Mappified Team


Everything you need to know about France

From a French person living in France, here's everything that you need to know before traveling to France, or just to understand French's culture. This guide aims to be very practical and down to earth, so anyone traveling to France can anticipate their stay here and understand why things are the way they are.

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The French attitude

Let's start with the hottest topic on the list: French people! 

French people don't have a good reputation. They are rude, abused of themselves, make too much noise and think they own the world and can do anything they want anywhere. Ask Brits what they think about the French and they'll say even cruder things!

Well, all of this is not completely false, but it's a little more subtle than that. Let's try to understand how the French think and why they act this way.
First, because of its long history of recruting workforce from other countries, the French people are a melting pot of diverse origins. Most people will share in their family tree a parent from somewhere else. The most common migrations were from Spain, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, Poland, Africa and Asia. Today, many people descend from one of these countries, but no distinction is made: they are as French as anyone else. There is no segregation in France and despite what some news can say this multi ethnic population is living together nicely and this is actually a force and positive thing about France. Of course some people don't like this and the far right is getting more votes as in other European countries, but mostly this works fine.
All of these people, being from diverse origins or from France actually grew up the same way in the same schools and have all inherited the standard French traits, the most famous being French's bad character. Yes, this is true, the French likes to yell at other people, and they often are of bad faith. But this should not be taken as something negative, the French actually enjoy this and take it more as a game than anything else. This is just part of the culture!
Debating about diverse subjects is also something they quite enjoy, to the point that they can be of bad faith just for the pleasure of making the debate last longer. Take this as a game and as something enjoyable, and you'll see them differently.
The French are mostly funny and friendly people. Some can be a bit cold with strangers, but this is just because they mistrust people they don't know.
Also, although this is changing slowly with the newer generations, most French barely speak English. This makes them more difficult to approach for foreigners as they'll try to avoid any conversation in English, not by rudeness but by embarrasment of not speaking English correctly. You'll get no issues with English speaking people and they'll be happy to help you if language is not a barrier for them.

The French political system

The left, the centre and the right

Results of the 1st turn in the 2017 presidential election

Results of the 1st turn in the 2017 presidential election

Photo credits:

The French political scene has always been mostly dominated by the left and the right. In the last decade the centre has made its way through it as this polarisation tends to decrease, and Macron, the current president, comes from this trend. Although an election was always played by the left or right, these 2 parties' influence have substancially diminished over the last years, impacted by some political scandals and losing the people's trusts. People are now turning onto smaller parties, such as the La République en marche (centre, led by Emmanuel Macron), the Rassemblement National (far right, led by Marine Le Pen) or La France insoumise (far left, led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon).

The last presidential election in 2017 was won by Emmanuel Macron in the 2nd turn, competing against Marine Le Pen, with 66% of votes against 33%.

The different regions in France

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France is divided into 18 regions, that are then divided in départements.

Each region has its own history and culture, but some are stronger than others, such as in Britany (Bretagne) or in Corsica (Corse).

Culinary specialties

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Each region has its own specialty. 

Alsace is mostly known for the Flammekueche, a pizza with oignons and bacons as the garniture, and white wines such as the Gewurztraminer.
Aquitaine has oisters from the Bassin dArcachon, confit de canard and the cannelés Bordelais.
Auvergne has the aligot, a mashed potato dish with melted Tome cheese, and frog leaps. It's also known for the cheeses Cantal, Bleu d'Auvergne, Fourne d'Ambert, Saint Nectaire and Salers.
Bourgogne has the escargots de Bougogne, boeuf Bourguigon and Dijon's mustard.
Bretagne has the galettes de sarasin (buckwheat crêpes) and the Kouign Aman.
Centre has the Pithivier, a cake with a delicate almond cream, and wines such as the Sancerre or the Chinon.
Champagne-Ardenne has the infamous Champagne.
Corsica has Figatellu and Cap Corse.
Franche-Comté has the saucisse de Morteau, fondue au Comté and brimbelles' tart, a delicate tart with blueberries.
Ile-de-France has the macaron as most people know it and the croissants.
Languedoc-Roussillon has the cassoulet and Camargue's rice.
Limousin has Limousine beef and the clafouti.
Lorraine has the mirabelle, the quiche lorraine, the Munster and the paté lorrain.
Midi-Pyrénées has the foie gras, the black truffe ad many cheeses such as the Roquefort and the Rocamadour.
Nord-Pas-de-Calais has the moules frites and the carbonade Flamande.
Basse-Normandie has the camembert, the omelette de la mère Poulard and tripes.
Haute-Normandie has apples and cider.
Pays de la Loire has the rillettes du Mans, the fouace Nantaise and Guérande's salt.
Finally, Picardie has the Maroilles, a strong smelling cheese, and the crême chantilly.

