Formerly, especially in the country, several generations lived in the same house: the couple and their children, their parents, and often also the grandparents. Marriages were generally settled long in advance by the family.
The life of families and the role of the family
We often talk about «modern" couple and «traditional" couple. In the example of "traditional" couples – often people aged over 50 years old - the woman doesn’t work, she is called "a housewife", takes care both of the house and of the children’s education. It’s the husband, who works, he earns the family living. Usually, he doesn’t do many of the household chores, except gardening and odd jobs. He’s the male authority, present in case of problems.
It’s different in the example of "modern" couple is different. The increase in female activities and 1970’s women's movements have settled more equal basis within couples, and mutual decisions are common place today.
Note : Job rate every March, except for the census ones till 2001, the change of series is meant by a *.
Field: people aged 15 up to 64 years old
INSEE, survey employment.
Family patterns have changed a lot since the end of the 1960s.
- Decrease in the number of marital unions
- Increase in co-habitation patterns,
- Increase in the number of divorces,
- Decrease in birth child number,
- Increase in one-parent families and blended families number,
- Increase in the number of people living alone.
The new couples
Having remained stable for 200 years, the marital union number fell by 25 % between 1970 and 1990; many of them, were second marriages (more than 16 % in 1989). The reasons of this phenomenon are of course sex liberation, and more widespread use of contraception: sexual life is admitted, there is no more forced marriage in case of pregnancy. (The young couple will marry later on) People tend to get married later and later. The legal union age is fixed to 18, but girls are allowed to marry at 15 only with their parents ‘agreement. It’s common use for a man to get married at 27, whereas it’s 25 for a woman. This would happen a little later in the Paris region.
Half of the couples, who are getting married, are used to living together before their union. It can be noticed that these new lifestyles, have replaced the former engagement .It is often referred as “trial marriage» which in most cases ends up with real marriage when the bride gets pregnant.
French families are used to giving a lot of parties. They could be quite different from one family to another one.
- Saint’s day : according to the person’s name
The members of the family may gather, or can simply give a present, a phone call, send an e mail to celebrate that day.
- Birthdays : the family often gathers, they have dinner and presents are offered.
- Baptism : Within many religious communities, it’s traditional to introduce the new born baby, this is baptism. On this occasion people gather on the worship place, then they share a dinner, and the new born child is offered presents.
- Marriage : the greatest moment for the new couples
- Funerals : family would gather too on that occasion; this isn’t so much in use because often families live far from each other, and because of cremation.
- Mother’s day : usually falls by the end of May, young children are used to preparing a gift or writing a poem at school for their mothers, the older offer a present , and the family gather for dinner.
- Father’s day : falls on a Sunday half June
- Grandma’s day : a new one, it has appeared fairly recently, falls in March.
- Valentine’s Day : lovers’ day, falls on 14 th February.
All these are important for the families, but they are also very businesslike patterns.
French people usually start their day around 7 a.m.
People usually have breakfast with either coffee or tea, or a bowl of cereals, bread slices with butter and jam and a glass of fruit juice.
The mother gets the children ready. She takes them to school or nursery school, and goes to work, her husband does the same.
The children often have school dinner at the canteen, because their mother hasn’t got time. The father almost never comes back home for lunch. To save time and get home earlier, many mothers have a light snack lunch.
School usually ends up at 5 p.m., often mothers would hire a nanny to take care of the children, especially when the work hours don’t fit, or they use the school nursery services.
However, the mother’s day is not finished yet. She has to prepare dinner, wash the children, and help them with their homework. Generally fathers come back late and the whole family meets for dinner and have a chat.
The children go to bed around 8.30 p.m.
The children represent the central axis of the family. The parents devote their free time to their children, and do their best to take care of them.
The parents plan their days according to their children. The number of children hasn’t stopped decreasing thanks to women’s work, and their desire for being independent.
Nevertheless, France is still the European country’s highest child rate (2 or 3). Besides, those last years, each Government has tried to establish a strong birth-rate policy.
France has got more than 61 million inhabitants, 59 million are metropolitans. It has got the highest population all over Europe.
It is mainly an urban one, it represents about 44.2million people (the actual population rate is 75.5%).
