Welcome to France
Before beginning your trip in this wonderful country, it is necessary to know some general data:
With its 550.000 square kilometres, it is the widest country of Western Europe (close to a fifth of the European Union surface), and it’s bordered by:
- The North Sea and the English Channel in the North-West;
- The Atlantic Ocean in the West;
- The Mediterranean Sea in the South.
- Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany in the North-East;
- Switzerland in the East;
- Italy and Monaco in the South-east;
- Spain and Andorra in the South-West.
The country possesses a wide variety of landscapes:
- Plains: 2/3 of the total surface;
- Mountains: the Alps (whose peak, Mont Blanc, is the highest point of Western Europe – 4.807 metres), the Pyrenees, the Jura, the Ardennes, the Massif Central and the Vosges;
- Coastal shores: opening upon 4 maritime sites (the North Sea, the English Channel, the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean sea), France possesses 5.500 km of shores.
The population of France is about 66,9 million inhabitants.
It is divided into 22 administrative regions; 96 metropolitan departments; 4 overseas departments (DOM): Guadeloupe, Martinique, Guyana, Reunion; 5 overseas territories (TOM): French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna, Mayotte, Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, French Southern and Antarctic Territories.
The French Republic is a laic State where all religions are represented.
French culture (architectural, linguistic, literary, cinematographic, theatrical…) reflects aristocratic and middle-class elite, especially Parisian, but also some regional differences as well as the influence of recent immigration. France has always attracted lots of international artists: the painters Dali, Picasso and Van Gogh, the writers Julio Cortazar, Henry Miller and Beckett, or fashion designers like Kenzo. French culture has been preserved and enriched as the years go by, opening and developing itself to countries abroad and France itself. Within the framework of the “Day of the Inheritance”, every year on the 3rd weekend of September, hundreds of prestigious historic buildings are exceptionally open to the public. But France is not just turned towards its past: over the last years, architectural projects of great importance have been completed, such as the “Grand Louvre” or the “Grande Arche”. From a quantitative point of view, French cinematographic production is the most important of Europe: Within the European framework, French films the ones that are exported abroad the most. Music has a great importance, too: the “Festival of Music”, created in 1982, has become an institution which marks the beginning of summer on June 21st: all the amateur musicians can improvise concerts in public places and cafés; as well as several professionals who play for free on that occasion. The idea has been taken up now in more than 100 countries out of the 5 continents. French literature is also put forward every year; once in May during ‘Le Salon du livre’ – “Book show” as well as in October when ‘Livres en Fête’ – “Book Festival” is held with many free demonstrations open to everyone.
Thanks to its gross domestic product (GDP), France is the fourth economic world-power. Its assets are varied: transport, telecommunications, food industries, pharmaceutical products, but also banking environment, insurance, tourism, and the traditional luxury products (leather goods, ready-to-wear, perfumes, alcohols…). France is the world’s fourth exporter of manufactured goods and the second concerning services and agriculture (in particular cereals and food industry). France’s most important economic sectors are:
France benefits from a rich and diversified land from which the French have always built on enabling them to compete with such ingeniousness and talent concerning their culinary talents. In spite of an increasing internationalisation of tastes and food habits, French people remain very attached to the quality of their meals, and the grand chefs de cuisine carry on the tradition of creativity and refinement through their teaching in culinary schools where trainees from all over the world attend the courses. France has many quality regional products: the most famous are its wines (Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne…) and its cheeses. It is said that in France there is a cheese for every day if the year, but there are undoubtedly many more!
Fashion Whether it is haute couture or ready-to-wear, fashion is a major field for French creators. More than 20 houses in France have the label “haute couture”, with great names such as Chanel, Dior, Yves St. Laurent… Many French civil servants benefit from this know-how: post-office employees, Air Europe hostesses, RATP agents, national museum guardians… they all wear uniforms drawn by the most famous dressmakers.
Luxury and perfumes
Since the 18th century, France has forged itself a solid name in the field of luxury accessories and in particular in that of perfumes (Chanel, Guerlain, Lancôme). The very famous “N°5” by Chanel represents 5% of the world perfume market.
Technologies and telecommunication
Since 1983, France Telecom placed at the disposal of French a rudimentary computer terminal connected to the telephone, the Minitel. France was thus one of the first consumers of services on line, well before the arrival of Internet. The TGV (High-speed train), the fastest train in the world, contributed in modifying the perception of the distances: A Parisian spends only three hours on the train, does 800 km and he is on the Mediterranean coast.
With 84,7 million foreign tourists in 2013, France is the most visited country in the world. If you want to stay more than 3 months in France, you must carry out some formalities:
- For a 3 month stay, a tourist visa is enough (or an identity card from the European Union);
- For more than 3 month stays, European members or not, it is essential to obtain a student residence permit. Acknowledge: students from outside of Europe who have a tourist visa cannot regularize their situation once in France.
Visa: There are various types of student visas:
- Short-stay visas for students: these visas allow their holder to study in France for a period of less than three months. The students who wish to follow a linguistic course or any other short length formation can apply for this visa which exempts its holder of residence permit on the territory and is not renewable.
- Long-stay visas for students which can be still shared in: Long temporary stay visas for studies: This visa allows its holder to follow studies lasting from three to six months in a public or private high educational establishment. It is not renewable and exempts the holder of a residence permit during his/her studies in France. The holder cannot remain more than six months in the country. Long-stay visas: This visa is granted to foreign students wishing to continue their training in a public or private high educational establishment for more than six months. It allows the holder to ask for a one year residence permit renewable in the prefecture of residence; this application must be asked for within the first two months after arrival in France. Obtaining the long-stay visa does not concern the European Union, Switzerland, Monaco, Andorra, San Marino or the Vatican. All other foreigners must obtain a long-stay student visa before leaving their country, at the French Consulate or Embassy. Once in France, this visa will allow them, to obtain a residence permit. Before making your application you must have dealt with the material organization of your stay in France: inscriptions, financing of your stay, housing…
The residence permit : All foreign students who come to France for more than three months, even if they come from a European Union country, must ask for a residence permit marked “Etudiant”. To obtain this permit, you must be registered in an establishment giving access to the “student” statute and to follow a minimum of 20h course per week. There is no official list of approved establishments giving access to the “Student” residence permit. It is each prefecture which grants or not its approval, on a case-by-case basis. In general, the courses carried out by universities, the Alliance Française or the Chamber of Commerce are approved. But it’s better to check it out with the prefecture.