beautiful examples of Roman and Greek art and many Renaissance masterpieces such as Leonardo’s Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
An hour away from Paris, people can visit the Palace of Versailles built by Louis XI, who, in 1475, decided to build a palace to go to with his family every time he got tired of Paris and all his royal duties.
However, the king who made Versailles what it is today was Louis XIV. He decided to renovate the building and renew the gardens and he officially opened up the new residence with a huge weeklong party with a very intriguing theme, “ the pleasures of the enchanted island” (Les Plaisirs de l’Isle Enchantée ).
Moving South from Paris, we can find other very beautiful and important castles. The castles on the Loire Valley (Chateaux de la Loire) a complex of more than 300 castles that were built in the valley of the Loire River and transformed the area into a fairytale landscape that hosts thousands of visitors every year. Among those castles, the most famous and the most visited are the Castel d´Amboise, Chaumont, and Angers.
Important Note: This article was written by a person familiar with French culture based on his or her personal anecdotal observations. Additionally, there are quite a few generalizations to make the article easier to understand for the children. Dino Lingo does not accept any responsibility for errors, omissions or subjectivity in the content of this post.
We are wondering what you know about French culture…why don’t you tell us what you know by leaving a comment below?
French Culture for Children By DinoLingo Writer: Federica Galli
More Quick Facts About France.
Geography and Nature
While France might look small compared to a country like Canada or the United States of America, it is the biggest country in the whole European Union. Also, France has a lot of land in other parts of the world, such as North America, South America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Ocean. It might not be so bad to be the mayor of a town in the Caribbean, huh!
France has the 20th largest population in the world, with about 65 million people. Almost 12 million of these people live in Paris alone, and the rest are spread out over the rest of the country.
Capital city & important cities
Paris is the capital of France, and it is also one of the most popular vacation spots in the world! Even though Paris is known for being a very expensive city to visit, it attracts about 45 million visitors each year! Some of the other major cities (and popular tourist spots) in Europe are Lyon, Marseille, and Nice (which sounds like this: “Nees”).
The flag of France has a white stripe down the middle, with a blue stripe on one side and a red stripe on the other. People who speak English usually call the French flag the “French tricolor” or even just “the tricolor.”
French cuisine (which is the fancy way of saying “French food”) is considered to be some of the best food in the world! Food is a very important part of French life, and people come from all over the world to eat French food. Some of France’s most famous foods are their wines and their cheeses, and their food has had a big influence on a lot of the food that Americans eat every day.
Music and Dance
France is known for being cultured (which is another way of saying that they are known for being fancy), and their long history of classical music is one of the things that has come from this! France is one of the most important countries for classical music, and this has been a big part of their lifestyle for a long, long time.
For a long, long time the country of France used the franc for their money, but now they use the euro, which is the currency that almost all of Europe uses. The euro is the strongest currency in the whole world!
Basic French Words
French is the only official language of France, and it is the language that almost everyone speaks, but there are some other languages that people speak as well. These are called “regional languages,” and they are languages that have been around in certain areas for a long, long time!
Common French Names, and their Meanings….Is it Yours?
– Stephanie: The name Stephanie is a girl’s name. Stephanie comes from the French origin. In French, the meaning of the name Stephanie is The female version of the Greek name Stephan.
–Abella: The name Abella is a girl’s name. The name Abella comes from the French origin. In French, the meaning of the name Abella is Breath.
-Julia: The name Julia is a girl’s name. The name Julia comes from the French origin. In French, the meaning of the name Julia is: Youthful.
-Nicole: The name Nicole is a girl’s name. The name Nicole comes from the French origin. In English, the meaning of the name Nicole is the feminine form of the boy name Nicholas.
-Madeline: The name Madeline is a girl’s name. The name Madeline comes from the French origin. In French, the meaning of the name Madeline is Diminutive of Madeleine: Woman of Magdala Tower.
-Sydney: The name Sydney is a boy’s name. The name Sydney comes from the French origin. In French, the meaning of the name Sydney is Variant of Sidney: From Saint-Denis (place name). This name has recently become popular for girls as well as boys.
-Avery: The name Avery is a boy’s name. The name Avery comes from the French origin. In French, the meaning of the name Avery is Rules with self-wisdom.
-Tristan: The name Tristan is a boy’s name. The name Tristan comes from the French origin. In French, the meaning of the name Tristan is Tumult, outcry. From the Celtic name Tristan. In Arthurian legend, Tristan was a Knight of the Round Table and tragic hero of the medieval tale Tristan and Isolde.
-Aubrey: The name Aubrey is a boy’s name. The name Aubrey comes from the French origin. In French, the meaning of the name Aubrey is a Blond ruler, elf ruler. From the Old French Auberi, a form of the Old German Alberich meaning elf ruler. Although once common as a boy’s name, today it is almost exclusively given to girls.
-Mason: The name Mason is a boy’s name. The name Mason comes from the French origin. In French, the meaning of the name Mason is Stoneworker.
Historical Figures of France: Kings, Queens and more
William the Conqueror’s actual French name is Guillaume le Conquérant, and he was the Duke of Normandy, a large area of northern France. He is a historical figure of France because in 1066 he took his army across the Channel, and killed the English King, Harold, and most of the English nobles in the Battle of Hastings. He conquered England and put his Norman followers as leaders. His knights built strong castles like Dover, and his bishops built fine cathedrals like Canterbury. For 300 years, the King of England and all the important people in the country spoke only French. Today, English still has thousands of words which come from French.
Claude Monet is an artist, the leading member of the Impressionist painters. His most famous painting is the “Water-lilies” which he painted in an elaborate garden he had made for himself.