This is a fairly recent phenomenon since up to the middle of the xx century, France was mainly rural.
Today, 2/3 of the population live in urban areas.
2 French people out of 10 live in the Paris region, but except for Paris France isn’t a country of great cities. There are 3 main great cities: Lyon, Marseille, and Lille.
H however, a great many middle cities are scattered all over the French territory.
What is life like in French cities?
City centres which were not very populated by the end of the 60’s, are getting more and more Many heart city districts have been recently revamped , with pedestrians zones and diverse improvements.
Hence, it’s pleasant to live in French city centres. But actually, many citizens don’t live in city centres any longer, because it’s really expensive, so they live in the suburbs.
These suburbs are rather different according to the age of the population, the buildings, and the activities they offer.
Some are plain buildings or towers, others more or less wealthy private housing estate, amid industrial or commercial areas.
Finally, residential suburbs, situated at the city outskirts, are gradually gaining on rural grounds, same for technological and leisure parks.
It’s fairly easy to reach any areas, thanks to roads, means of transport, or communication links.
Today, French rural areas have known a renewal, and its population is stable, even if some rural zones are still losing people.
Life in the country is totally different from what it used to be.
What is life like at the country?
A car is a must, people who live in the country have at least one car, and they often go to town.
The old county life pattern doesn’t exist any longer; children often go to school into town, parents work and consume into town.
It’s easy to commute, and French people tend to use their cars more and more, in less time thanks to roads, motorways, TGV (HST), and means of transport.
In the country small businesses have been gradually disappearing, whereas multiplexes and malls have been blooming around villages.
Around 90% French people who live in the country have indeed a good access to any kind of modern services, and this about one hour away from their homes.
Life in the country has become a very modern one.
Countryside life isn’t only farming any longer, even if some areas are mainly devoted to farming such as ( Paris basin, Western France, and some mountainous regions.)
In France people would either live in the country because of farming reasons, but also because of residential reasons.
It’s pleasant to live far from the city centres.
It’s for leisure as well, since 60% country houses are in rural areas, but also for industrial and commercial reasons. (Multiplexes or malls).
French people share their leisure time between practising a sport, visiting family or friends, or going to the cinema.
They invite each other to lunch or dine, either at home or out .Mothers look after their children on Wednesdays, because it’s the school day off.
They spend their time going to the swimming pool, library, doing shopping, seeing a show, or playing games such as Scrabble, or Monopoly; but the great fad is video games.
Young boys, teenagers and sometimes children have become crazy about these new games and virtual world. Actually it’s a pity because they often lose the notion of the daily reality. Consequently, they do not play in the open air any longer, lose contact with the outside world, and become self centred.
The girls are more interested in electronic games e.g. karaoke’s with their favourite stars. TV has got a great impact too.
During the holidays, French people either go to the sea or to the mountains. They do some walking, and share time together, something rather difficult during the year. Others would stay home, enjoying family life.
France has got a large heritage; it is a rich historical and cultural country. French people‘s fault is to love their country too much, that’s the reason why they care little about other foreign nations, especially as far as languages are concerned.
France despite rather modern views has remained very traditional in its way of thinking. Indeed, contrary to the other European countries, some politics are still fighting against gay unions.
French people, especially the eldest still care very much for their traditions, such as their national anthem “the Marseillaise “, or their flag.
Finally, our nation composed of 22 regions, still cares for numerous traditions, e.g. “The Sète water jousting” (collective water sport) or “Saint Vincent Tournante “which takes place in Burgundy ( wine growers’ January celebration).
SOCIAL RELATIONS, ETIQUETTE, GESTURES
In France people would greet on different manners, usually people give each other a kiss – colleagues, friends, family.
In the Paris region people would kiss four times, in Burgundy just twice. On formal greetings people would just give a hand shake.
French people still take great care to doing these. Being courteous is important too, a gentleman shouldn’t go first in public places, but let a lady go first “ladies first “; on the contrary he should go first when a door has to be opened for example. When entering a room, it’s usual to say hello. The youngest should greet the eldest first. These are common good manners in France.
France is a multicultural country with many religions, and many different nationalities. There’s presently a strong anti discrimination policy toward the immigrants , since a lot of young well educated people had been often refused jobs, just because of their origins.