The diverse regions of France offer everything from picturesque villages steeped in history to thriving metropolises full of fashion-forward culture. A found member of the European Union and the United Nations, France plays an integral role in international politics. Visit castles and beaches, and delve into a culture that has always been known for its world-famous art, wine and cuisine.



Languages Spoken:

French

Education System

HIGHER EDUCATION

Students looking to pursue higher education in France have many options. Students can choose to attend public universities or may attempt to gain admission in specialized schools.

Public Universities
France’s system of higher education enrolls 2.2 million students, two-thirds of whom attend the country’s 88 public universities. In order to be admitted into the university system, students must pass the baccalauréat, or as it is more commonly known, the bac. The bac is a national examination taken after the third year of high school. The universities in France offer academic, technical and professional degree programs in all disciplines, preparing students for careers in research and professional practice in every imaginable field. They offer dozens of different national diplomas.

Short degree programs, generally involving two or three years of study, are concentrated in the fields of manufacturing, trade and services. Most are offered by multidisciplinary institutes affiliated with a university – the so-called university institutes of technology, or IUTs.

Grandes Écoles
Grandes écoles are selective in their admissions and enroll far fewer students than the universities (about 100,000 students). They train students for careers in engineering, management, art and architecture, to name just a few. They are unique institutions, prestigious and very selective. Their programs are so well attuned to the needs of industry that their graduates are in very high demand. To be admitted into the grandes écoles, students must take two years of preparatory courses or cours préparatoires after they pass the bac which prepares them for the concours (or entrance examination) to these highly competitive schools.

Degrees
The system of degrees awarded in French higher education reflects a common European architecture. The LMD system — for licence (bachelor), master and doctorate — is based on the number of semesters completed since leaving secondary school, and their equivalent in European credits under the European Credit Transfer Scheme (ECTS):

  • Licence = six semesters = 180 ECTS (Baccalauréat + three years)
  • Master = 10 semesters = 300 ECTS (Baccalauréat + five years)
  • Doctorat = 16 semesters (Baccalauréat + eight years)

STUDYING AT A FRENCH UNIVERSITY

French universities operate in ways that are quite different from the system with which you are familiar. Understanding the differences will help you plan your program of study in France, use your time effectively while you are there and return with transferable credits. French students follow a highly structured curriculum specific to the degree they are pursuing from day one at the university. They do not take "liberal arts" or general education requirements for two years before focusing on a major or area of study as most U.S. students do. At the end of each year, they must pass a set of required exams before they can move on to the next year's program.

Your Responsibility as a Student
In general, French students have to assume more responsibility for their own lives on campus than American students. They do not have as many campus support systems as American students, and they too may experience frustration when they first begin their studies! The amount of information you receive before you leave and during the first days or weeks of your stay abroad may seem overwhelming. However, if you review the material sent to you by ISEP and your host institution carefully, you will be ready to meet the challenges of adjusting to a different system and find your coordinator and professors more willing to help you than if you had not prepared yourself.

French professors are not as accessible as their American counterparts. Increasingly, however, professors do have office hours or may be available if you make an appointment. They will also be willing to answer questions and discuss problems before or immediately after class. It would be a good idea to introduce yourself to the professor at the beginning of the year, explaining that you are an international student. Do ask other students in class for advice or assistance if you do not understand something.

Courses
French university courses are of two basic types:

  • Lecture courses are given in halls seating from 100 to 1,000 students. These are called Cours Magistraux (CM). The professor presents the subject; students take notes. Many professors prepare and distribute course outlines or lecture notes that help students prepare for exams.
  • Study sections (known as travaux dirigés (TD)) consist of small groups of students. In the seminar-style sections, students apply and deepen what the professor has presented in the lecture hall. Attendance is mandatory.

Because French students have very little choice in regards to the courses they take within their area of study, French universities often do not publish detailed course descriptions or course catalogues. Rather, a list of modules or unités d’enseignement with an indication of the number of hours per week or the total number of class hours for the course and the corresponding ECTS credits is provided . This information can often be found online under "Formation", "Licence (for a certain area of study)" and "programme".

