History: In 700-500BC the Celtic Gauls arrive in France. In 58-50BC Roman Emperor Julius Caesar defeats the Gauls and France becomes part of the Roman Empire until 476AD. French was ruled by kings for many centuries until the storming of the Bastille during the French Revolution in 1789. Then Napoleon becomes Emperor of the French Republic until he is sent to exile.
Nearly 20% of the territory of France lies outside Europe. These regions are known as "DOM-TOM" (overseas departments and territories), where over 2.5 million French citizens live.
French people cheek kiss to greet each others between family and friends, even between men. The number of kisses varies according to the region, from 1 (e.g. in the tip of Brittany) to 4 (e.g. Paris and most of the North), and occasionally up to 5 in Corsica.
Although French language is a direct descent of Latin, French people have some of the most diversified genetic make-up in Europe, with genes inherited from the Celts, the Basques, the Romans, the Franks and the Normands, which explains the wide physical diversity in French facial traits, as well as hair and eyes.
4.9 million foreign-born immigrants currently live France (8.1% of the country's population), including 1.2 million of other Latins (Italians, Spaniards, Portuguese), 1.5 million of Maghrebans (Moroccans, Algerians, Tunisians), and 570,000 from sub-Saharan Africa.
French used to be the language of the nobility and diplomacy all across Europe and in the Ottoman Empire, then the world's first real international language until English replaced it in the mid-20th century.
Metropolitan France counts several native regional languages : Alsatian and Lorraine German (both High German dialects), Occitan (incl. Gascon and Provençal), Oïl dialects (such as Picard and Poitevin-Saintongeais), Basque, Breton, Catalan, Corsican and Franco-Provençal.
French language is spoken by 270 million people worldwide, of which 120 million are native or fluent.
The variety of French spoken in Quebec, Canada, is a distant dialect from the French spoken in Europe, and sometimes hard to understand for French people.
The name 'France' comes from the Franks, a Germanic tribe that settled in the Western Roman Empire from the 2nd century, then took over most of Gaul after the collapse of the empire
The French state is one of the oldest in Europe; it was founded in 843.
The French 'Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen' of 1789 is the world's first universal declaration of human rights, applying not only to French citizens or "free men", but to all people in the world.
There are over 300 kinds of cheese made in France.
There are 28 categories of sites in France listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, including 3 Roman sites (Arles, Orange and Le Gard), 4 cathedrals (Amiens, Bourges, Chartres, Reims), 4 abbeys (Fontenay, Reims, Saint-Savin sur Gartempe and Vezelay), 8 historic city/town centres (Paris, Strasbourg, Lyon, Avignon, Le Havre, Mont-Saint-Michel, Provins and Carcassone) as well as numerous belfries, castles and palaces.
81 million tourists have visited France in 2013, more than in any other country in the world, and the figures keep rising year after year.
France has won the most Nobel Prizes for Literature of any country (13 so far) and the second highest number of Field Medals (mathematics) after the USA.