Understanding France: the governments.... (#1)

See also :

  • as seen by the US Army : 112 questions on France

The Department of State : 50 questions on Foreign countries

 Here is a list of fifty questions. This list is adapted from a list developed by Joan Wilson, Foreign Service Institute, US Department of State published by Robert L.Kohls in his book Survival Kit for Overseas Living for Americans Planning to Live and Work Abroad. Some of these questions have partial answers in this WebSite.. The more answers you have the easiest it is to live in a foreign country. Try this Quiz on France !
  •  How many people who are prominent in the affairs (politics, athletics, religion, the arts,...) of France can you name ?
 See the most popular personalities for the French and Who's Who in France
  •  Who are the country's national heroes and heroines ?
 See history page
  • Can you recognize the national anthem ?
 Everyone knows the stirring...
  •  Are other languages spoken besides the dominant language ? What are the social and political implications of language usage ?
 See language
  •  What is the predominant religion ? Is it a state religion ? Have you read any of its sacred writings ?
France is (by constitution) a lay country ; nominal religions are catholicism (>85%), islam (8%), judaism (2%), protestantism (1%) ; these figures are approximate (it is forbidden by law to collect data on race, sexual preferences, religious beliefs,...) : see laïcité
  •  What are the most important religious observances and ceremonies ? How regularly do people participate in them ?
 Less than 10% attend mass and France is much less religious than the USA
  •  How do members of the predominant religion feel about other religions?
 In itself, this emphasis on religion is very American and un-French ... See religion and an illustration.
  •  What are the most common forms of marriage ceremonies and celebrations ?
 See marriage
  •  What is the attitude toward divorce ? extra-marital relations ? plural marriage ?
 One out of three French couples divorces
  •  What is the attitude toward gambling ?
 Gambling is common but casinos are allowed only in spa resorts
  •  What is the attitude toward drinking ?
 Very favourable : see more
  •  Is the price asked for merchandise fixed or are customers expected to bargain ? How is the bargaining conducted ?
 No bargain (in general)
  •  If, as a customer, you touch or handle merchandise for sale, will the storekeeper think you are knowledgeable, inconsiderate, within your rights, completely outside your rights, other ?
 In France, the shopkeeper is ALWAYS obnoxious...
  •  How do people organize their daily activities ? What is the normal meal schedule ? Is there a daytime rest period ? What is the customary time for visiting friends ?
 Read French Toast...
  •  What foods are most popular and how are they prepared
 Read French Fried...
  •  What things are taboo in this society ?
 It is not a taboo but it is considered rude to talk about money
  •  What is the usual dress for women ? for men ? Are slacks or shorts worn ? If so, on what occasions ? Do teenagers wear jeans ?
 Read about the French woman
  •  Do hairdressers use techniques similar to those used by hairdressers in the USA ? How much time do you need to allow for an appointment at the hairdresser ?
 Some hair salons don't require appointments ; in the most well-known, you need to reserve at least a week ahead
  •  What are the special privileges of age and/or sex ?
 You can tell a woman she is pretty without being sued for sexual harassment. In 2001, in a press conference, a journalist started his question to Minister of Justice Elisabeth Guigou by "First of all, before I ask my question, can I tell you that you are very beautiful". He was right and she was genuinely pleased.... (and she is a very tough politician)
  • At what time is it adequate to come when you are invited ?
 15 minutes late : see more
  •  On what occasion, would you present (or accept) gifts from people in the country ? What kind of gifts would you exchange ?
 In France, people tend to make much more expensive gifts : see more
  •  Do some flowers have a particular significance ?
 Yes : Chrysanthemum (=death) and carnation (=cuckold)
  •  How do people greet one another ? shake hands ? embrace or kiss ? How do they leave one another ? What does any variation from the usual greeting of leave-taking signify ?
 Shake hands and if they know each other, kiss ("bise"), see body language
  •  If you are invited to a cocktail party, would you expect to find among the guests : foreign business people ? men only ? men and women ? local busines people ? local politicians ? national politicians ? politician's spouses ? teachers or professors ? bankers ? doctors ? lawyers ? intellectuals such as writers, composers, poets, philosophers, religious clerics ? members of the host's family ? including in-laws ? movie stars ? ambassadors or consular officials from other countries ?
 Depends on who is inviting you !
  •  What are the important holidays ? How is each observed ?
 A basic concept in France : see more
  •  What are the favorite leisure and recreational activities of adults ? teenagers ?
See French culture
  •  What sports are popular ?
 Football (i.e. what the US calls soccer), hunting, judo, tennis, pétanque (a bowling game with iron balls), rugby, etc... See sport in France
  •  What kind of television programs are shown ? What social purposes do they serve ?
 Read about the French "exception culturelle"
  •  What is the normal work schedule ? How does it accommodate environmental or other conditions ?
 Working habits are are rather different : see more
  •  How will your financial position and living conditions compare with those of the majority of the people living in this country ?
It is important for Americans to realize that in a country where taxes are very high but education and health are almost free, wher you can but you do have to save for your pension, salaries are much lower than in the US for professionals. On the other hand, less people are VERY poor.
  •  What games do children play ? Where do children congregate ?
  •  How are children disciplined at home ?
 Read about raising children in France
  •  Are children usually present at social occasions ? at ceremonial occasions ? If they are not present, how are they cared for in the absence of their parents ?
 American visitors are always surprised to see how well French children behave at long dinner parties...
  •  How does this society observe children's "coming of age" ?
  •  What kind of local public transportation is available ? Do all classes of people use it ?
 Metro, bus, tramways, TGV (fast trains) ; efficient and rapid transportation for all
  •  Who has the right of way in traffic : vehicles, animals, pedestrian ?
 Theoretically : pedestrians, practically : vehicles behaving (generally) like wild animals ; see more
  •  Is military training compulsory ?
 No (since 2001)
  •  Are the largest circulation newspapers generally friendly in their attitude toward the US ?
 See Anti-American
  •  What is the history of the relationships between this country and the US ?
 See American landmarks in Paris and a list of major Franco-US squabbles
  •  How many people have emigrated from this country to the US ? Other countries ? How many are doing so at present ?
 Very few French have emigrated to the US, where the French community is much smaller than other communities ; maybe this is why French-bashing is easier ?
  •  Are there many American expatriates living in this country ?
 The generally acknowledged figure is 195,000 : see more about the US community
  •  What kinds of options do foreigners have in chosing a place to live ?
 In Paris : depends on the lifestyle you wish : American (Western suburbs) or French (city center)
  •  What kind of health services are available ? Where are they located ?
 Good health service and house calls : see more
  •  What are the common home remedies for minor ailments ? Where can medecine be purchased ?
 See health section ; for minor ailments, red wine, available everywhere any time
  •  Is education free ? compulsory ?
 Education is free and compulsory till age 16 : see more
  •  In schools, are children segregated by race ? by caste ? or class ? by sex ?
 The French strongly oppose communautarism
  •  What kind of schools are considered best : public, private, parochial ?
 See Education
  •  In school, how important is learning by rote ?
Very uncommon in France...
  •  How are children disciplined in school ?
  •  Where are the important universities of the country ? If university education is sought abroad, to what countries and universities do students go ?
 Read about grandes écoles