For example, you may see for a course description:

L1 semestre 1
UEF « Histoire moderne » / ECTS : 6
Initiation à l’histoire moderne (1h30 CM + 2h TD)

This can be interpreted as follows :

L1 semestre 1 = first year of the license, semester one
UEF: Unité d’enseignement fondamenteaux or a required course for the degree
Modern History for six ECTS credits
Introduction to Modern History
1h30 CM = 1 hour 30 minutes per week of cours magistraux or lecture
2 h TD = 2 hours per week of travaux dirigés or study section

REGISTRATION AND COURSE SELECTION

Registration (inscription) is the process of enrollment into the university; you will fill out many forms and hand in several passport-size photos in order to receive the various university cards signifying your enrollment.

Course Selection:
As an exchange student, you have greater flexibility in choosing courses than French students do. You do not need to take a complete package of courses at one level. However, if you focus on courses in one or two departments, you will find it easier to put together a schedule, your program of studies will be more cohesive, and you will have a better chance of getting to know French students because you will be seeing the same group on a regular basis.

Selection of courses is done during registration. You should expect to have to go to each building that houses the faculté (department) of the course you wish to take, find the administrative office, ask for a course listing and sign up for the desired course. Students should be aware that the registration process can take several days. French universities are not as "service-oriented" as those in the United States and there are many students for few administrators. Ask questions of your ISEP host coordinator if you have trouble registering. Also, the add-drop process is very informal. You may want to observe several classes before making your final selection and to make sure that you will be able to follow the course and fulfill all course requirements. Remember to consult about any changes in your course selections with your host and home coordinators and advisors. Be sure to keep track of your courses, including course titles, hours, professors, and assignments for after your exchange. In all cases, you must verify all of your course information with your host coordinator to ensure that you have enrolled properly.

The actual number of hours in a class varies according to the department or subject and the amount of work expected of students outside class. Courses usually meet 1-2 hours each week, meaning you will probably be taking a higher number of courses than at home. Most current ISEP students in France are taking 12-15 units per semester.


EXAMS AND GRADING

Student performance is assessed in two ways:

  • Short quizzes given throughout the semester allow instructors to check what their students have learned in each unit.
  • Examinations covering all of the material presented during the semester are given at the end of each semester, generally just before the February break and again in June, before the summer break.

Some U.S. universities will only award credit if you have an exam grade. Exams may be oral or written. The professor will grade you as he or she does a French student. Although the grading system in France goes from 0 to 20, the grades from 0 to 14 are generally used; 15 and 16 are relatively rare; 17 and 18, very rare; and no one is sure that 19 and 20 really exist. A 10 is about a U.S. "C"; in some courses an eight or nine may be a "C" for a non-native speaker; 12 is good. Above that - bravo!

The atmosphere at a French university may seem low-pressure, but be on your guard. Even if a class does not require regular assignments, you must keep up with the reading and attend classes. Final examinations are given at the end of each course. ISEP students should check with professors to determine when the exam will be given as most professors do not provide a syllabus at the beginning of a course. As a foreign student, you may not be required to take the final exam. You may be able to substitute written assignments for the exam. Check with the professor to find out whether you are expected to take the exam in order to get a grade (in many instances, the exam might be the only evidence that you have taken the class) or whether you can substitute other assignments. Taking a final does not automatically entitle you to a grade since you must pass your exams to receive a grade. Also, make sure to register for the exam in addition to taking it.

If you make any special arrangements with a professor, obtain the agreement in writing signed by both you and the professor. Provide a copy of the agreement to both your home and host ISEP coordinators and keep a copy for yourself. Without an agreement in writing, it is expected that you will take all final exams. Credit transfer is not guaranteed if you fail to take exams or provide written proof of other arrangements.

At the end of the exchange, the faculté will award you a final average. The grades you receive from the faculté are not contestable. The only way to modify a bad grade is to do supplementary work, the grade for which will be averaged with the bad one.

ENSURING THE TRANSFER OF CREDIT

Before you leave for France check with your home institution about conditions for credit transfer.

