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France - Overview
Population: About 60 million
France is one of the world’s most popular destinations for tourists and millions of people visit each year. The capital is Paris, which is one of the most famous cities in the world, thanks to its romantic history and plentiful tourist attractions and the country’s location in Europe makes it very accessible. Expats are being drawn to France all the time, with British, US and German citizens making their homes there.
The country has a population of almost 65 million people and there are large areas of the country which are sparsely populated, which helps to make it popular with expats who are looking to retire or who are interested in country living. Paris alone has a population of more than 2 million people and other major cities include Marseille, Lyon, Nice, Bordeaux and Strasbourg. The country sits in the GMT+1 time zone.
The country is divided into regions, with 22 on mainland France and 4 overseas. Each one has its own character, local specialities and attractions. Each region has its own local authorities and towns have their own councils. Some regions have their own airports and budget airlines run flights from all over Europe to France, helping to make the country more attractive to those who want to move to the area.
France is part of the Euro-zone, having changed its former currency for the single European currency. The main language is French, although in areas near the borders Spanish, Italian and German can all be heard. The immediate neighbours are Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Italy. There are also a number of regional languages and dialects such as Breton. Some of these are still in use today but many have died out over the years as people move from one area to another. Standard French spoken in the border regions will pick up the influences of other languages and will form a dialect that is difficult to understand at first.
France is famous for many things and one of these is the cuisine. Food is part of the culture in France and the French take it very seriously. Staples such as croissants and baguettes can now be easily found everywhere in the world. Wine is also another major part of the French image. Large areas of the countryside are given over to vineyards and some French wines are much sought after. The country also reportedly has a different cheese for every day of the week. The cafe culture in the country has been emulated by many other cities which have tried to achieve the same culture with varying degrees of success.
Other things that the country is famous for include art and shopping. Many designers have made their home in France and French women are renowned for their sense of style.
France is also home to Europe’s two main mountain ranges. The Pyrenees forms a natural border between France and Spain and the Alps covers the borders between France and Switzerland and France and Italy. Europe’s highest mountain – Mont Blanc – can be found in the Alps and the country covers more than half a million square kilometres of land. The river valleys in the country boast some of the most spectacular scenery and the Loire, Rhone and Dordogne are all home to many famous chateaux.
If you prefer coastal locations there are plenty to choose from, with the northern coast having a similar climate to southern England, the Atlantic coast on the west of the country and the Mediterranean coast in the south. In total there are almost 3000km of coastline and the longest beach in Europe at more than 7 miles can be found on the Atlantic coast.
As the country covers such a large area there are different climatic conditions to be found in different areas, so no matter what you are looking for, France will have it, from the warmth of the south to the milder regions in the north.
France used to be a monarchy until the famous revolution in the 18th century. The country is now a republic and is governed by a President, Prime Minister and a cabinet of ministers. The country has one of the largest economies in the world and the French president is a powerful figure on the world stage.
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