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27 Interesting Facts About France You Should Know

[Estimated read time: 7 minutes]

If you love authentic wines, lavish food, glorious architecture or you are just in for a romantic vacation, the country of France is the place for you. The history of the Kingdom of France starts from 486 B.C, when the Germanic franks took over the region from the mighty Romans. In the 14th century, France established its authority in Europe after their historic victory of the Hundred Years’ War. The War had a significant role in the formation of a Unitary State in both the countries. The time passes and soon France flourished as the second biggest colonial power in the world. Today, France is among the powerhouses of the world’s economy. We have gathered some of the interesting facts about France that you will surely enjoy.

27. Its a Tourist Heaven

France is the most sought after country when it comes down to tourism. According to the World Tourism rankings published by the United Nations World Tourism Organization under their World Tourism Barometer publication, nearly 83.7 million international tourists visited the country in 2014, and in the next year it rises to 84.5 million with 0.9% of annual growth rate.

26. ‘Stop’ Sign Won’t Cause You Any Problem

The French capital, Paris has only one ‘STOP’ sign in the entire city. The only road sign that says ‘STOP’ in the city is situated at the exit of a building company in the 16th arrondissement. For a global city with nearly 3 million people living in urban areas, it seems a bit unusual, isn’t it.

25. Here You Can Marry a Dead Person

France is among the few countries in the world in which Posthumous marriage or necrogamy is legal. A marriage in which one of the participating members is deceased is known as Posthumous marriage. Alongside France, Sudan and China also practice a similar kind of marriages.

24. French Resistance Forces cutting off Eiffel Tower

When Paris fell to the German occupation on June 14, 1940, forces of the French resistance allegedly cut the elevator cables to the Eiffel Tower. This drastic measure was taken due to a growing fear in the French army that Hitler wanted to hoist a swastika flag on top of the Eiffel tower. Without cables, a German soldier would have to climb nearly 1710 stairs to the summit platform.

23. Hilarious Names

The world is filled with many hilarious things and especially names. In France, there is a town called Condom. Condom-en-Armagnac, is a commune in southwestern France in Gers. Also, there is a small village called “Pussy”. The small village of pussy is located in the commune of La Léchère in the Savoie département of France. In french, the actual word for pussy is Chatte and for condom it is préservatif.

22. They Started License Plates

License plate (or in some countries number plate) system was first introduced in France. On August 14, 1893, with the passage of the Paris Police Ordinance, license plates were put into the law.

21. Naming Napoleon (Weird Laws)

Here is a fact with a historic relevance, in France, it’s illegal to name your pig “Napoleon”.

20. France Was Once The Second Largest Colonial Power

Image credit: wikimedia

France once held more than 8% of the world’s total territorial land. The French colonial history is divided into two different segments “first colonial empire” that existed until 1814 and the “second colonial empire”, which began with the conquest of Algiers in 1830. It all ended after the end on the Second World War and after the independence of Algeria in 1962. The last nation to get independence from French rule is a small island in the south pacific ocean called Vanuatu in 1980.

19. The Oldest Bridge In France

The Pont Neuf is the oldest standing bridge in Paris, France. It was commissioned by Henry II in 1550, which was only completed in 1607.

18. French Republic Uses 12 Different Time Zones

French Republic uses 12 different time zones. It is the most of any country in the world. This fact may confuse you but it is true. The reason behind 12 time zones, which is 3 more than U.S.A is the French overseas territories which are scattered around the globe. The metropolitan France or European France uses only one that is the central European time, its her overseas territories that accounts for the rest of eleven.

17. The French Flag During the Bourbon Restoration

The tri-color French flag was once just plain white. During the Bourbon Restoration period from 1814 to the July revolution of 1830, Louis XVIII of France replaced the tri-color flag with a plain white one.

16. It Was Illegal To Wear Trousers For Women

In France, for 214 years, it was illegal in Paris for women to wear trousers. It was revoked in the year 2012.