Students should be sure to provide a list of course titles and codes, professors, number of hours per week and the professor’s signature to the host ISEP coordinator. Your host coordinator may provide a standard form to assist you with this. In many cases, ISEP students have been able to learn their results and report this to their coordinator before they depart. Final results are very difficult, if not impossible, to obtain if the student has not provided such a list. Students should also bring all exam papers, graded homework and papers, and any other work home to their home institution to assist with credit transfer.

French universities do not generate annual grade reports for students. Exam grades are usually posted on faculté bulletin boards. Transcripts have to be requested and are usually not available until a student has completed a diploma. Your ISEP coordinator will provide an official transcript but only if you have given them a complete list of your courses and professors. The average grade for your class assignments may be listed on your transcript, under the heading controle continu. The transcript will be sent from your host coordinator to ISEP central in Washington, D.C., to be forwarded to your home coordinator.

REMINDER: Credit transfer is not guaranteed if you fail to take exams or provide written proof of other arrangements.

THE ACADEMIC YEAR

In France the academic year begins in September or October and ends in May or June. The exact starting and ending dates vary from institution to institution and from program to program. Often times, the different departments or "facultés" have different start and end dates, so be sure to consult each departmental calendar to know when courses begin and end.

There are several breaks during the year:

Two weeks in December-January for Christmas and the New Year
Two weeks in February for winter break
Two weeks in late March to early April for the Easter break

Quite a few holidays fall in May: May 1 (Labor Day), May 8 (Victory Day, marking the end of the Second World War in Europe), Ascension Thursday and Pentecost Monday.

Summer vacation stretches over the entire months of July and August, and sometimes includes parts of June and September as well.

Visa and Residency

CAMPUS FRANCE; STUDENT VISAS; RESIDENCE PERMITS

You must obtain a student visa prior to departing for France and French overseas departments. As soon as you accept placement, you should start the process for obtaining your visa. Students studying in the French overseas departments (DOM) of French Guiana, Guadeloupe, La Réunion, and Martinique should apply early since there may be longer wait times for such visa requests.

Remember, your local French Consulate is the official source of all visa information. If you have questions regarding the student visa application, you must contact your local French Consulate. ISEP cannot contact consulates on behalf of students.

Step 1: Submit your CampusFrance Application
Below is a list of CampusFrance websites for specific countries.

  • Canada: http://www.canada.campusfrance.org/
  • Japan: http://www.japon.campusfrance.org/ja
  • Korea: http://www.coree.campusfrance.org/
  • Mexico: http://www.mexique.campusfrance.org/
  • USA: http://www.usa.campusfrance.org/en

Other countries: Check with your nearest French Consulate for instructions.

Students can choose between the 30 Day Application or the Expedited 3 Day Application. 

You can register with CampusFrance immediately, but you cannot submit your materials to CampusFrance until you receive your ISEP acceptance materials (the PPAF) from your home coordinator. You must also wait to receive the official acceptance letter from your host university. A copy of the letter should should be submitted with your CampusFrance payment. 

Once you complete your Campus France online application, pay your Campus France fee, and MAIL (30 Day Applicants Only) your required materials to Campus France, you can book your consular appointment for AT LEAST 30 days or 3 days after submitting ALL materials to Campus France.

CampusFrance Tips:

  • Send a COPY of your official acceptance letter from your HOST UNIVERSITY. Do not send ISEP paperwork or the original acceptance letter.
  • When filling out the application, ISEP students are considered exchange/study abroad students. Follow the instructions as such.
  • It's best to submit your CampusFrance materials early to avoid delays, which often occur just before the start of each semester.
  • It is recommended that you set English or your native language as your default language to avoid any misunderstandings in working through the application.
  • Education term: "Bac + number" is use to indicate the number of years after the completion of your secondary school (high school) education. For example, Bac+1 = first year after you complete secondary school, Bac + 2 = second year after you complete secondary school, Bac + 4 = fourth year after you complete secondary school.
  • You are not a "boursier" (French government scholarship holder) even though you might receive financial aid at your home institution or from your home country.
  • Do not worry about sections/questions dealing with DALF/DELF exams, internships, or your resume. The aim of the CampusFrance application for study abroad students is to have you provide as much demographic and educational information as possible. Fill out as much as you can so you can complete your CampusFrance application.
  • ISEP students are NOT required to take a language test or have an interview with CampusFrance. You may note "Exempt" from interview on your pastel account. This DOES NOT mean you are exempt from an interview with your consulate. This simply means that you are exempt from a CampusFrance interview.
  • When sending in your documents to CampusFrance, be sure to write your CampusFrance ID on them. No matter the form of payment, be sure to make a photocopy for your records so you have proof of payment.
  • You should send all materials to CampusFrance with return receipt for proof of mailing and receipt.
  • If you don't receive a response immediately after your submission, wait 3 weeks from the time of your application submission to contact CampusFrance. It’s recommended to contact CampusFrance through the CampusFrance messaging portal where you complete your application.

