Annie and Elyse have a lot to say about why life in France is wonderful. Here’s a summary:
#1 France has a rich history of cultural heritage
France is not the only country that has a long and document history and cultural heritage, but we do have it. There is such a thing as a French identity.
#2 France has world class cuisine and wine
French people care about their food more than most people in the world. Families still eat together once a day. Even cafeteria food is pretty good in France! Plus France has amazing regional specialties as discussed in Episode 311, Episode 193, and Episode 17. There are changes happening in France because very few people drink wine at every meal they way they used to.
#3 France has a high-quality health care system
If it’s not the best health care system in the world, it is one of the best ones in the world. Why? Because you don’t have to be wealthy to be well taken care of. In France, a hospital doesn’t look like a resort, but the doctors and equipment are great and they take their time.
#4 Beautiful and diverse landscapes
Not all of France looks picture-perfect, but much of it does. And we enjoy well-maintained roads to enjoy the varied landscapes. We don’t have tropical or deserts in mainland France, but that’s about it.
#5 Excellent public transportation
Large cities in France have good public transportation systems, rural places not so much unless you intend to go into the city to spend the whole day like to go to high school or to see a medical specialist. French TGV trains are often more expensive than budget airlines and the most expensive in Europe. They’re going to have to do something about that if we want people to drive less!
#6 Strong focus on work / life balance
French people work plenty, but they are not obsessed with work. Friends and family time is sacred. Vacation time is really important to French people as well. There are lots of young French people who choose their profession based on how easy it’ll be to take time off work.
#7 Renowned art and architecture
We talk about art and architecture all the time. French museums make an effort to include as many people as possible. Starting with pre-school, kids go to museums with their teachers and museums have programs for them.
#8 Many UNESCO World Heritage Sites
We’ve also talked about this on the podcast many times, especially in Episode 269. The only country that has more is not Italy but Spain. We need to get a few more to be on top again!
#9 High standard of living and social welfare
Most people in France have a good standard of living due to good health care, free education (even if it’s not the best in the world any more), the ability to buy their own apartments or homes. But French people don’t rush to buy the newest and best of everything. It’s not a society heavily based on consumerism.
#10 Multicultural society with a wide variety of traditions
France is not as multicultural society as ChatGPT thinks. Things are changing, but it’s not well accepted by a portion of the French population. France was a colonial country and you can tell to this day. We’re also terribly stubborn about not letting people show their religion in their dress. French people are not ready to move on about that.
#11 World-leading fashion and design industries
Neither of us is very interested in fashion, so it’s possible we are relying on old information. But if you walk on Rue Montaigne between the Champs Elysées and Alexandre III bride in Paris you run into a lot of fashion houses. And Fashion Week is a major even in Paris every year.
#12 High-quality education system
ChatGPT might be over-estimating France here again. France’s educational system was top-notch 40 years ago. It’s still OK but needs a lot of investments and changes of attitudes. The French system is too rigid and set in its ways for its own good. All kids go to school in France, even in poor families. You can get a University degree for free in France. You have to qualify to get in, but once you’re in it’ll only cost a couple hundred euros to register per year.
#13 Beautiful cities and charming villages
It’s impossible to go anywhere in France and not find at least a few charming villages. The suburbs around Paris are not beautiful because they were built up to provide affordable housing for folks who work in Paris. They lack charm and people don’t stay after they retire. But as soon as you get away from the suburbs of Paris there are villages and small towns with character.
#14 Mild climate with distinct seasons
This is not true ChatGPT! There are parts of France where the climate is mild, but many where it is not. Some parts of France get very hot and it seems to be getting worse with climate change. Although so far the summer of 2023 has not been to horribly hot so far except in the south eastern half of France.
#15 Vibrant art scene including film, music and theater
France does not put out the big blockbusters most years, but we do have an active and creative movie industry. We can say the same about music and theater. It’s not the same size and money as Broadway or Hollywood, but we have good quality productions all over France.
#16 Stong sense of national pride and unity
This is another one where ChatGPT lacks nuance according to us. French people don’t have flags out the way you see them in America. There is strong nations pride, but it doesn’t take the form of flag waving. And there is a sense of pride but it’s about making sure the country stays a certain way and does not embrace too much change. Perhaps national pride comes with rigid notions of how things are supposed to be.
#17 Access to fresh locally sourced produce
Yes, you can buy fresh locally grown food everywhere in France. It’s not cheap, but you can find it easily. We have farm-to-market stores in lots of communities in France. But they only sell what’s in season. French people pay attention to where their food comes from in terms of how far it comes from and work conditions in those countries. That’s a privilege that comes with having bigger food budgets.
#18 Outdoors recreational opportunities
There is no doubt that France is full of places where you can walk, run, ride, hike, climb, ski, etc. Annie particularly enjoys walking paths that you can find everywhere in France. And French cities are very walkable of course. In rural places you used to have to share the road with cars, now you can walk or ride on a “voie verte” and it’s wonderful.
#19 Proximity to other European countries for easy travel
This is huge because in Europe you can drive a few hours and be in a different country. Even within France we have some chain restaurants and chain stores, but we still mostly have one of a kind restaurants and boutiques. You can be in a place with a different language, different lifestyle, different food very quickly.
#20 Rich literary and philosophical tradition
France has the highest number of laureates for the Nobel Prize in Literature, but Germany is not far behind. We have a philosophy exam in philosophy, so it’s part of general culture in France even if it’s basic.