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Snapshot of France – The only official language of France is French, though several other languages, such as German, Arabic, Breton, Alsacien, and Occitan, are spoken within the country as a result of native provincial languages, 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, and over 40% of the population is irreligious. Among France’s immigrant population, Islam is largest religion (making up about 3-4% of France’s total population but increasing). France has a rich history in the arts and its museums attract millions of tourists each year; Paris itself has more museums than any other city. 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.
Since the early 1800s, France has become an increasingly urban society, with many international influences also present in other large cities; traditional culture is preserved more in more rural areas. Regional values remain strong outside of Ile-de-France (the province that houses Paris and its suburbs, where a full 20% of the population resides). 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. The French love fine cuisine and restaurants, boulangeries (bread shops), patisseries (pastry shops), epiceries (general markets), and loads of other petite grocery stores abound.
Snapshot of Belgium (also part of the Paris France Mission) — Belgium has three official languages: Dutch, French, and German. Dutch is primarily spoken in the northern part of the country, while French is more dominant in the south. Despite being an official language, German is only spoken by a small percentage of the population in eastern areas of the country that border Germany. Despite very low levels of church attendance, the Roman Catholic church is the largest religious group in Belgium, and has continued to have a strong influence in Belgian culture. As in many other European countries, a lack of religion has been increasing dramatically in Belgium. Folklore plays a major role in the nation’s culture, influencing a variety of local festivals and parades. Belgium also has a rich history in art and literature. Soccer, tennis, cycling, and swimming are among the most popular sports in Belgium. Despite having the name “French Fries”, the fast food staple actually originated in Belgium and is quite popular, often sold at friteries, roadside stands that also sell a variety of meats such as hamburgers, fried chicken, and kebabs. Waffles and chocolate are also famous Belgian foods originating in the country.
Snapshot of Luxembourg (part of Paris France Mission) —
Luxembourg has three official languages: French, German, and Luxembourgish. Most of the population speaks all three languages. The Roman Catholic church is the dominant religious denomination in Luxembourg, though other Protestant and Islamic churches are also present. Luxembourg has rich traditions in painting, photography, and architecture, though it accomplishments are generally overshadowed by its larger neighbors. Much of Luxembourg’s culture is influenced by more traditional aspects of German and French culture. Rock, pop, and jazz music are all popular in Luxembourg. Soccer is the most popular sport in Luxembourg, though cycling and tennis are also popular. Fish and pork dishes are popular in Luxembourg, such as Judd mat Gaardebounen (smoked pork with broad beans). Other dishes include sausages with mashed potatoes, Gromperekichelcher (a potato pancake), and green bean soup. Several types of pastries and cakes are also popular.
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 39,000 members, 2 missions, 108 congregations, and 69 family history centers in France. The Paris, France Temple was announced in 2011 within the Paris Mission boundaries for Le Chesnay near Versailles (see Temple information). It is an exciting time to be serving in France and the missionary work is strong in the France Paris 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. Restaurants and bistros are also 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. Several types of breads, such as baguettes and croissants, are commonly served as well. Ethnic foods from minority groups, especially in North and West Africa, is also easy to find.
Missionaries often walk, bike, or take public transportation. Paris is known for its extensive Metro with 14 different lines that connects to rapid trains, called TGVs, which run throughout the country and into neighboring nations. There is a relatively new tram system that runs the outskirts of Paris proper.
Although many people may have cars, they choose public transit because it is convenient. Few missionaries use cars to get around.
France also has an excellent bus system, along with the light rail and other public transportation.
Much like most of Western Europe, France is generally a very safe country. The main worry for missionaries is petty crime, especially pick-pocketing in high tourist areas (particularly within Paris proper). Medical care is socialized; there is fairly easy access to appropriate care. Medical supplies are easy to obtain. While there is occasional violence between minority groups, particularly Muslim immigrants from North Africa and the Jewish population, this is limited.
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.
Verlan (vair-LAWH) — This is a form of French pig latin; some of the youth will use it. It is backwards speaking.
Truc (trook)— means “thing” and is used frequently.
“Ca caille” (sa KAI) — it’s cold (both literal and figurative meanings)
“J’ai la dalle” (zhai la doll) — I’m hungry (very colloquial; they also say “J’ai une faim de loup,” which means basically “I’m as ravenous as a wolf”)
“Pôte” (pOHt) ou “mec”(mehk) — both are equivalent to saying “dude” or “man”
“Se faire poser un lapin” (suh fayr poz-eh uh lah-pahn) — This is an idiomatic expression that is used when someone skips out on their appointment; literally translates to acting like a rabbit.
An umbrella and boots/walking shoes suitable for the rain.
The French, like many of their European counterparts, appreciate when others respect and understand their language and culture (which are very much connected). Missionaries can do this by wearing more European-style clothing (i.e., buying scarves, jackets, and so forth in-country) when possible. Europeans are much less casual than Americans in both dress and speech. In both January and July, France has several weeks of sales that extend nation-wide, so it may be possible to purchase needed items for less during this period.
23, Rue Du Onze Novembre
78110 Le Vesinet
Current mission Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/France-Paris-Mission-Poznanski/290639561050099
For alumni: http://www.mission.net/france/paris/
Paris France Temple website: http://www.templemormonparis.org (page is in French, can use browser to translate if needful).
Straight from the France Paris Mission field:
*What items were hard to get or not available?
“Maple Syrup, Mexican food (tortillas, salsa, etc), good deodorant!”
“The usual peanut butter, cereal, hispanic food.”
*What did you eat the most of?
“Bread, cheese and chocolate”
*What is the craziest thing you ate?
“Escargot, cow’s tongue, raw oysters”
*What was most surprising about the culture?
“That religion was such a small part of people’s lives.”
“How few people are actually religious; most are disillusioned with organized religion.”
“I have a french background so nothing was too unusual. Public baths were the most unusual.”
*What advice would you give to someone going to the France Paris Mission?
“It’s not about baptizing, it’s about giving back to the Lord and the people you’re serving.”
“Don’t let the French people’s initial stand-offishness scare you away; once you get to know them, they are wonderful!”
“Learn to love the people and be accepting of new and unusual situations.”
*What do you wish you had known before you served?
“That my contribution counted, even if the people didn’t want to join the church. I gained a strong testimony so that I would stay active and take my family to church, through serving my mission. I also do feel that I served the people of France, but in different way than I [had originally] thought.”
“That my relationship with my companions would be one of the most difficult parts of my mission, and also have so much impact on the missionary work.”
“Better command of the French language.”
“I wish we had been allowed to do more service hours. I had considered joining the peace corp also, but decided to serve a LDS mission. I think I made the right decision, but I think that volunteering in schools or in whatever way the community would like missionaries to serve, would have helped us spread the gospel more effectively… I think that if people see you doing that kind of work to help them, that they are more willing to open their hearts to the gospel message.”
**Did you serve in the France Paris Mission? If so, we would love to hear your advice and your stories! Please contact us at email@example.com**