| The most popular French personalities
|| Vacation in France
(as voted by the French:
IFOP Survey July 2011) :
1 - Yannick Noah,
Tennisman and singer (N°2 in 2006 & 2007, N°1 in
2005, 2008,2010, N°4 in 2004, N°7 in 2003)
2 - Zinedine Zidane,
World Champion (Soccer) (N°5 in 2010, N°3 in 2008, N°1 in 2006 & 2007, N°2
in 2005, N°1 in 2003, 2004, N°4 in 2001 & 2002) (still
best loved personality, in spite of his shameful behavior in
the World Cup)
3 - Mimy Mathy, actor (N°6 in 2010, N°5 in 2008, N°4
in 2006 & 2007)
4 - Simone
5 - Francis Cabrel, singer
6 - Michel Sardou, singer (N°8 in 2010)
7 - Gad Elmaleh, Comedian (N°3 in 2010)
8- Charles Aznavour,
Singer (N°4 in 2010, N°7 in 2006, 2007 & 2008, N°6 in 2005, N°11
9 - Dany Boon, Comedian, whose
movie, Bienvenue chez
le Ch'tis, is the most successful French movie ever (N°2 in 2008, 2010)
10 - Jean Dujardin, actor (N°7 in 2010)
Others, who have been on the
Top-10 recently, include :Soeur Emmanuelle, the French Mother Theresa, Johnny Hallyday,
Henri Salvador, Renaud, Florent Pagny, singers, Jamel
Debbouze, Franck Dubosc, Jean Paul Belmondo, Sophie Marceau, Jean Reno, Michel Serrault, Actors , David Douillet, Olympic champion, Thierry Henry, foot-ball player, Nicolas Hulot, TV Producer, etc...
Pierre, Priest, devoted
his life to the poor (N°1 in 2001, 2002 & 2003) ; he
died in 2007, aged 95, he was always #1 ! (in 2004, he asked
to be removed from the list)
for French historical heroes and here for mini-bios.
DID YOU KNOW
THAT....? Of course, this sort of hit-parade ("Most loved
people") always give an advantage to people who are seen
on TV, singers and movie actors. But it is interesting to see
how diverse the French society is, and how varied are
their origins : Algerian (Zidane, Debbouze), African (Noah),
Moroccan Jewish (Elmaleh) , Armenian (Aznavour), Jewish (Veil)
, Italian (Reno) , Guyanese (Salvador) , Carribean (Henry, Pagny)
or the group they belong to : a nun (Emmanuelle), a very small
Vacations : The French have an impressive number
of vacation days. The legal minimum for all employees is 5 weeks
a year but very often it can go as high as 8 weeks or more, particularly
due to the effect of the 35-hour-a-week law : they are called "jours RTT" (RTT stands for :"réduction du temps de travail").
Days-off for (almost) everybody : In addition to vacations, the French
have 11 days of holidays ("jours fériés")
a year ; most companies are closed and public services (museums,
etc..) are minimal. Most, if not all, shops are closed on these
- January 1 ("Nouvel An"): traditionally
New Year's Eve
is a (big) dinner among friends or an evening at the theater.
- Easter ("Pâques"): Easter Sunday
: there is no Easter Bunny (the concept is unknown) but the bells,
which have been silent since Holy Friday, drop chocolate eggs
in the gardens on their way back from Rome and children serach them ; Easter Monday is
- May 1 ("Fête du Travail") : you
offer lilies of the valley to everyone around you ; they are
sold on every street corner ; there is a big parade of the Workers
Unions between Place de la République and Place de la
Nation. In Europe, May 1 commemorates the Haymarket upheaval.
- May 8 : ("Armistice") : end of WWII
- Ascension (40 days after Easter) is always on
a Thursday and this makes it possible to enjoy one of those famous
"ponts" (bridges) : if you take Friday off, you get
a 4-day vacation with that one single work day.
- Pentecôte is
a Monday (50 days after Easter) : when it is in May, it contributes
(with the French Open) to make the month of May absolutely delicious
with more days of vacation than days of work if the "ponts" situation is favorable. Read
about its suppression in 2005.
- Bastille Day ("Quatorze Juillet")
: there is a big military parade on the Champs Elysées
and (the night before)
balls in many firehouses.
- August 15 ("Assomption de la Vierge")
: if you're lucky, it can give you a nice "pont" :
the years when "ponts" are not possible because those
vacation days happen to be on Sundays or Saturdays, people almost
go on strike...
- November 1 ("Toussaint") : traditionally,
you bring flowers (chrysanthemums) to the graves of your beloved.
- November 11 ("Armistice") : end
of WW1 ; a big celebration, with military parades.
- Christmas ("Noël") : on
Christmas Eve (the24th), there is a huge dinner, with the family,
with the traditional courses, the gifts are placed in front of
the Christmas tree ; sometimes people attend a Mass at midnight
; the next day (25th) is off and there is also a big lunch with
the family. Children gat their gifts in the morning (or on Christmas
A few additional facts about vacations
- To limit the peaks of traffic and in touristic resorts, there are three "vacation zones" in France for school vacations (A, B andC). They differ from one another by one week.