Claude-Achille Debussy was a French composer whose work is often linked with the Impressionist painters. He is famous for piano pieces such as “Children’s Corner” and his orchestral work “The Afternoon of a Faun” (“L’apès-midi d’une faune”).
Alexandre Dumas wrote the two historically known adventure classics “The Three Musketeers” and “The Count of Monte Cristo”.
Victor Hugo credited for the Disney film and video “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”. The original novel was written by Victor Hugo and is known in France as “Notre Dame de Paris”.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is the author of “Le Petit Prince” a well known French children’s book.
Napoléon Bonaparte was a famous French general who became Emperor of France in the aftermath of the French Revolution. Napoleon was responsible for introducing measures, which form the basis of many of France’s institutions that still exist today, including an educational law to set up state grammar schools (lycés), which aimed to provide well-trained army officers and civil servants. During Napoleon’s reign, France was constantly at war. Napoleon built a huge empire so that by 1812 he controlled the greater part of Western Europe. Eventually, he was defeated when France was invaded by Russian, Prussian, Austrian and British armies. Finally, Napoleon was exiled to the island of Elba. He managed to escape and ruled France again for just a hundred days before being defeated by Wellington at Waterloo. He was sent as a prisoner to St. Helena, where he died in 1821.
Louis Blériot is credited as the French airman who became the first person to fly the English Channel. On 25 July 1909, he flew from Calais to Dover in 37 minutes.
Louis Braille is credited for inventing the system of raised dots which form letters for the visually impaired to read. Louis was blinded in an accident at the age of 4. He was sent to one of the first schools for blind boys in Paris, where they were taught simple skills to help them earn a living without begging. Without being able to read, it was difficult for blind people to have much education. The system is now used everywhere in the world.
Ferdinand de Lesseps is credited for building the Suez Canal – regarded at the time as the world’s greatest engineering triumph, and tried but failed to build a Panama Canal.
Popular Children’s Books of France, Separated by Age Groups
Ages 1 to 4:
– Adele la Sauterelle
– Adrien le Lapin
– Benjamin le Lutin
– Camille la Chenille
– Cesar le Lizard
Ages 5 to 8:
– Caroline a la Ferme (Probst, Pierre)
– Babar a la Fete de Celesteville (Author: Brunhoff, Jean De)
– Les Amis de Martine a la Maison (Author: Marlier, Marcel)
– N 01 Petzi Construit son Bateau (Author: Hansen, Carla Et Vilh.)
– Tom-Tom et Nana # 1et L’impossible Nana (Author: n/a)
Ages 9 to 11:
– Alice a la Reserve des Oiseaux (Author: Quine, Caroline)
– Bagarres du Petit Nicolas – Histoires inedites vol 8 (Sempe-Goscinny)
– Dernier Seigneur (Le) (Author: Milan Poche Histoire)
– Atchoum! (Author: Seuil Jeunesse)
– Petit Prince- cassette (version originale) (Author: Saint-Exupery, Antoine De)
– Hana Yori Dango t. 1 (Author: Kamio)
– Harry Potter a l’ecole des Sorciers (Author: Rowling, J.K.)
– Louison et M. Moliere (Author: Andersen, Hans Christian)
– Je Suis un Garcon (Author: Arnaud, Cathrine)
– Belle et la Bete (La) (Author: Folio Cadet)
French Inventions for Kids
- AQUALUNG: Breathing apparatus that supplies oxygen to divers and allows them to stay underwater for several hours. Jacques-Yves Cousteau invented it in 1943.
- BAROMETER: A device that measures air (barometric) pressure. It measures the weight of the column of air that extends from the instrument to the top of the atmosphere. There are two types of barometers commonly used today, mercury and aneroid (meaning “fluidless”). Earlier water barometers (also known as “storm glasses”) date from the 17th century. The Italian physicist Evangelista Torricelli invented the mercury barometer.
- BATTERY: A device that converts chemical energy into electrical energy. Each battery has two electrodes, an anode (the positive end) and a cathode (the negative end). An electrical circuit runs between these two electrodes, going through a chemical called an electrolyte (which can be either liquid or solid). This unit consisting of two electrodes is called a cell (often called a voltaic cell or pile). Alessandro Volta invented it.
- BICYCLE: A wooden scooter-like contraption called a celerifere. Comte Mede de Sivrac of France invented it in about 1790.
- ELECTRIC IRON: The electric iron was invented in 1882 by Henry W. Seeley
- MAYONNAISE: Invented in France hundreds of years ago, probably in 1756 by the French chef working for the Duke de Richelieu, The first ready-made mayonnaise was sold in the US in 1905 at Richard Hellman’s deli in New York.
- METER (and the METRIC SYSTEM): Invented in France. In 1790, the French National Assembly directed the Academy of Sciences of Paris to standardize the units of measurement. A committee from the Academy used a decimal system and defined the meter to be one 10-millionths of the distance from the equator to the Earth’s Pole (that is, the Earth’s circumference would be equal to 40 million meters). The committee included the mathematicians Jean Charles de Borda (1733-1799), Joseph-Louis Comte de Lagrange (1736-1813), Pierre-Simon Laplace (1749-1827), Gaspard Monge (1746 -1818), and Marie Jean Antoine Nicholas Caritat, the Marquis de Condorcet (1743-1794).
- PENCIL: Invented in 1564 when a huge graphite (black carbon) mine was discovered in England. The pure graphite was sawn into sheets and then cut into square rods. The graphite rods were inserted into hand-carved wooden holders, forming pencils
- Free online French language games for kids
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