France is a nation of over 67 million people, including 65.2 million in metropolitan France and 2.2 million in its overseas departments (French Guiana, Martinique, Mayotte, Réunion, and New Caledonia). The capital city is Paris. French is the official language, although regional dialects and accents are also important. The country has a mainly Mediterranean climate and a highly educated population. It is also famous for its cuisine and art.
Modern France emerged from the French Revolution, which overthrew the monarchy and created a constitutional republic led by a National Constituent Assembly. The constitution enshrined principles of equality and popular sovereignty that were inspired by Enlightenment thinkers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
During the Revolution, radicals led by Maximilien de Robespierre and Camille Desmoulins sought to expand the rights of French citizens and abolish the monarchy altogether. Nevertheless, in the final version of the constitution that was adopted in 1791, a royal veto and the ability to appoint ministers were preserved.
The French political system continues to be influenced by the ideas of Enlightenment philosophers and social reformers. This can be seen, for example, in the emphasis placed on equality of opportunity and the role of civil society. In addition, the constitution of France provides broad scope for public participation in politics and lawmaking.
Although a relatively small country, France is one of the world’s top economies and military powers. The country is a founding member of the European Union and NATO, and is an influential international actor. It is also a leading nuclear power and has a strong global presence in the arts, culture, and science.
In recent years, France has come under criticism for its alleged lack of social mobility and high poverty rates. In fact, however, it ranks better than other developed countries in some measures of positional income mobility. This has been attributed to the fact that it is easier for children from working class families to get into higher education and obtain well-paying jobs, as well as to the high degree of flexibility in French labor markets.
In addition, the French school system is renowned worldwide. It has an excellent reputation for academic achievement and is especially admired for its quality of teaching, the diversity of its curricula, and the strength of its universities.
Toulouse and the Midi-Pyrenees region are generally safe, but petty theft, car theft, and home invasions do occur. Travelers should be particularly vigilant in parking garages, hotels, and near public transportation stations.