France controls, monitors and promotes its own culture through its National Ministry of Culture. The Ministry works to preserve the many aspects of French culture and divides the country into 29 separate regions. Each region has a specific history, dialect or language, cuisine and heritage unique to its own inhabitants. There is a pride in the culture and all its elements that is seldom equaled elsewhere in the world.
The French consider themselves direct descendants of the Franks and Gauls who once roamed Western Europe as tribes. Many modern French continue to feel anchored to their homeland through ties with a specific region or local culture rather than as a part of its larger, more homogenous cities where they may work or reside. This in part explains the French perception of local food and wine as near-sacred elements in culture and life. French culture is largely based in the ideas of the French Revolution.
The French language is perhaps the most important element in the preservation of a national heritage. It is the official language of France and is the only language recognized by the French government for matters of public record although many local languages and dialects like Basque and Provençal remain in use on a regional or local level. The purity of the French language is protected by the Ministry of Culture, whose task it is to keep incursions from other outside languages like English to a minimum. For example, when American cultural influences like movies and music force English words and slang into the French lexicon, efforts are made to quell their use and revert attention to the French language equivalents.
French cuisine is a representation of centuries-old traditions, a celebration of local customs and crafts and a nod to the agriculture and farmlands that make up the "real" France. The French treat their food as an expression of the nation itself and as such, it has become one of the most respected major cuisines in the world today. There is a focus placed on quality ingredients, fresh preparation and of course, great wines. Each region of the country provides its own specialties, and each remains as individual as the people who reside there.
France is a country where manners are of the utmost importance. Greetings are expected whenever meeting another, and etiquette enters into nearly every aspect of daily life. Basic table manners are analyzed whenever the French wish to gauge your upbringing, and gifts should always be offered when entering someone's home. If you should have dinner with French friends, expect to go dutch on the bill no matter who ordered what.
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