15. In France, Beauty Pageants For Children Is A Punishable Offense

Beauty pageants for children under 16 years are banned in France. They are punishable by up to 2 years in prison and a €30,000 fine. To support this law a French official quoted “Let us not make our girls believe from an early age that their only value is their appearance.”

14. French In Africa

There are more people speaking French in West Africa than in France.

13. The Official Motto Of Paris

The official motto of the city of Paris is “Fluctuat nec mergitur”, meaning “She is tossed by the waves but does not sink.”

12. King of France For Just 20 Minutes

Louis XIX’s regime as the King of France was perhaps the shortest in the French history, which remained for just 20 minutes. Louis Antoine of France was the eldest son of Charles X. He became King of France for less than 20 minutes before he dethroned himself due to his father’s abdication during the July Revolution in 1830.

11. The French Foreign Legion

Image Source: WSJ

A member of the French Foreign Legion wounded while defending France can even apply for French citizenship as he became “French by spilled blood”. The French Foreign Legion is a unique military service branch of the French Army that enable willing foreign nationals to serve the country.

10. History Of The Louvre

Image credit: aflouvre

The Louvre is one of the oldest art museums in the world. It’s the home of Da Vinci’s famous Mona Lisa. But originally it was built as a fortress in the 12th century by Philip I to protect the city from possible Viking attacks. Recently, a glass pyramid was also built in front of the museum, which is also known as the Louvre pyramid.

9. Assassination Attempts

Louis Philippe I, king of the French from 1830 to 1848 survived seven assassination attempts. On most of the occasions, the conspirator was an ex French military officer named Giuseppe Marco Fieschi.

8. Cannes Film Festival Accident

The first Cannes Film Festival was called off after the screening of just one film due to the outbreak of WW2.

7. Democratic Republic of Congo Is The Largest French Speaking Country

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, a central African country is the most populated Francophone country in the world, not France. As per records, DR Congo has a total population of approx. 81 million French speaking nationals. On the other hand France has nearly 64 million people.

6. Grand Mosque Of Paris Helped Jews Escape The Nazis World War II

During the World War II, when France fell under German rule, the Grand Mosque of Paris helped Jews escape the Nazis by giving them fake Muslim identifications. You won’t find this in any history textbooks. But, a recent French film, called ‘Free Men’, brought to light the remarkable true story of how Muslims gave sanctuary to Jews in War torn France.

5. Recently, Inaugurated The World’s First Solar Panel Road

Photograph: Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA

Recently, in 2016 France opened the world’s first solar panel road, in a Normandy village. The road is 1km long, covered with 2,800 sq m of electricity-generating panels. It’s a part of a bigger project to produce electricity, which will provide power to street lights all over the country.

4. First Mayor of African Origin

Image source: huffingtonpost

The French capital was the first major western city to have a mayor of African descent. Severiano de Heredia served as president of the municipal council of Paris from 1 August 1879 to 12 February 1880.

3. The Power Of The French Military

Humiliation of the French military at the hands of Germans during the World War II did actually put a bad spot on rather decorated military history of the country. France actually has the best military record in Europe. Since 387 BC, they fought a total of 168 battles – they have won 109, lost 49 and drawn only 10.

Read: 51 Interesting World War 2 Facts

2. The Second Shortest Regime As A King of France

Image credit: wikimedia

John the Posthumous or John I of France was the King of France for just the five days he lived in 1316. Although considered a proclaimed king today, his five day reign was not recognized until historians in much later centuries started enumerating the John II, thereby acknowledging John I’s short reign. John I died at an age of merely five days but, the only one to be considered King of France since birth and the only French king to hold the title for his entire life.

1. In France, Everyone is Automatically an Organ Donor

Read: 21 Surprising Facts About Civil Wars

In some European countries like Spain, Belgium, Portugal and France every single citizen is automatically an organ donor, until and unless they refuse beforehand. Those citizens who do not want to be a future donor or want any of their organs to be used must register their name on a National Register of Refusal. According to a source, about 150,000 people have already signed up for the refusal register.