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Culture & Identity of France

Introduction

The daily way of life in France is relaxed as life is meant to be taken slowly and enjoyed. This lifestyle has led to numerous laws restricting work hours and employment to maintain the lifestyle of the French.

Due to this relaxed life, the French way of life must begin with evenings and weekends (Saturday-Sunday) as opposed to work. Family is the center of this life as families often gather with family, neighbors, and friends over food and wine. Of course, getting out of town for the mountains or beaches are also favorites among the people, especially during the long summer vacation (typically during August) and during the Christmas-New Year break.

Unfortunately, to maintain this lifestyle, the French must work, but there are a number of laws limiting work and people can only work 35 hours per week by law. For most of these people the jobs are located in the cities, nearly 85% of the population is urbanized, and almost three quarters of the jobs are in the services sector. For most of these people the work day is fairly standard as most people arrive to work at about 9:00 am, they take a long lunch break from about noon to 2:00 pm, then return to finish the day at about 5:00 pm. However, Paris's daily schedule is changing and the long lunch break is not as prevalent today. Only some industries are open on Saturdays and on Sundays nearly everything is closed as few people work.

For children school is important as most children attend school from about 8:00 am to about 4:00 pm, but there is again typically a long lunch break in the middle of the day. In some schools students attend classes on Saturday morning, but have another day during the week off. Summers (June to August) are typically off of school.

France, and Paris in particular, is quite diverse and this diversity greatly affects the way of life in the country. The numerous immigrants, growing diversity, and religious differences all pronounce the alterations in the way of life.

Identity

The French are identify as being French, a term the people take great pride in. In the past this term was first based on the people's ethnicity and language, but also in their foods, wines, lifestyle, dress, and culture. As immigrants are growing in numbers, especially in Paris, the term French is being slowly altered and the definition of this identity is being debated. Many ethnic French would prefer to identify immigrants and second generation immigrants by their foreign ethnicity, not including them in the French identity. However, since the language, food, and culture are so important in this identity, second generation immigrants who natively speak French and live a French lifestyle are often included in this identity, despite not being ethnically French. It is among these people that confusion comes and where the dividing line is drawn between those who are French and those who are not. What is fairly consistent is that citizenship is rarely used as a defining factor of the identity.

French speakers with a different accent (for example the French in Quebec, Canada) seem to be "French," but not wholly "French." Terms like "French Canadian" are preferred to distinguish these outside groups from being truly French, yet in many ways they are still included with the French in France.

This page was last updated: November, 2013