15 Odd Facts About France

categories: europe travel


France is the most visited country in the world with over 79.5 million guests in 2011. A number of those visitors are from its neighbors in Europe but people all over the world are drawn to the culture, history, art and of course the food of this popular country.


Roquefort, Raclette, Camembert, Port Salut, Brie, Munster, and Neufchâtel, are all popular French Cheeses but they are only the tip of the cheese iceberg in France which boasts 350-400 different types of cheese. Just think you could have a different cheese each day of the year.


While English may have become the, now ironically named, Lingua Franca of the world French is still an official language in the UE, the EU, as well as in the International Red Cross, the International Labor Organization, Amnesty International, and Doctors without Borders.


You may know that the hot-air balloon, photography (Daguerreotypes), the Concorde and the bicycle were invented in France, but did you know that the French also brought us Velcro, the oboe, Etch a Sketch, modern dentistry, asperin, neon lights, the modern bra and roulette.


French chemists discovered Hydrogen, Beryllium, Chromium, Gallium , Fluorine , Europium , Polonium, Radium and Oxygen.

Canned Foods

The French are known for their love of fresh and seasonal food but it was a frenchman who actually invented preserving food via “canning”. Nicolas Appert won a 12,000 franc prize offered by the French military for this discovery. The military needed preserved foods to feed the huge armies of Napoleon. Appert did not use cans but glass containers including Champagne bottles.

Not French

None of French fries, french toast and croissants were invented in France. (The croissant was invented in Vienna to celebrate a defeat of the Ottoman Turks).

L’Académie française

Unlike English there is an official version of French decided by the L’Académie française. It was started by Cardinal Richelieu in 1635. The 40 members of the academy tend to recommend french words instead of often more popular English words. For instance, they recommend logiciel instead of software and courriel instead of email. mot-dièse instead of hashtag, entraineur instead of coach, passer une audition instead of casting. Appointment to the academy is for life and its members are sometimes known as “immortals”.


According to the Durex Global Sex Survey 2004, the French have more sex in a given year than anyone else. The average French person will have sex 137 times a year, the average American 111 times and the world average 103 times (in Japan the average is 46 times).

Eiffel Tower

You can’t legally take a picture of the Eiffel tower at night and then publish it. According to the official Eiffel Tower website “Permission and rights must be obtained from the “Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel” for the publication of photos of the illuminated Eiffel Tower.”

When the tower was first erected, many if not most Parisians hated it and thought it was ugly. It was originally supposed to be temporary (20 years), but Eiffel, rather brilliantly, made the tower useful to the government by installing radio transmitters. Radio jammers on the tower may have slowed the German advance in WWI.


There are thousands of castles, or chateaus, in France, perhaps as many as 20,000. The Loire Valley is the best known region for castles and palaces but castles, walled towns and palaces can be found all over the country.


The two piece bathing suit that we now call the Bikini was invented by two French designers in the same year. Jacques Heim called his suit “l’Atome”, but despite being first designer Louis Reard’s “Bikini”. He supposedly named the atom-sized suit after the recent atomic testing the Bikini Atol.


French typists can use the phrase “Allez porter ce vieux whisky au juge blond qui fume un havane.” to warm up as it contains every letter in the alphabet. The phrase means “Take this whisky to the blond judge who is smoking a cigar.”

Bastille Day

The French celebrate July 14th, Bastille Day, as Americans celebrate July 4th. It commemorates the storming of a notorious prison by crowds of Parisians and marked the start of the downfall of the power of the king during the French Revolution. You would think that since the French still celebrate Bastille Day that the old prison was full of political prisoners freed by the mobs, but on the day it was stormed there were only 7 prisoners and 4 of them were there because of check forging.

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by Chris Christensen

I am the host of the Amateur Traveler. The Amateur Traveler is an online travel show that focuses primarily on travel destinations and what are the best places to travel to. It includes both a weekly audio podcast, a video podcast, and a blog.

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