This is just a few of the most famous specialties, each region has way more than this.


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A few regions still have their own dialect, though all people speak French.

In Britany, people speak Breton.
In the south west people speak Basque, Catalan or Occitan. 
In the north people speak Chtimi or Flamish.
Other regions may have what we call Patois or langue d'oïl, which is mainly a rural version of the French language.

The turistic regions in France

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France has a lot of diversity to offer. From Britany, to the Basque coast, to the Alps, each region is different and has its unique qualities.

Visiting all of France would take a lifetime, even for someone living in France!

The sacred art of food and eating

Photo credits: Malmaison Hotels - @mal-gallery @Flickr

Everybody knows this: food is sacred in France. This is true!

Eating is part of French's culture, and kids learn to take time to eat in their younger years.
A meal in France is traditionaly made of an entrée, with bread, a main plate made of meat or fish with a starchy food (potatoes, pasta or rice) and vegetables, then cheese with bread, to finish with a dessert or yaourt.
This can seems a lot but the portions are not that big, and the reason for this is not to eat a lot but instead to eat a variety of different things and enjoy different tastes. Some scientists even argue that this diversity of foods is the main reason that keeps French people stay thin and healthy, despite main plates and desserts than can be loaded with fat or sugar. The key in French cuisine is this: diversity over quantity, as in Italian or Japanese cuisine.

Transports in France

France has a strong railway system, planes deserve major cities, and smallest trips are usually done by car.


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France is a medium size country, and traveling from north to south by car would take about 12 hours. This is why many people would consider taking the train when traveling long distances. Otherwise, traveling by car is by far the prefered method for the French, for trips up to 8 hours. That's because the roads are good, especially on roadways (but it comes with a high price), and with a speed limit of 130 km/h on roadways it is comfortable enough to drive for 5 to 8 hours. 

Another alternative is the train, but although more comfortable than driving this will not always be faster than car.


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There are 3 major types of trains in France: the TGV, the standard trains and the TER.
The TGV is the fastest one and connect only the biggest cities. This allows you to travel from Paris to Nice in 3 hours. It is more expensive and the earliest you buy your ticket the less you will pay (as for airline tickets). Booking in advance is mandatory.
The biggest cities and medium sized cities are connected with standard trains. They are slower than the TGV but fast enough to travel long distances in a relatively short time. Their price is fixed but depends on 2 time zones (busy hours and regular hours). In the busy period (such as friday evening or sunday evening) the ticket price will be higher by 25%. You can purchase the ticket just before taking the train but you won't be assigned a seat and you will risk doing the trip up on your feet (there's no maximum quota).
The last one, the TER, which stands for Regional Express Train, is used to connect cities through small distances and are affordable (as the journey is fairly short) and fast enough to move from cities to cities.


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As France is not a very big country in superficy people do not often take the plane to travel from one city to another. But a few do for the longest distances, such as Paris - Nice. This is a personal preference, but most would prefer the train as it does not have the check-in burden that plane has and train stations, located in the center of cities, are way more convenient. But be aware that often a plane ticket will be cheaper than a TGV ticket.

Driving in France

French are globally good drivers and not too crazy. There are now a lot of automatic speed radars on roads, so people are forced to respect speed limits. In the Parisian region, the style is a bit different, more aggressive, and for a mysterious reason they use all lanes on a roadway, instead of driving on the far right lane when they are not passing another car they can stay on the left. 

