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STUDY IN France - About France


General Information   |   Geography    |   Government   |   Communication


General Information

Area: 547,030 sq km

Official name: French Republic

Capital: Paris

Government type: republic

Population: 59,765,983 (July 2002 est.)

Languages: French 100%, rapidly declining regional dialects and languages (Provencal, Breton, Alsatian, Corsican, Catalan, Basque, Flemish)

Official Currency: euro (EUR)

Currency code: EUR

Climate: generally cool winters and mild summers, but mild winters and hot summers along the Mediterranean; occasional strong, cold, dry, north-to-northwesterly wind known as mistral

Ethnicity / Race: Celtic and Latin with Teutonic, Slavic, North African, Indochinese, Basque minorities

Religion: Roman Catholic 83%-88%, Protestant 2%, Jewish 1%, Muslim 5%-10%, unaffiliated 4%

Time: GMT + 1 (GMT + 2 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October).

Electricity: 220 volts AC, 50Hz. Two-pin plugs are widely used; adaptors recommended.

Health: Visitors to forested areas should consider vaccination for tick-borne encephalitis.
Rabies is present. For those at high risk, vaccination before arrival should be considered. If you are bitten, seek medical advice without delay. For more information, consult the Health appendix.

Tipping: A 12-15 per cent service charge is normally added to the bill in hotels, restaurants and bars, but it is customary to leave small change with the payment; more if the service has been exceptional. Other services such as washroom attendants, 10 ten to 15 per cent of the meter fare.

Customs: It’s hard to generalise about France – as Charles de Gaulle once remarked, ‘how could one describe a country which has 365 kinds of cheese?’ Yet there is something about this magnificent land which draws millions of francophiles back year after year for a taste of la vie française.

There is no denying that France is a land of great contrasts, offering an endless choice of enticing destinations, a rich diversity of landscapes, cuisines, climates and peoples, with an exceptional cultural heritage. It’s easy to see why the French stay at home for their holidays and why they so felicitously call their country La Belle France.





Location: Western Europe, bordering the Bay of Biscay and English Channel, between Belgium and Spain, southeast of the UK; bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Italy and Spain

Geographic coordinates: 46 00 N, 2 00 E

total: 547,030 sq km
Water: 1,400 sq km
Land: 545,630 sq km note: includes only metropolitan France; excludes the overseas

Coastline: 3,427 km

Maritime claims: contiguous zone: 24 NM
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM (does not apply to the Mediterranean)

Territorial sea: 12 NM

Climate: generally cool winters and mild summers, but mild winters and hot summers along the Mediterranean; occasional strong, cold, dry, north-to-northwesterly wind known as mistral

Terrain: mostly flat plains or gently rolling hills in north and west; remainder is mountainous, especially Pyrenees in south, Alps in east

Elevation extremes: lowest point: Rhone River delta -2 m
highest point: Mont Blanc 4,807 m

Natural resources: coal, iron ore, bauxite, zinc, potash, timber, fish

Natural hazards: flooding; avalanches; midwinter windstorms; drought; forest fires in south near the Mediterranean

Environment - current issues: some forest damage from acid rain (major forest damage occurred as a result of severe December 1999 windstorm); air pollution from industrial and vehicle emissions; water pollution from urban wastes, agricultural runoff

Geography - note: largest West European nation




Government Structure: The President – who has unusually wide executive powers – is elected by direct popular vote for a 7-year term. Legislative power is held by a bicameral parliament: the 577-member National Assembly, elected for a 5-year term, and the 321-member Senate. Senators are elected for 9 years with one third of the seats coming up for re-election every 3 years.





Telephone: Full IDD is available. Country code: 33. Outgoing international code: 00. Card-only telephones are common, with pre-paid cards bought from post offices and tabacs. International calls are cheaper between Mon-Fri 2230-0800 and Sat-Sun 1400-0800. Calls can be received from all phone boxes showing the sign of a blue bell.

Mobile telephones: GSM 900 and 1800 networks cover most areas. The use of mobile telephones is prohibited at petrol stations.

Fax: Services are widely available; many hotels and all post offices have facilities.

Internet: Public access is available at Internet cafes. Local ISPs include wanadoo (website:

Post: Stamps can be purchased at post offices and tabacs. Post normally takes a couple of days to reach its destination within Europe. Post office opening hours: Mon-Fri 0800-1900, Sat 0800-1200.

Press: There are many daily newspapers, the most prominent being Le Monde, Libération, France-Soir and Le Figaro. The main English language daily is the International Herald Tribune. Outside the Ile-de-France, however, these newspapers are not as popular as the provincial press. International newspapers and magazines are widely available, particularly in the larger cities.

Radio: BBC World Service Website: From time to time the frequencies change and the most up-to-date can be found online.


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