A Simple Guide to French Culture and Values

By OptiLingo • 7 minute read

French culture is very unique.

Learn About the Culture of France

France is a wonderful country with a long history and a lot of unique culture. The deep-rooted traditions and customs in France define French people’s love for their country. Knowing about French culture can also be a great motivation for your language studies. Learn about French culture, language, and people.

Culture is French

Whether we’re talking about the culture of Paris or regional cultural norms, there’s a lot of background and fascinating material to cover. But, did you know that culture is actually French? The word “culture” comes from French. The root of the word is an agricultural term for cultivation and nurture.

Historically, French culture was influenced by Celtic and Gallo-Roman culture, Francs, and Germanic tribes as well. However, in the Enlightenment period, the term for nationalism was coined by French minds. That’s when the love for French culture truly cultivated in French people.

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French as the Language of Culture

French is the official language of France, so it really defines the culture. It’s the first language of 88% of the population today. With almost 70 million residents, that’s a lot of people to practice French with.

French is also one of the most studied foreign languages. With 220 million speakers worldwide, it’s a highly popular language. Since you can find French native speakers on all continents, you can definitely find a lot of opportunities in francophone territories.

Within France, regional accents and dialects are very common in French. As if the geographical difference wasn’t enough, these dialects can also tell French people of different regions apart. 

The Notre Dame is a French cultural sight

Religion and Culture in France

Religion plays an important part in everyday French life. Catholicism is the most common religion in France. About three-fifths of French people are Roman Catholic, which makes about 41 million people. Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism are also represented in the French population. However, a quarter of French people surveyed said they don’t have a religion. 

Beyond just faith, religion has a great impact on French culture through its history. Gorgeous Catholic churches, cathedrals, and basilicas grace the French architecture landscape. Catholic holidays are even more important in modern French culture.

French Holidays and Celebrations

There are a lot of French holidays French people love to celebrate. Many of these come from Christianity, such as Christmas and Easter. There’s also Ascension Day and Whit Monday that the whole nation celebrates.

Of course, French culture also celebrates international holidays. New Year’s Eve, Labour Day, and VE Day are all national holidays where workers don’t have to go to the office.

French holidays are a huge part of French culture.

The French version of the 4th of July is Bastille Day. Celebrated on the 14th of July, this day marks the anniversary of the French revolution and the storming of Bastille prison. It’s a very patriotic holiday. Military parades, firework shows, and family cookouts are the most common holiday activities on Bastille Day.

French Cultural Values

France is an economically progressive country, but culturally it’s very conservative – social values, family culture, gastronomy (the food and wine culture), and certain social structures maintain a strong sense of what is “correct” or “pas correct”. The French are very proud of their country. French patriotism is certainly a common cultural value. “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité” (Freedom, equality, brotherhood) is their national motto, and they certainly try to live up to it.

Nevertheless, France is changing, as traditional independent café society is eroded by international chains and social legislation changes the traditional concept of the family. For example, same-sex marriage has been legal since 2013.

Traditional family values are also very important in French culture. A family-first approach often puts business and work in the back seat in France. For example, the typical workweek in France consists of 35 hours. That’s because a legal legislature protects workers’ rights to be with family. Education, family life, and a strong relationship within a household are what make French culture the way it is today. 

French Food Culture

Of course, the food. France’s greatest treasure. French food and cuisine received a UNESCO intangible heritage rank. That’s how great it is. And here’s definitely a great French culture when it comes to food.

From a typical croissant breakfast to a classic boeuf bourguignon dinner, the French definitely know how to eat well. The culture of everyday life is built around their mealtimes. And French cuisine plays a very important part of that.

There are a multitude of traditional French dishes. These vary across regions, so make sure you try them all when you’re there. Baguettes, galettes, and escargot are just a few of the dishes all visitors love to taste. But, you don’t have to eat frog legs if you don’t want to. French restaurant also prepares great food, so make sure you check out what the French dining experience is like. 

French food culture is exquisite

Michelin Stars are the highest achievement award a restaurant can receive in the culinary world, and you guessed it, it’s a French concept. With 27 French restaurants achieving 3 Michelin Stars, France is the most highly rated country in Europe. It’s currently tied with Japan globally.

French Fashion and Haute Couture

France is the leading fashion industry in the world. It’s no wonder that style is a great part of French culture. From designers such as Chanel, Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Hermes, you can certainly spend a pretty penny on French clothes and accessories.

These designer brands are part of a French cultural collective called “haute couture” (high culture). The sparkly perfection of these pieces is what French elegance and class create. But, it’s of course a mere luxury to most.

Everyday French people don’t wear brands like that. But, there’s definitely a social and cultural expectation to dress well when you go out. Whether you’re going to work or to shop, French people expect a well-put-together outfit with appropriate accessories. Nice dresses, heels, blazers, and smart jackets are part of everyday clothes in France.

French Art: The Epitome of Culture

From the Louvre to the garden of Versailles, French art is everywhere in France. Starting from late Gothic classics like the Notre Dame, to the modern architectural wonder of the Eiffel Tower, you’ll have to see these amazing French cultural sights.

The Louvre

French art preservation and appreciation is a very important part of French culture. Protecting the works of their most famous painters and sculptors is a national goal. You can find the art of Monet, Degas, Renoir, and Rodin in the Louvre. And, you can also find one of the most famous paintings there, Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

Paris itself was a great inspiration to artists in the 1800s. Coming to the French capital to paint and create art was like a pilgrimage in the impressionistic movement. When you’re walking in France and talking to French people, you’ll understand why that city in particular was inspirational.

Learn French to Discover More Culture

While it’s difficult to summarise the culture of an entire country, there’s one thing we can say for certain: the French language plays a crucial part in French culture. If you want to learn more about the culture, you need to learn French. Luckily, it’s not difficult at all. With OptiLingo, you can gain French fluency easily.

OptiLingo is a language learning app that brings you results. You can learn the most common French words and phrases with this app, so you’ll know exactly how the locals speak. Don’t waste time on studying grammar and forcing vocabulary. OptiLingo is a fun way to learn French, and it actually gets you to fluency faster. Try learning French effortlessly when you give OptiLingo a go!