Also, motorbikes are used to go no matter what speed the traffic is, so even if there's a traffic jam they would use the small space between the 2 lanes on the left to make their way between cars. That's called "remontée de file", and although it is not legal it is tolerated in Ile-de-France (Paris and its suburbs). It is slighltly abused as they would drive this way even in fluid traffic conditions as they usually drive 20km/h higher than the speed limit and pass cars all the time. Therefore, apply extra caution when driving in this region as motorbikes can pass you from anywhere at anytime. That's just how they drive here and you must adapt your driving to this and always check in your back mirror before changing lanes and use your blinkers.

Buying fuel

If you travel by car you will most likely need to fill up the tank a few times. Fuel stations are easily found everywhere in France. The biggest ones are Total and Esso, the latest being the cheapest. Supermarkets also have a fuel station, and most French people would go there as they are said to be the cheapest (which is not always true). Supermarkets compete to have the best prices as they use this to bring customers to their stores, so prices can vary greatly every day. The French government has created a site where you can find daily prices for all stations if you want to find the cheapest one :

On roadways (autoroutes) you will also find fuel stations every 60km, but be aware that prices are always significantly higher there. Typical French people would always make everything they can to avoid getting fuel there, but sometimes you don't have a choice. In these you will also find restaurants, sandwicheries, coffee machines and a small grocery store so you can stop and eat. These are open 24/24.
Payment in most stations is now done directly with your credit card, although sometimes you'll have to go pay inside the small shop. Read the signs to know in which lane type you are in.

Buying groceries and household goods


Photo credits: By philip.denotto - @sandy_phil_denotto @Flickr

There are mainly 3 big players in France when it comes to supermarkets : Auchan, Carrefour and Leclerc. 
While Leclerc is mainly focused on being the cheapest, Auchan and Carrefour dominate the market. 
There are other players depending on the region you are in such as Hyper U or Cora.
Most supermarkets are located in the periphery of cities, often in commercial zones, or within malls. These malls will include the supermarket as the biggest store there, alongside small clothing stores, household goods stores. Supermarkets are reputed to being the cheapest and all of their marketing strategies are based on this.


Going to a supermarket is almost always only possible by car, although city buses will often take you there. But their location outside of cities make them impossible to reach by foot, and are often too far to go even with a bicycle.
This is why smaller versions called "markets" have started to pop up within cities, such as Carrefour Market, Monoprix, Franprix, etc. These are located within cities, most often in their centers, and propose in their shelves the essential foods and household goods such as toilet paper, soap etc. These markets are appointance markets, meaning people would go there every 2 or 3 days and buy small batches, whereas going to a supermarket would be done only weekly or even every 2 weeks. Markets are a bit more expensive but this is the price to pay to get stuff just beyond the corner.

Hard discounts

There are also hard discount stores such as Lidl or Ed and these can be found anywhere in France in middle to big sized cities. These are usually located around the city's borders, but are inside and therefore more accessible than supermarkets. In France, these stores are, maybe mistakenly, thought to be for the poorest people, and middle class people would usually not go there and prefer a supermarket or a local market.

Organic stores

Last, you will find organic shops, such as Biocoop, Naturalia, Natureo or indepently owned smallest stores in the citys' centers. All sell basically the same products and prices will vary shortly from one to the other. These stores frequentation have been increasing within the last years.
In addition to the private chains you can find real markets in cities, usually on sunday mornings, but this differs from cities. Check the city's mayor website to find more information.

Farmers' markets

Photo credits: By Département des Yvelines - @29325241461@Flickr

Almost every city in France have a day or two within the week for a farmer's market. 

They usually occur on Sunday mornings, but it can vary from cities to cities. Check the city's website to get the exact dates.
These historic markets are usually held by local farmers who will sell their products directly to consumers. You can find many foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, meat or fish, honey, or preparations like saucisson, paté or terrines, cheese, beverages etc.
They are usually located in the central place of the city, and within the historic Halles if the city still have them.

Smoking and drinking

Anywhere in France it is strictly prohibited to smoke in any public place. Even in bars, if you want a cigarette you'll have to go outside in the street.

Smoking anything other than tobacco is strictly prohibited, as well as all drugs.
Drinking in moderation in restaurants, bars and private spaces is of course authorized, but being drunk on the streets is prohibited.
Despite being not advised, it is alllowed to drink 2 glasses, or 0.25mg of alcohol in the blood, and to drive. Above this limit, the law is very severe. Our advice: just don't drink and drive, even one glass.

Everything you need to know about France

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