View Larger Map
Snapshot of France -The official language of France is French, though several other languages, such as German, Arabic, and Occitan, are spoken within the country as a result of immigration and influence from nearby countries. France is an increasingly irreligious country. About half the population is Christian (mostly belonging to the Roman Catholic church), but few people regularly attend church services. Over 40% of the population is irreligious. Among France’s immigrant population, Islam is the largest religion (representing about 3-4% of France’s total population). France has a rich history in the arts, and its museums attract millions of tourists each year. France also has strong traditions in literature, philosophy, science, fashion, and music. Modern musical styles such as pop, hip hop, techno, and rock are all popular in France. France has become an increasingly urban society, with many international influences also present in large cities; though traditional culture is preserved in more rural areas. However, the country’s history is everywhere: castles and hotels and even roman ruins pervade the landscape of southern France. Soccer is France’s most popular sport, though basketball, rugby, and Formula One racing are also popular. Cycling is also popular, with events such as the Tour de France.
Snapshot of Switzerland (part of France Lyon Mission) – Switzerland has four official languages – German, French, Italian, and Romansh, in that order. While German is the dominant language in the country, the western region speaks primarily French, and certain southern areas are dominated by Italian. Switzerland has become a more urban country, with lots of urban sprawl. The two largest religious denominations in Switzerland are the Roman Catholic Church (about 38% of the population) and the Swiss Reformed Church (about 30% of the population). About 20% of Swiss citizens have no religious affiliation, and the rest of the population is divided mostly between Islam and other Christian groups. Switzerland’s culture has been influenced greatly by its neighbors but has a history of military neutrality, especially during World War II.
The mountainous terrain has made skiing, hiking, and mountain biking popular parts of Swiss culture. As such, skiing, snowboarding, and mountaineering are some of Switzerland’s most popular sports, though soccer and ice hockey are also popular. Traditional folk music, some of which involves yodeling and traditional instruments such as the alphorn, still enjoys some popularity as well. Switzerland is famous for its cheese (including cheese dishes such as fondue and raclette) and chocolate. Other typical Swiss dishes include rosti, a fried potato dish often served with meat, cheese, or apple. Various types of tarts, quiches, sausages, and breads are also common parts of Swiss meals.
Snapshot of Monaco (part of France Lyon Mission) – The tiny country of Monaco has the highest population density in the world. French is the official language of Monaco, though Monégasque, Italian, and English are also spoken. About 83% of Monaco’s population is Christian, most belonging to the Roman Catholic Church. Another 12% of the population has no religion. There is also a small Jewish community. Auto racing is quite popular in the country, with events such as the Monaco Grand Prix and the Monte Carlo Rally being large annual events. Soccer is also popular. Seafood and fish dishes are popular thanks to Monaco’s location along the Mediterranean Sea. Most meals are served with rice and vegetables. Some popular dishes include Stocafi (cod fish with tomato sauce) and Barbagiuan (deep fried pastry filled with spinach or pumpkin and rice). Many French and Italian influences are also present.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been in France nearly since the Church’s beginning; John Taylor dedicated the country for the preaching of the Gospel in 1850 and translated the Book of Mormon into French in 1851. To date, there are nearly 37,000 members, 2 missions, 108 congregations, and 69 family history centers in France. Switzerland also contributes to the dynamics of the France Lyon Mission, with over 8,400 members in 36 congregations, 14 family history centers—and a Temple. Much of the Swiss population, however, is German-speaking, so only the western portion is included in the Lyon Mission.
In 2010 the France Lyon Mission was created by combining the existing France Toulouse Mission with most of the Switzerland Geneva Mission.
Traditionally, a French person would buy their food daily and fresh: a baguette (or several) just down the street, meat and produce at the market. Today there are also supermarchés (similar to US supermarkets) that have all of these fresh foods as well as frozen or prepared meals. Food and wine have long been an important part of French culture: dinner is generally a three-course meal. A soup or other appetizer is served first, followed by the main course, and then either a cheese course or dessert. The main course usually involves some type of meat and vegetables served with potatoes, pasta, or rice. Traditionally, lunch was the main meal of the day and the whole family would gather at home; children had a two-hour break from school. In today’s world, dinner is often the bigger meal. The French, like many Europeans, tend to eat later than North Americans, and restaurants are often open late.