Step 2: Submit Student Visa Application to your Consulate

Before submitting your visa application to your nearest consulate, you are required to enroll in CampusFrance. NO VISA WILL BE GRANTED BY FRENCH CONSULATES WITHOUT PRIOR ENROLLMENT THROUGH THE CAMPUS FRANCE WEBSITE.

Most French Consulates require visa applicants to apply in person. You can find the nearest consulate in the US by visiting the French Embassy's map of Consulates.

Due to the new harmonization process among consulates, students should be able to apply for their visas at the consulate corresponding to their home state or school state. Make sure your address listed on the CampusFrance application reflects the state that corresponds to the consulate where you want to apply for your visa.

Students from other countries can visit the French Foreign Ministry's Web site.

As of June 1, 2009, students studying in France from 3-12 months will apply for a long stay visa (visa de long séjour). This does not apply to students from the European Economic Area or Switzerland. See further information below.

For your consulate appointment, you will need the following documents (but you should verify the application and documentation requirements with your appropriate consulate):

  1. COPY : A copy of the student’s official acceptance letter or acknowledgment of enrollment, addressed to the student and mentioning his or her full name, printed on institutional letterhead and specifying the exact dates (day, month, year) of the academic program and including full contact information for the individual issuing the offer or acknowledgment, as well as the full address of the educational institution, and be signed and stamped. Said address may serve as the student’s temporary address in France.
    Three cases are possible:
    • Students taking part in an exchange program between an American and a French institution. In this case, the acceptance or enrollment letter may be issued from either institution provided the formal exchange agreement is identified and the information specified above is provided.
    • Students enrolling directly in a French institution as an independent student. In this case, the acceptance or enrollment letter must be from the admitting institution and include all of the information specified above.
    • Students enrolling in an American program in France (operated by an American institution with a branch in France). In this case, the acceptance or enrollment letter must come from the American institution and include all of the information specified above.
  2. COPY : An e-mail message from CampusFrance (entitled "confirmation e-mail") informing the student that he or she may begin preparations to apply to the consulate for the visa (make appointment, collect documents). Attention! This message should not be confused with the earlier message from CampusFrance notifying the student of the creation of his or her CampusFrance account, or with the message indicating that a receipt for payment was available for download.
  3. COPY : Receipt for payment issued by CampusFrance (does not apply to exempted students).
  4. ORIGINALS: 2 application forms for extended-stay visa (downloadable), completed and signed.
  5. 2 recent photographs in U.S. passport photo format.
  6. ORIGINAL + 1 PHOTOCOPY :
    • U.S. citizens: (i) Passport in good condition, with a date of expiration at least 3 months after the end of the student’s proposed stay in the Schengen area, issued within the past 10 years and containing at least 2 blank pages. (ii) Photocopy of the pages containing the passport holder’s personal data.
    • Citizens of third countries: (i) Passport in good condition, with a date of expiration at least 3 months after the end of the student’s proposed stay in the Schengen area, issued within the past 10 years and containing at least 2 blank pages. (ii) Photocopy of the pages containing the passport holder’s personal data plus proof of legal presence in the United States (green card, visa, I-20, etc.).
  7. Visa application and processing fee (nonrefundable) in the U.S. dollar equivalent of €50 (check your local consulate’s Web site as the rate of exchange changes frequently
    • Exceptions:Recipients of scholarships from the French government or European Union (Chateaubriand, Eiffel, Franco-American Fulbright Commission, Erasmus Mundus, Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie) are not required to pay the application and processing fee.
  8. ORIGINAL + 1 PHOTOCOPY : Proof of sufficient means of support
    • Non-scholarship students must prove that they have access to at least $820 per month. Proof may be provided in the form of (i) a bank statement showing a balance of $820 multiplied by the number of months to be spent in France, or (ii) a notarized statement from a guarantor declaring that the guarantor will provide the student applicant with at least $820 per month, accompanied by the guarantor’s most recent bank statement.
    • Scholarship and financial aid students: Letter of scholarship award specifying amount and duration of award, issued by the financial aid office of the student applicant’s home institution. Visa services at the Consulate also need a specific breakdown of the available financial resources (remaining aid) of the student once the tuition fees have been paid for.
  9. AIRLINE TICKET OR RESERVATION: An airline reservation showing date of departure or a handwritten and legible statement from the applicant indicating the intended date of departure, as well as a formal commitment not to depart before that date. It is not possible to modify the start date of a visa once the application is made.
  10. ORIGINAL + 1 PHOTOCOPY: Positive proof of residence in the geographic area for which the consulate is responsible.
    • Lease or rental agreement in the applicant’s name or a notarized statement from the owner or leaseholder plus a recent (utility) bill in the applicant’s name
    • or the applicant’s driver’s license issued by a state falling within the consulate’s jurisdiction
    • or a valid student ID card (or a statement issued within the past 2 months from the registrar of your university, which must be located in the consulate’s jurisdiction
  11. French immigration (OFII) form should be filled out by the following students
    • ALL students who will be staying in France for more than six months (180 days)
    • Students who will be staying in France for a period of timebetween three and six months (for a total duration of 91-180 days) who wish to be allowed to work in France while studying
    • Students who will be staying in France for a period of time betweenthree and six months (for a total duration of 91-180 days) who wish to be able to extend their visa once they are in France