Questions to applicants for French citizenship

  • In 2005, a new regulation was established to ensure that people applying for French citizenship have a sufficient understanding and knowledge of French values and social rules. The Guide of the Rights and Duties of the French Citizen ("Guide des droits et devoirs du citoyen français ") gives a list of questions which are submitted to candidates. Here are some of them :
    - For you, what does equality between men and women mean ?
    - In France, can you force your child to marry or keep him/her from marrying a person of his/her choice ?
    - Can you express your religious faith while occupying a public function?
    - Is voting mandatory ?
    - What are the colors of the French flag ?
    - Who celebrates a marriage ?
  • The Guide gives immigrants a description of French institutions and reminds them that polygamy, excision and forced marriage are forbidden by French laws. It reminds them of the principle of religious freedom but also that " an exagerated manifestation of a religious belief is forbidden in places like public schools or in certain professions, for example civil service ".
  • More about immigration
  • See a French quiz
  • More to come.



To related pages : questions about the French, questions on France by US GIs (#2), a French Quiz, etc...

To table of contents

To top of the page 

Back to home page

Harriet Welty Rochefort writes articles and books about France and the French. Order her books :

  • "Joie de Vivre", Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French, St.Martin's Press, New York, 2012
  • "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..)

To email me

 If you like this site, please bookmark it or create a link!