11 Fun facts about France

France is famous for things like the Eiffel Tower, croissants, and the Palace of Versailles. But did you know that the French are the world’s best sleepers? Or that France has a law banning UFOs? Let’s look at some fun facts about la belle France.

Let’s eat…

The French love their food and wine. And why not?—they might just be the best in the world! With all those good things to eat and drink, it’s important to take the time to appreciate them. This may be why the French spend more time eating and drinking that anyone in the world—a whopping 2 hours and 13 minutes per day.

…And then sleep

All that time at the dinner table must tucker out the French, because they also spend more time sleeping than anyone else. While many of us struggle to find enough time to sleep, the French enjoy nearly 9 blissful hours a night.

Please come in

With such a pleasant lifestyle—all of that eating and drinking and sleeping—it is no surprise that France is the most visited country in the world, with nearly 90 million visitors a year.

Mayday, Mayday!

The international distress call “Mayday” has a French origin. In 1923, London’s Croydon Airport needed a distress signal that would be easily understood by all pilots and ground personnel. Because most of their flights were between London and Paris, they wanted a word that would be clear to both French and English speakers. Mayday was chosen because it sounds like m’aidez, or “help me.”

Another term used by pilots for emergencies—Pan-Pan—again comes from French, in this case en panne (“broken down.”)

Going in circles…

The British standardized the traffic circle decades ago, but it is France that has more of them than any other country, with half of the world’s total!

…and not stopping

With all those traffic circles, France doesn’t need many stop signs. But would you believe that the city of Paris, with miles and miles of roads, has only ONE?

Low carb?

The Little Prince is the best-selling French book of all time, followed by The Plague and The Stranger. No surprises there. But the book in fourth place is unexpected—The Dukan Diet, a gospel of low-carb eating. Do you remember it? Me neither.


Chloé oui, Nutella non

France used to have strict rules about baby names, but they’ve been loosened in the last few decades. Even today, however, you can’t call your baby anything you’d like. When a couple decided that their daughter should be named after the popular chocolate spread Nutella, French courts disagreed. Other names that have been rejected include Mini Cooper and Manhattan.

King for a day

Louis XIV, the Sun King, ruled France for a record 72 years. His descendent Louis XIX did not come close to matching this. In fact, he was France’s briefest-ever monarch, sitting on the throne for a mere 20 minutes.

Famous potatoes

If asked to name the most expensive foods in the world, you might come up with caviar and truffles and that sort of thing. But you probably wouldn’t think of potatoes. And yet there is a type of French potato that is so rare and delicious that it sometimes fetches a whopping $300 a pound—as much as Kobe beef.

ET go home

In 1953, during a spate of UFO sightings across France, the mayor of Châteauneuf-du-Pape passed a law banning “the takeoff, overflight, and landing of flying saucers” in the town’s territory. He further decreed that any UFOs found in violation of the law would “immediately be held in custody.” The law is still on the books and is widely supported…because it has been so successful. There have been no flying saucers in Châteauneuf-du-Pape since the law was passed!

Image Credits
1. Food and wine via Pixabay
2. Sleep via Pixabay
3. World tourism figures via Wikipedia
4. Mayday via Pixabay
4. Traffic Circle by Una Smith via Wikipedia
5. Stop sign by Bobby Hidy via Thelocal.fr
6. Dukan Diet via Amazon
7. Nutella via Pixabay
7. King Louis XIX via Wikipedia
8. Flying saucer via Ghost Theory

About the Contributor

Keith Van Sickle

I am a lifelong traveler who lives part of the year in Provence. I am the author of Are We French Yet and One Sip at a Time, as well as the upcoming An Insider’s Guide to Provence, all available at Amazon. You can follow me on Facebook,  Twitter and keithvansickle.com.

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