Fun Facts

30 Actually Interesting Facts About France

By on October 16, 2013

Ah, Paris.

You can’t say the name without evoking thoughts of the Eiffel Tower in a beret, smoking a Galoise and still managing to look chic.

France is intriguing. It makes you want to speak in a bad French accent. You probably don’t care if the Eiffel Tower is made of 18,038 pieces, nor do you need to know Disneyland Paris is more popular than the Louvre. Yawn,* right?

You want to learn intriguing facts about France, which is why you’re here. So, without further adieu:

Tourist in Paris, Beware

09

The ‘Paris Syndrome’ is a real ailment tourists suffer from at disappointment in visiting Paris.

It seems to affect Japanese tourists the worst because of the culture clash with ‘unexpected French rudeness.’

In extreme cases, it can cause fainting fits. The cure: taking an early flight home and rest for 2 weeks.

The French & Dogs

10

Paris has a pet cemetery Cimetière des chiens at Asnières that specializes in pooches, though there are also: cats, monkeys, horses and fish interred there. The film star Rin Tin Tin is one of the more famous graves you can find.

There are over 300,000 dogs in Paris that deliver 16 tons of doggie excrement (‘excréments’ in French) daily.

Any guesses on the average amount of puppy poo-induced accidents yearly? According to hospital reports, around 650.

The Other Cher

‘Cher Ami’ was a messenger pigeon in WWI for American soldiers.

She was the third pigeon to be sent across enemy lines by a group of soldiers pinned down by both enemy and friendly fire.

She was blinded, shot in the breast and lost a leg- but reached her target.

Cher Ami saved 197 people and the French awarded her the Croix de guerre for her ‘bravery.’

Non-Canine Creitters in France

Pierrelatte boasts having 400 happy crocodiles living in a tropical environment, which is provided by local nuclear power.

Lagardere is famous for its annual snail races (don’t ask what happens to the losers… it is France, after all.). See the video below:


Sunshine Is a French Right

You can actually marry a dead person, which is known as ‘postmortem matrimony,’ with the President of the French Republic’s permission. The reasoning behind this practice was originally to help war/disaster widows legitimize their children.

Gay sex has been legal since 1791. It’s much more progressive than some French laws for women: until 1964, for example, you needed your hubby’s permission to open a bank account.

Kissing is prohibited at train stations, since the long French goodbyes were making the trains late.

Our personal favorite: no building can be more than 6 stories, so that ‘all can have sunshine.’


Slices of French History

Napoleon, born in Corsica a year after the French took it over, hated the French.

Speaking of that complex and petite Emperor, it’s still prohibited to name a pig  after him. George Orwell would be crushed.

The Louvre was once used for indoor hunting, horses and all.

Christmas decorations came about in eastern France, after a drought made it impossible to decorate the trees with apples. An enterprising glass blower made faux fruit and voila-! Christmas tree decor was born.

‘Gothic’ was a pejorative term during the Renaissance for the new ‘barbarian-looking’ art that began in Paris.

Saint Denis is a famous fellow in Paris. Around the 2nd Century AD, he was beheaded on ‘Martyr’s Mound’ aka Montmartre. Legend has it after he was decapitated, he picked up his head and walked- preaching the entire way to where Saint-Denis Basilica now stands. It’s a distance of roughly 2 miles.

The French and their attachment to the guillotine or the ‘national razor’ is well known. Their last beheading was as recent as 1977 (capital punishment ended in 1981). What isn’t common knowledge? The English had a beta version: the Halifax Gibbet.


Culture & Society in France

There are rules for kissing in France. Not ‘French kissing,’ which the French know as a ‘lover’s kiss,’ but the meet-and-greet faire la bise.

I don’t know how they manage it, but rumor has it the French publish 2 cookbooks daily.

Foie gras, a (debatable) French delicacy, is originally from ancient Egypt.

It’s considered the worst of polite French society to belch.

Don’t give a French person red carnations as a gift unless you mean them ill-will. Ditto for white lilies, which are normally used for funerals.


Healthy as a Frenchman

French healthcare is 1st in the world. The U.S. comes in at #37, just behind Costa Rica.

Part of the French mentality is a strong belief that the ‘weakest come first,’ which prioritizes the elderly and children. Even their wealthiest generally agree with paying more taxes for ‘the good of all.’


Lingua Franca?

Two French words the British use often (and Americans don’t understand) are aubergine and courgette.

The word ‘hotel’ in French simply means ‘big building,’ not necessarily to sleep in.

For conversational politeness, Vladimir Putin is referred to as ‘Putaine’ due to the similarity in pronunciation of a rather colorful French term.

French’ terms that aren’t French: French toast (ancient Rome); the French kiss (the French used to call it the ‘Florentine kiss’); French bulldogs (England); French fries (Belgium); French bread (Austria); and French manicures (American).

The longest word in French is “Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobie,” which is fear of the number 666.

The British term ‘frog’ as an insult was first used for the Dutch in the mid-1600s, because they came from marshlands.

The word ‘hug’ has no equivalent in French, because they don’t.

Pop Culture

Jim Morrison’s grave is more popular than: Chopin, Proust, Modigliani and Oscar Wilde’s.

Paris has both a Museum of Carnival Arts and one of vampires.

Of course we have to mention the gorgeous, the talented, the haunting Edith Piaf. Many people don’t realize she wrote the famous song “La Vie en Rose” herself.

The Elvis song ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ used the melody from the French song “Plaisir d’Amour” by Jean-Paul-Égide Martini.

And for our last French fact, we’ll leave you with the first sci-fi film ever by the genius, Marie-Georges-Jean Méliès from 1902: A Trip to the Moon. Amuses-toi bien!

“Laugh, my friends. Laugh with me, laugh for me, because I dream your dreams.” -Georges Méliès

Do you have any actually interesting facts about France to add? Please do in the comments below!

 

Photo/Image Credits:

Eiffel Tower: Tristan Nitot, French Waiter: Zoetnet, Pet Cemetery: Wikimedia Commons: Antique Postcard, Cher Ami: Brianhe/U.S. Signal Corps Archives, Paris Street: Mel Schmitz, Napoleon: Paul Delaroche, Goths: Alan Johnson, Bookshop: Beuh LIEU SONG, Spa: Romaineolas, Putin: premier.gov.ru

 

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