- In business life, when it comes to set a date for a next meeting, someone ALWAYS says, prior to anything : "Let's avoid vacations" (of course in the 3 zones + July and August and of course the begining of September, too busy after vacations, and the end of June, too busy before vacations, December, because of Christmas shopping, May because of bridges, etc..). In fact, the only periods where it is easy to set a meeting are : October, the end of November, the end of January, March OR April (depending on Easter vacations) and the begining of June ! I am exagerating a bit, but not much....
- The deadest day of the year (i.e.
the most delicious for tourists in Paris) is August 15 ; the
saddest day is November 1.
- Halloween is relatively popular
in France but it is not a holiday (and not really a tradition)...
- The Ramadan is largely
celebrated by the Muslim community as well as Yom Kippour
by the Jewish community but they are not holidays (and the dates
changes every year).
Diary about vacation.
|| DID YOU KNOW THAT...
? The concept of "ponts" (bridges) is very important
in France : if one of the above-mentioned holidays falls on a
Thursday or a Tuesday, you can get a 4-day week-end by taking
only one day off. The French call this a "bridge".
For example, in May 2011, the total number of working days was
22 and it could not be reduced by any "pont", since the holidays took place on Sundays
: a disaster ! On the contrary, 2012 was considered a much better year,
with 19 working days in May including 3 "bridges", i.e. 16 actual working days !
- The Public
sector employs more than
6 million people (23% of the total work-force) :
- 2,2 million in the State administration
: Education (from kindergarden to university), Army, Postal service,
- 1,5 million in the staff of
local authorities of all kinds
- 0,9 million in hospitals and
public retirement homes
- 0,5 million in various state-owned
organisations (research : CNRS, unemployment : ANPE, etc...)
- almost 1 million in state-owned
companies and utilities (train : SNCF, electricity : EDF, telephone
: France Telecom, mass transit : RATP, etc...)
exports are not based
on cheese ! The real figures are very different from the traditional
image of French products. In 2002 French products exported to
the USA represent over 26 billion euros including :
- Machines, industrial products,
electronics : 37,9%
- Aeronautics and space : 24,5%
- Pharmaceutical and chemistry
- Car equipments : 4,1 %
- Textile, food, etc... 8,9%
- Wine, water, alcoholic beverages
- Perfumes and beauty : 2,5%
However, it is a fact that in
the list of the 100 biggest brands in the world, there are 51
US brands, including the first five (Coca-Cola, Microsoft, IBM,
GE and Intel), and 9 French brands, all in luxury goods : Louis
Vuitton #17, Gucci #46, L'Oreal #50, Chanel #61, Danone #67,
Hermes #81, Hennesy #83, Cartier #86 and Moet & Chandon #87
(source : Interbrand 2006).
More about the image
of France in America and about the ranking
of exporting countries.
here for facts and figures on religion
- Click here
for a list of famous Americans who lived in France (a
year or more)
USEFUL HINT.... If you are invited in a French
family on Xmas Eve or New Year's Eve, do not eat
and drink too much before dinner : be ready for a very long and
very caloric dinner which will most probably include all the
traditional courses for these circumstances, typically : Foie
Gras or Oysters (or both), Game or Poultry (or both), often with
Chestnut Purée, Salad, Cheeses, Chocolate Cake or Bûche
(Log) de Noël ; you'll drink a sweet (Sauternes?) or dry
(Muscadet?) white wine, followed by a red (Bourgogne?) and finish
with champagne (as you started)....
: France is a country
of immigration and over the years has assimilated millions of
immigrants in the French melting-pot (Poles, Italians, Spaniards,
etc...) ; as of today, the number of foreigners by country of
origin (source : INSEE 1999) is estimated at 4.3 million of the
population (7,4%) of which 30,1% are from North Africa, 9,1%
from the rest of Africa, 13,3% from Portugal, 8,8% from Italy,
7,3% from Spain, 14,9% from the rest of Europe, 12,6% from Asia,
2,9% from Latin America and 0,9% from the rest of the world.
Détailed figures are : (source : Le Monde, Oct.10, 2007)
It is estimated that one
Frenchman out of four has at least one of his/her grandparents
in one of these successive immigration waves.
Period of maximum immigration
Number (not naturalized) in 1999
| West Africa
|To related pages : more facts & figures, figures
on Europe, etc...
To top of the
Back to home
Rochefort writes articles and books about France and the French.
Order her books :
- "French Toast, An American in Paris
Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French", St.Martin's Press,
New York, 1999
- "French Fried, The Culinary Capers
of An American in Paris", St.Martin's Press, New York, 2001
More on Harriet's books (excerpts, upcoming
events, testimonials, etc..)
If you like
this site, please bookmark it or create a link!