37 Fun Facts About France You Really Ought To Know

Did you know the guillotine was in use until 1977?

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1. The word "France" comes from the Franks, a Germanic people whose name in itself is derived from the Frankish "frank", meaning "free".

2. France spans twelve different time zones - more than any other country in the world - thanks to its overseas territories, which are dotted round the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, as well as the South American continent.

3. The two oldest cities in France are Marseille and Beziers, both built by the Greeks in the sixth century BC.

4. In France, eggs are brown, but in most other countries, they tend to be white. This is because French farmers use different breeds of hen.

5. France has the highest number of Nobel Prize In Literature winners of any country, with 15 (followed by the United States with 11, and the UK with 10).

6. Until 2012, there was only one "STOP" sign in the entire city of Paris. It was located at the exit of a building materials yard in the 16th arrondissement. Today, this stop sign is no longer there.

7. Thought France abolished monarchy with the revolution? Actually, there are several kings in France, if you take into account its overseas territories . Indeed, one such territory, Wallis and Futuna in the South Pacific, has three kings. These monarchs are paid for by the French state and they have authority over their respective territories.

8. The French army is the only army in Europe that still has carrier pigeons within its ranks. Kept at Mount Valerien near Paris, these pigeons are intended to be used for communication during major disasters.

9. Per-person, France is by far the most nuclear-powered country in the world, with 58 reactors for its 66 million inhabitants. Next comes Japan (54 reactors for 127 million ), and the United States (104 reactors for 319 million inhabitants).

10. France was the first country to introduce a public transport system. In the 1660s, "five-floor carriages" were a system of horse-drawn carriages circulating at a fixed time and on lines linking various neighborhoods of Paris. The concept was developed by Blaise Pascal.

11. Until World War II, France was on the same time zone as London. After occupying the country in 1940, Germany forced France to conform with Berlin time, and this change has never been canceled.

12. In France, traders are under no obligation to give change to their customers. According to the law, it is the customer who has to pay with the exact money.

13. In 1940, France and the United Kingdom briefly considered merging into one nation to face the German invasion. The project included common citizenship and a single parliament .

14. In France, trains run on the left - except in the eastern border region of Alsace-Moselle. Why? Because the area was German territory when the railway was constructed.

15. With 11 million km², France has the second largest maritime surface area after the United States. As some requests of France have not yet been validated by the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, the marine territory could even extend to an additional 1 million km².

16. France has the most powerful radar ship in the world. Called Monge, it was designed to be able to monitor the course of nuclear missiles. Its most impressive achievement to date: detecting a monkey wrench which had been lost in space by an American astronaut.

17. A number of French departments have changed names over the years. For example, Loire-Inférieure became Loire-Atlantique in 1957; Basses-Pyrénées became Pyrénées-Atlantiques in 1969; Côtes-du-Nord became Côtes-d Armor in 1990. In many cases these changes were made because the original names had taken on derogatory connotations.

18. France boasts more roundabouts than any other country. 30,000 in fact - which represents over half of all the roundabouts in the world.

19. The French municipality with the shortest name is Y, in the Somme department. Its inhabitants are known as Ypsilons.

20. France is McDonald's most profitable market outside the US, with more than 1,000 restaurants spread throughout the country.

21. In France, there are six municipalities that have a mayor despite having zero inhabitants . These villages were destroyed during World War II, but their mayors are responsible for assuring their maintenance.

22. France's longest border? Taking into account its overseas territories, it's actually Brazil, which runs alongside Guyana for 730km.

23. Alsace-Moselle, which maintains its own local legislation, is the only French region where December 26 is a public holiday.

24. Alsace-Moselle is also the only French territory where religious education is mandatory. This is because it was still German territory when the law regarding separation of Church and State was passed in 1905.

25. The most populous French department is Nord, with around 2.6m inhabitants.

26. And the least populated is Lozère, with around 80,000.

27. The oldest known construction in France is The Cairn of Barnenez, in Finistère, a 75m-long megalithic monument dating from the fifth millennium BC.

28. In France, there is a law which prohibits people from calling their pigs Napoleon.

29. In 2011, after a small concert, a piano stayed a few days at Montparnasse station waiting to be packed up again. Passersby began to play it. The whole thing proved so popular, SNCF decided to place pianos in other stations.

30. Today, there are about a hundred train station pianos spread across France.

31. In France, until 2012, it was theoretically illegal for a woman to wear trousers without official authorization.

32. In France, the guillotine was last used in 1977. Officially, it remained the mode of execution for people sentenced to death until the abolition of the death penalty in 1981.

33. Paris is home to the densest subway in the world, with 245 stations on 14 lines within an area of less than 90 km2.

34. France is the largest country in the European Union in terms of surface area.

35. French municipalities with snigger-incuding names include Chatte (French for pussy), Gland, Vulvoz, and Anus.

36. There are several "versions" of the French flag. The flag with a bright blue and bright red is common, but there is a version with a darker blue, which is usually displayed by town halls and public buildings.

37. There is also a specific version reserved for TV appearances by the head of state, with a much narrower white part, so that the face of the president should not be surrounded by white when seen in close-up.