The French immigration (OFII) form is available online on the Web sites of all French Consulates. Students should bring the OFII form to their consulate appointment, and should make sure to print their e-mail address very carefully on the form to avoid any risk of confusion or error.

Remember to keep a copy of all of these documents for your own records.
You should use the student visa application that is provided by your respective French Consulate (usually found on its website). The visa process can take up to eight weeks to process, and varies by consulate. It may take longer for students studying in the French overseas departments (DOM) of French Guiana, Guadeloupe, La Réunion, and Martinique. Therefore, students should begin the procedure at least three months prior to departure.

VISA DE LONG SÉJOUR

As of June 1, 2009, students studying in France will be issued a long stay visa which will allow them to reside in France for up to 12 months, depending on the length of the academic program. They will no longer be required to obtain a residence permit ("carte de séjour") from the French local authorities ("Préfecture") as long as their visa is valid. This new visa regulation benefits students in several ways:

  • Students have unlimited entries into France during the visa’s validity.
  • If the student decides to extend his/her stay to continue his/her studies, the student can now apply for a renewal of residence permit at the local French administration called "préfecture" two months before the expiration of the visa. The student must have completed the OFII form at the time they applied for their visa in order to extend.

Note: Students who want to extend their time abroad must first gain approval from the home and host institutions and then complete the appropriate paperwork through ISEP. Students should begin this process as soon as possible given the time needed to extend the visa.

ONCE IN FRANCE

Contact your host coordinator to help you navigate the visa process. Long stay visa holders who need to complete the OFII form will have to register with the French Office of Immigration and Integration (OFII) within a few days of arrival in France.
Students will have to send by registered mail to their local OFII:

  • A completed OFII Residence form (Demande d’Attestation).
  • A copy of the ID pages of passport and of the immigration stamp received at the border.

You will then be requested to appear for an interview and medical examination with:

  • Your passport.
  • Proof of accommodation in France.
  • One ID picture.
  • Means of payment for the processing fees for students.

When the file is complete, a registration stamp will be added to your passport.

Important information regarding foreign travel while waiting to complete OFII paperwork:

1) If you wish to travel outside of France but within the Schengen zone: a valid multiple-entry long stay visa will suffice to travel in the Schengen area.

