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National Geographic publishes around the world, so who better to point you to the most unusual, unique, and sometimes irreverent cultural traditions in their countries than the editors of our international editions? Each month a real insider reveals five favorites in this monthly series.
France
Editor

Who runs the show: François Marot, Editor

Name of the Game: National Geographic France

When it all started: October 1999

Where it all happens: Paris, France

Who makes it happen: A total of eight people including the editor

What goes out: Between 200,000 and 210,000 issues a month in France plus 40,000 more in Belgium and Canada

Best stress reliever: "On Fridays all the people from the magazine—plus any freelancers or interns who are around—get together for drinks in my office. It gives us an opportunity to socialize and get to know each other. And when positive results come in on the current issue, we have all the more reason to celebrate."

What’s great about the French: "We’re known for having very tough public discussions on politics. We can say whatever we like. ‘Political correctness’ makes it hard to do that in the United States or England, for example."

What’s great about France: "For our size we’re one of the most geographically varied countries in the world. France is surrounded by the English Channel, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea. We have mountain ranges, deserts, and huge forests. The country also benefits from the cultural influence of the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Switzerland."

France Globe


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France FlagFive Cultural Bests
Global Getaways Main

The editor’s choices of favorite national traditions are as diverse as France's varied geography:

1. Fest-Noz
"The people of Brittany claim loudly that they are Celt, and they’re very proud of Celtic traditions. That comes out every weekend when they celebrate Fest-Noz, or Celtic Night. Bretons of all ages form a circle and dance hand in hand to the music of bands playing Celtic jigs as well as traditional French gavottes and dañs plinn, a complicated chain dance. Everyone knows the steps, and they invite members of the crowd to enter the circle. When they work up a thirst, they drink lots of cider and Celtic beer."

2. Fête Nationale Parties
"The night before Bastille Day, celebrated July 14, every fire station in France sponsors a big ball for the public. They are formal affairs with lots of food, drink, and music, and they only cost a few euros to attend. In the larger cities, everyone looks forward to going from one fire station to another. They’re extremely popular."

3. Paris Air Show
"Every two years for ten days in June, Paris hosts an air show that displays the largest concentration of international aircraft in existence. Civilian airplanes, military craft, and rockets are on display, and many are demonstrated in the air for spectators. The most impressive airplane is the Russian Sukhoï 27. It is much bigger than American or French fighters, and it does things others can’t do. It can fly smoothly at very low speeds and go to Mach I in a few seconds. It’s really something to see. The next air show will be in June 2003."

4. Fête de la Musique
"The tradition of celebrating the summer solstice on June 21 with outdoor music festivals started in France in 1982 and spread to other countries. All over France, musicians perform in outdoor concerts. Most of the time events are free. The goal is to bring amateur musicians and the public together. All kinds of music is performed, from traditional to opera to rock. That night, all class barriers and cultural differences fall away and everyone has a great time."

5. Bullfighting Festival
"The bullfighting season in southwest France begins in spring and continues through summer. One of the most traditional methods of bullfighting takes place in the city of Vic-Fèzensac near the Spanish border. This year more than 100,000 spectators watched professional toreadors fight in a huge wooden bullring with more than 7,000 seats. The first bullfight was held here in 1894. The atmosphere is very lively. People have a great time drinking sangria, a red wine mixed with slices of fresh fruit, while cheering their favorite performers."

Photographs by Owen Franken (CORBIS, left), Bernard Annebicque (CORBIS, center) and Bo Zaunders (CORBIS, right)

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