France, and in particular Paris, has played an important role as a centre of high culture and decorative arts since the seventeenth century, first in Europe and then, from the nineteenth century on, worldwide.Today’s France is a melting pot of diverse cultures.

From the late nineteenth century, France has also played an important role in cinema, fashion and cuisine. The importance of French culture has waxed and waned over the centuries, depending on its economic, political and military importance. Today, many people from Africa, Asia and other European countries have made France their home, forming a rich and diverse culture.

Modern French Culture
France is definitely a product of the times, and its contemporary artists regularly win awards: examples are Marion Cotillard, Oscar winner for best actress in 2008 ; Jean-Marie Le Clezio, literature Nobel Prize winner in 2008, and Michel Houellebecq France’s best-known living writer (translated into30 languages).

Electronic music
France excels in electronic music. Since the 80’s with Jean-Michel Jarre, the « French touch » is renowned worldwide. Artists like Air, Daft Punk, Justice, Martin Solveig, David Guetta or Bob Sinclar put on sell-out performances throughout the world.

Festivals
Every year, there are many music festivals (Les vieilles charrues, les Francofolies, Jazz in Marciac, Eurockéennes de Belfort), as well as theatre festivals (Avignon) or photo festivals (Arles) in France.

Cinema and photography
France’s cinema tradition goes back to the creation of this art in 1895 by the Lumière brothers. The annual Cannes festival is a major event for all cinema professionals. French directors enjoy great success: Jean-Pierre Jeunet, director of the movie Amélie, won the César award for best film in 2001. Alexandre Aja enjoyed international success with Piranha 3D and so has Luc Besson with his movies Léon and The Fifth Element.  Raymond Depardon, Yann Arthus-Bertrand, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Bettina Rheims achieved a worldwide reputation in the 20th century.

France also has 2,059 movie theatres spread out throughout its territory.

Architecture and design
Many major architects are French: Gustave Eiffel (Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty), Le Corbusier, Jean Nouvel (Louvre Abu-Dhabi, Quai Branly museum), Charlotte Perriand, Andrée Puttman, Philippe Starck are among the most famous designers of our time.

Modern art
In addition to famous 20th century artists such as Pierre Soulages, Yves Klein, César,
Marcel Duchamp etc., modern foreign artists are also exhibited in France, such as Takashi
Murakami in the Château de Versailles in 2010.

Cultural Identity
France still retains its own unique appeal when it comes to culture, tradition and the French language. The once segregated local customs arising out of regional differences have matured to become a cultural identity that is unique to the wider heterogeneity. The French educational system, mandatory military service, state linguistic and cultural policies  and profound historic events, such as the French Revolution, the Franco-Prussian war and the two World Wars have forged a sense of national identity over the last 200 years.
 
Religion
In terms of religion, France is secular and dedicatedly adheres to the principle of 'freedom of religion', a political maxim enshrined in the Declaration of the Rights of Man 1789. Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Jews and atheists live in France and add to the essence of the French national character.

Islam is the second most widely practised religion in France, with about 5 million Muslims living there.

Cuisine
Few nations can boast the culinary quality, food history and gastronomic maps that have set world standards as France can. Traditionally, the height of French culture can be seen in its haute cuisine. Each meal is a celebration of all the senses, with each dish having been impeccably prepared and exquisitely presented. The formality of the whole eating process heightens the intensity of the sights, flavours and aromas. In November 2010, French cuisine was declared a “World Intangible Heritage” by UNESCO.

In any library’s cuisine section, the weightiest shelves are those with books on French cookery. Not surprising when one glances at such tomes as Curnonsky's Cuisine et Vins de France; Brillat-Savarin's La Physiologie du Goût; the epic 2,984-recipe collection of Auguste Escoffier; or the meticulous cataloguing of French food, techniques, and recipes by Antoine Carême.

Surprisingly, most French food is rustic, hearty and comforting. With the country undergoing periods of political turmoil and economic hardship during times of war in its early history, French cooks learnt to use whatever ingredients they had at hand, and to make the most of them.

Cheese and wine may be seen as the province of the true epicure, but they are also enjoyed by every French person on an everyday basis. France produces some of the finest wines in the world.

In a nation that honours chefs with the Légion d'Honneur – the highest decoration in the country – it is not surprising that the taste for powerful food begins from very young at the family table, and that  the arts of the kitchen begin with Maman (mother).