Eating out at restaurants and bistros is quite popular. Vegetables, herbs, and meats used in cooking vary from region to region. Popular dishes include bisque, a creamy soup usually made with lobster or shrimp; and pot-au-feu, a type of beef stew with vegetables that is similar to a pot roast. Pâté (goose liver), caviar (fish eggs), escargot (snails), and lots of seafood tend to be popular. Several types of breads, such as baguettes and croissants, are commonly served as well. France is well-renowned for its pastries, notably “pain-au-chocolat,” a croissant-like pastry with chocolate inside. Crêpes are sold on the streets in two forms: crêpes sucrés (sweet) and crêpes sallés (salty, more similar to a tortilla).
It is customary when visiting the French in their homes (both Church members and non-members), for them to offer you a beverage; many meals also begin or end with the same offer. Commonly tea (“thé”; herbal tea is called “tisane”) or juices are kept on hand for this purpose. It is not usually considered impolite to request water, and often enough they offer “sirop” (flavored syrups) to go with water. Drink syrups are extremely popular and add great flavor to both water and milk. The herbal teas, hot chocolate, and juices are safe for missionaries to accept.
Missionaries should expect to walk, take public transportation, or bike (area-dependent) although certain areas have cars. In general, France has a fantastic public transportation system. Major cities often have metro lines and most urban areas are connected by TGV (rapid trains). There is often a bus system in the city.
A sister missionary advises, “The areas where sisters served were generally safe. On the metro in Lyon, if it’s crowded, try and be on the border of the rail car and not right in the middle. It’s better for balance… and for not getting touched inappropriately.” France overall has low rates of violent crime but higher chances of pickpocketing and petty theft, so be aware of how you carry yourself and your valuables.
France and its neighbors have traditions and values that date back centuries, even millennia. For instance, when entering or exiting a boutique it is impolite not to greet the store clerk (who is typically an owner or member of the family) with “Bonjour”; leave-taking is also important. France has a plethora of outdoor markets and farmers markets that take place weekly or bi-weekly. “Soldes” (sales) is a major event that takes place each January and July throughout France, with almost every store increasing sales on products for a period of several weeks.
Most French citizens migrate to the beaches or travel during the entire month of August, and many shops are closed. This is possible by the mandatory six weeks of paid vacation the French are allotted in a year! In winter, many travel to the Alps to ski and for other winter sports.
“Ouais” = common slang for “oui,” meaning “yeah” or “yes.”
Comfortable and sturdy shoes for walking in rain. An umbrella is nice, but can be purchased in the mission field. Winter coats may also be purchased there to fit in better with local styles.
The postal system is quite reliable. If your missionary is allowed to share their physical address with you, your letters and packages should arrive safely. Your missionary is guaranteed to get packages that arrive to the mission office address and are later distributed to the recipient.
Lyon Business Centre
59 rue de l’Abondance
Current mission blog: http://francelyonmission.blogspot.com/
Straight from the France Lyon Mission field:
*What items were hard to get or not available?
“Peanut butter, Root Beer, tortillas.”
“Peanut Butter, antiperspirant, Root Beer.”
*What did you eat the most of?
“Bread, Eggs, Cheese, Pasta, Ham, potatoes, and vegetables.”
“Cereals (they have a great variety!), yogurt, bread & cheese, soup, pasta, fruit juices, fresh market fruits and veggies, and Nutella.”
“Couscous, baguettes, goat cheese, fresh fruits and vegetables, cereal, yogurt, chocolate.”
*What is the craziest thing you ate?
“Sea urchin, escargo, horse.”
“Foie gras (“fat liver”; essentially pureed liver) was weird at first but it grew on me, in small doses, spread over bread.”
“The craziest was probably frog legs and escargot (hated the frog legs but loved the escargot). The grossest thing I ate was a very poorly made steak tar tar. I shiver just thinking about it.”
*What was most surprising about the culture?
“I did not expect France to be so dirty and smelly. All the picturesque photos do not prepare you for the layers and layers of history and dirt that you encounter there. [However,] the bread shops on every corner were extremely charming. Also, I loved that I could walk down a street and there would be a home with a keystone date of 1527 on the home and chicken in the front yard. It always amazed me that here they were living in a home that was 150 years older than America itself. Very unexpected.”
