7 Surprising Facts about France

Posted by Josh on 27th Nov 2023 in the blog in the french culture category

France has an incredibly rich culture, history and — of course — language, meaning there is always something new and interesting to learn about l’Hexagone. But there are some things even avid Francophiles don’t know about the country they love.

How many of these facts do you know about France?

France has more time-zones than any other country

France has more time-zones than any other country in the world — more even than Russia (eleven) and Canada (six). You might think this western European country (950km at its widest point) would be adequately served with just one time-zone, or maybe two at a stretch. But in fact it has twelve!

The reason is to do with France’s overseas departments, namely ​​Guadeloupe, Guiana, La Réunion, Mayotte, Saint-Barthélemy, Martinique, Saint-Martin, Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, the Wallis and Futuna Islands and French Polynesia. Look at these islands on a map, and you’ll see that they’re all over the world — necessitating not one, not two, but twelve different time-zones.

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More people visit France than any other country in the world

France welcomes nearly a hundred million tourists each year — and it’s easy to see why. From the boutiques and bistros of Paris, to the stunning scenes of the French Riviera, there’s something for everyone.

France has around 75 regional languages

French isn’t the only language spoken in France (well, not the French you’re used to). Alongside Occitan, Breton, Alsatian and Corsican, there are many more regional dialects, many of which only have a handful of speakers. If French is too easy, why not try learning Basque next?

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You can marry a dead person in France

They don’t call French the language of love for nothing! In France, it’s perfectly legal to marry someone after they have died, provided you have the family’s blessing and the approval of a number of civil servants. Interestingly, this custom isn’t as old as you might think, and actually originated in the 1950s, when a woman pleaded with president Charles de Gaulle to be allowed to marry her fiancé after he was killed in a dam burst.

Not many people have used this peculiar law to their advantage, but France is your go-to if you ever find yourself in a similar predicament to the poor woman whose fiancé died in an accident. Who says romance is dead?

It only became legal for women to wear trousers in 2013

In fact, the law prohibiting women from wearing trousers was introduced in 1800. It was considered a form of ‘cross-dressing’. However, trousers became popular with many women from the early twentieth century onwards, and the law, while it remained in place, was generally ignored. In the latter half of the twentieth century, a Ministry for Women’s Rights was introduced, leading to the abolition of this law some time later, in 2013.

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France has over 45,000 castles

It’s estimated that there are over 45,000 castles in France, compared with 25,000 in Germany and 4,000 in the UK. Italy, however, has just as many as France — although for both countries, the precise number remains unknown. There are just so many!

Snails need tickets to ride trains

Snails have a hard enough time in France as it is, where over 16,000 tons of them are eaten every year. Being slow in pace, they need public transport perhaps more than anyone, but unfortunately in France they are required to have a ticket to ride the train. This is quite a well-known fact, but the truth is that it’s just a logical extrapolation stemming from the fact that all animals weighing under 5kg are required to have tickets. So, in all likelihood, most well-meaning conductors will probably let snails travel for free!

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