The French culture and that of its people was molded by the country's geography and diverse historical events, as well as by internal and external forces and groups. In particular, Paris emerged as the center of exquisite culture and the arts in the 7th century, first for Europe and then the world. In the 19th century, It extended its influence into the realm of cinema, fashion and cuisine
Effects of foreign cultures on French culture
True to the French history of countless invasions and occupations, France has become a melting pot of diverse peoples and cultures somewhat akin to that of the American situation, both past and present. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to prevent the existence and degree of cultural diversity in France, given the different nationalities within its boundaries. Major influences affecting French culture include the following:
- After the introduction of protective measures by the French government to promote a pure French language, regional and socio-economic forces have worked against them. Distinct regional languages still exist which include Breton, Alsation, Roman and Occitan. The Basque language, which exists within France has no direct connection with French or any other language. The survival of these languages is a threat to the creation of a pure and unifying language for the whole country.
- Religion also impinges directly on French culture. The traditional "catholicity" of France has been diluted by the intrusion and practice of different religions. Paramount among these are Islam, practiced by immigrants from North and West Africa and Turkey. Judaism is another religion with mainly Jewish adherents who have also found a haven in the country. The Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants who were granted permanent citizen status have their Buddhist religion. These enrich and diversify the French religious landscape.
- Ethnicity can be a powerful divisive factor as it has been in France. About 94% of the population holds French citizenship and most of these citizens have French ancestor by their connections with their Frankish forebears. Despite recent and continuing attempts to forge a united country, there are still small groups of Flemings, Catalans, Germans, Armenians, Gypsies, Russians, Poles and others in the country. The largest resident groups of immigrants comprise the Algerians, Portuguese, Moroccans, Italians, Spaniards, Tunisians and Turks. A situation which leans heavily towards the creation of a diversity of cultures.
- Regionalism is yet another factor which has influenced culture. France is literally settled with a variety of regional cultures that have distinct displays of fashion, religious observation, language, accent, family structure, food, leisure and industry among others. They continue to survive despite population drift from the rural country sides to urban cities. France's overseas departments or possessions also indulge in their own cultures with little interference except for the application of French laws. A huge gap also exists in the lifestyle, socioeconomic status and world view of metropolitan Paris and the emerging provincial regions.