“The milk isn’t refrigerated before you open it. It is stored in boxes on regular shelves. That, and its taste, took getting used to.”
“How passionate the French people are, how many different cultures and nationalities I would meet and teach.”
*What advice would you give to someone going to the France Lyon Mission?
“Learn to love the good in the culture”
“Really understand that the people of France are resistant to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Between the culture, the wine, the smoking, the promiscuity, the socialist economy… all these things are working against you. That being said, I saw real miracles happen in real lives during my mission. Small miracles when we were able to comfort a mother who was grieving for the baby she lost who did not get baptized, or to tell a prostitute that she was special in God’s eyes, or to be a friend to talk to for an old inactive widow. There were also the large miracles of true conversion and life changing repentance.”
“The French aren’t as ‘cold’ as you may have heard; they just don’t take to strangers quickly—especially those who preach religion. For the most part, the French are very warm and loving with their friends and family. If they see you are willing to serve and befriend them, your chances of them opening up may increase. Before that, they don’t like to talk about personal things. In the U.S. it’s very normal to ask someone their name, details about their family, and it isn’t uncommon for strangers to open up to each other about personal things. In France it is not usually so! They love to talk about world issues, politics, philosophies, art, food—those things prevalent in their culture—before anything personal. So it’s a bit opposite from what I was used to. As I showed the French I loved their language and their culture, I felt more accepted. But always, of course, follow the Spirit because God knows when His children are ready to open up and receive Him through you!”
“Wait until you arrive in your mission to buy a winter coat. I bought a sleeping bag down coat that didn’t work out. I ended up buying a pea coat at a farmer’s market.” (This will also help you blend in with French styles and culture!)
*What do you wish you had known before you served?
“I wish that I had known how to temper my black and white personality and recognize that there was a lot of grey in the world. What I mean by that is that people cannot be classified as “good” or “bad”. They are all children of God existing in various levels of grey. Only God is truly white. If I had known that at the beginning of my mission, I would have had more compassion, more tolerance, and more success. I would have understood better then true mission of Jesus Christ and the love He has for his children. I would have also recognized that I still had worth even when I made mistakes. That is what I wish I had known.”
“I think it would have been nice to know that the French say they are ‘happy’ with the lives they lead, and so while the gospel does bring ‘happiness,’ the French need to see something else the gospel can do for them. It is very important to listen to them to figure out what they most need in life and figure out how the gospel can be hired to do the job! Do they need a loving community? (Church members, activities, YA Institute.) Do they need opportunities to serve, teach, testify, feel the Spirit? (Sunday School, invite them to VT/HT, service projects.) Tell them about and invite them to specific things that the Church and gospel offer that will make a marked difference in their beliefs and actions. Get them active before you get them baptized.”
“The work doesn’t progress if you are not striving to get along with your companion. No one is perfect. There are different ways of doing things. People will feel the Spirit if you and your companion are getting along and treating each other with kindness. Learn to laugh and make fun of yourself.”
“It is customary to call out ‘bonjour’ to store owners when you enter any establishment. I love that about France. Also, every meal begins with a polite ‘bon apetit!’ And get used to ‘la bise’ or greeting with the ‘cheek kiss.’ In different areas of France they kiss a different number of times, so pay attention! Some areas once or twice is enough, some go from cheek to cheek as many as four or five times. During my mission, I could only ‘faire la bise’ with other females and younger children, so leaning away from the eager men sometimes made for fun awkward moments!”
“There are many things that we can look back and regret in our lives. Many mistakes we can make that we wish we hadn’t done. We can choose the wrong spouse, the wrong college, or the wrong path in life. But one thing that you will never, ever regret is choosing to serve a mission for Jesus Christ.”
“I served in Annemasse, France for 6 months. The ward was so strong! Get to know the members who serve on the ward counsel and find out how you can help each organization. You will find opportunities to teach.”
**Did you serve in the France Lyon Mission (or the former France Toulouse or Switzerland Geneva Mission)? If so, we would love to hear your advice and your stories! Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.**