France is internationally renowned for its culture, from art to cuisine. Its people are passionate about their country, and its values of equality, tolerance and liberty have been widely admired around the world. However, many aspects of French society have shifted since the storming of the Bastille in 1789. These shifts include the Europeanization of France, the decreased role of religion in daily life and the radical restructuring of the family. Terrorism and climate change are also major challenges. Despite these changes, many of the underlying social structures that distinguish France from other countries remain.
A wide range of cultural icons have become synonymous with France, including the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum and the Mont Saint-Michel. The Musée du Louvre houses some of the most famous artworks in the world, such as the Mona Lisa and the Statue of Aphrodite, and it is one of Paris’ most popular tourist attractions. The Mont Saint-Michel is a spectacular island monastery that can be reached in less than four hours from Paris by car. It is an iconic symbol of the Norman region and is a must-see for visitors to France.
In addition to the cultural symbols, the people of France are known for their sophistication and savoir-faire. For example, Chanel is a famous French fashion house that exemplifies elegance and style. Wine is another essential part of French culture and it is often enjoyed with casual meals or at special events. French impressionist artists like Claude Monet are well-known for their soothing works of art.
The Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts is a prominent French museum that showcases the country’s rich artistic heritage. Founded in 1848, it has several branches throughout the country and is an important resource for researchers.
A variety of languages are spoken in France. In addition to French, about two thirds of the population speak an indigenous language, most commonly Occitan or Provençal. Although it is sometimes difficult to understand, the language is worth learning for its beauty and cultural value. French speakers are typically very patient with students of French, and most will offer help in any way they can.
Despite the heightened security measures following terrorist attacks in recent years, the overall threat level in France remains low. The Government of France maintains a threat rating system similar to that of the United States Department of Homeland Security and has increased police presence at airports, train and metro stations and other high-profile locations. The Government also shares intelligence about possible terrorist activities with partners around the world.