France is one of the most modern and highly-developed countries in the world. It has one of the largest economies, and the country is a leader among European nations. France is a country that continues to be proud of its rich history and independence. Meanwhile, French leaders are increasingly seeking to tie the future of France to the continued development of the European Union.
France has a surface area of over 550,000 km2 (215,000 miles2), including overseas territories. This makes it the largest country in Western Europe. Due to its overseas departments and territories scattered worldwide, France possesses one of the largest Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) in the world, covering over 11,035,000 km2 (4,260,000 miles2).
It lies on the western edge of the continent of Europe and shares its borders with six neighbouring countries: Belgium and Luxembourg to the north; Germany and Switzerland to the east; Italy to the south-east and Spain to the south-west.
The geographical position of France gives the country two salient advantages. On the one hand, partly due to its excellent communications network, it is a crossroads at the heart of the European Union. It is linked to the east by the vast industrial and urban area stretching from the mouth of the Rhine, which forms the border with Germany, and to the plains of the Po River in the north-west. On the other hand it is within easy reach of the industrial centres of the United Kingdom and to the south it forms an integral part of the Mediterranean arc running from Catalonia to central Italy. The French coastline provides access by sea to Northern Europe, America and Africa via the North Sea, the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean, which are amongst the world’s busiest waterways.
France has one of the highest populations in the European Union in 2013 it was over 65 million people. This number includes over 4 million foreign residents and immigrants who live in France.
French is the national language of France and is highly regarded as a symbol of the culture. The people of France generally prefer to speak and be spoken to, in French. Regional dialects found in certain areas include Alsatian (a German dialect), Flemish, Breton, Basque, Provencal, Catalan, and Corsican; however, these are declining in usage. In addition, the large immigrant population brings numerous other languages, adding to the ethnic diversity of France.
About 84% of the French population is Roman Catholic. In addition, 8% are Muslim (mainly North African immigrants), 2% are Protestant, and 1% is Jewish, while 4% are unaffiliated with any religion or church. The church and State have been separate since 1905.
France is in the Central European Time (CET) zone. French Summer Time starts from March and ends in October days vary dependent on the year but usually these are the last Sundays of the month.
France can be divided into three broad climatic regions. The oceanic region in the west experiences very little temperature change between summer and winter, and has rain year-round. In the north eastern and interior areas, including Paris, the climate is continental, with cool winters, warm summers, and a distinct spring and autumn. Southern France has a Mediterranean climate, with warm dry summers and mild, often wet, winters. ‘Le mistral’, a cold dry northerly wind blows into the southern region often for days at a time in the winter and spring and comes from La Vallée du Rhône near Lyon.
France is a diverse country, this is due to its large geographic area and regional differences as well as being a consequence of immigration resulting from France’s colonial past.
France has played an important role for centuries as a cultural centre and is noted for its cosmopolitan, civilised approach to life, combined with a great concern for style, fashion and appearance. France’s distinguished individuality is an important cultural characteristic that is encapsulated by the French passion for uniqueness and freedom of opinion, both in society and in business.
One aspect of French culture that has a major influence on business in France is the country’s attention to rules and regulations. The French have a low tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity, which, for those wishing to conduct business there , is significant in that they are reluctant to take risks.
France has always played a crucial part in both European and World events. After experiencing two World Wars, the loss of an Empire and numerous political and social upheavals, France has emerged as a vital component in the European Community with a strong sense of pride and heritage. Today, the French business market boasts a variety of international investors and is an important world supplier of agricultural and industrial products. The country also demonstrates one of the highest rates of economic growth in Europe. However, for those wishing to enter the French business environment, an understanding of the country’s culture is vital .