2) If you wish to travel outside of France and the Schengen zone or return to your home country:

A. Within the first three months of your arrival in France, travel is authorized without the OFII sticker or proof of paperwork submission ("attestation de dépôt de dossier") provided you have a valid multiple-entry long stay visa

B. Beyond three months, the OFII sticker is mandatory or, in its absence, proof that you have submitted your paperwork to the OFII ("attestation de dépôt de dossier") to leave France. If you have not submitted your paperwork to the OFII in the indicated timeframe (3 months), you will need to apply for another long stay visa in your home country.

Current Schengen signature countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland.

Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and, most notably, the United Kingdom are NOT part of the Schengen zone.

** Please note that you should consult your local OFII and your host coordinator to verify the correct process and documents necessary for registration upon arrival.

A Note Regarding the Schengen Area

France is a member of the Schengen area. Students should review the important regulations that dictate travel and visas within the Schengen area.

Culture

CULTURAL ADJUSTMENT

Become aware of the cultural, social, political and economic facts of life in France and you will be vastly rewarded, as there is no subject dearer to the heart of the French than that of la vie française.

Seeing a new country is so much more than seeing its cathedrals and other historical landmarks. It means so much more to learn about the people, what impressions and influences have shaped them and continue to influence their responses to life.

Alexandra Wells, ISEP participant from Ball State to Rennes 2

Do not expect everything to be just as it is back home. Above all, do not assume that those you encounter on the street or in shops will speak English. The French are proud of their language and way of life, and your efforts to speak French and live like a local will be appreciated and will go far in your interactions with those you meet.

When greeting people, the French will either shake hands or kiss on both cheeks. The former prevails when meeting strangers, while the latter is common among friends. If you are unsure whether to shake hands or faire la bise (give a kiss), wait to see what is initiated by the other person and follow from there.

It is always important to consider gender relations when traveling to a new country, as these can vary greatly according to cultural context. Women in particular should be cautious when interacting with strangers in a new environment. Some individuals may not understand that a familiar way with others, for example, is merely a gesture of friendliness and may misconstrue it as something more. Firmly say "no" to any invitation you don't want to accept, and give your address only to people you know and trust. We are not advocating narrow-mindedness, but rather pointing out that cultural differences, if not understood, could lead you into a difficult situation.

For more information about French culture and advice for adapting smoothly into your host country, ISEP recommends Polly Platt's book French or Foe.


FOOD AND MEAL TIMES

Food plays a major role in the country's social life. Wine and cheese are sources of national pride and reflect regional differences. Meals are ritualized and full of social and cultural meaning. There are also political aspects to the meaning of food. For instance, there has recently been much concern about the quality of "engineered" food and a rejection of foods that have been genetically altered.

The three main meals are le petit déjeuner (breakfast), le déjeuner (lunch) and le dîner (dinner). Although the midday meal had great importance in an agricultural economy and is still the main meal in rural areas, there is a tendency for families to eat the largest meal in the evening. Breakfast is a light meal of bread, cereal, yogurt and coffee or hot chocolate. Lunch and dinner generally involve several courses, at minimum a first course (l'entree) and a main dish (le plat), followed by cheese and/or dessert. In restaurants, it is common to have a price that includes all these courses, with a choice of dishes.

Meals involve a succession of courses eaten one at a time. A typical family meal starts with a soup, followed by vegetables and a meat dish and then a salad, cheese and dessert. Wine is commonly served at meals. Convenience foods are becoming more prevalent, and fast food is a growing trend.

STRIKES

Strikes (Grèves) in France are quite common; the right to strike is guaranteed in the French constitution, with the public sector having the highest frequency.

In France, striking is just part of the process. There is little bargaining between management and workers before things get to the decision stage. At that point, management acts and the workers respond. The concept of collective bargaining does not exist in France.

It is not uncommon at the national or local level for teachers, doctors and transport workers to strike – be it long term or just for a day or so. SNCF (national French train company) strikes can be quite disrupting, as France depends greatly on its rail system.

Daily Life

CULTURAL ADJUSTMENT

Become aware of the cultural, social, political and economic facts of life in France and you will be vastly rewarded, as there is no subject dearer to the heart of the French than that of la vie française.

Seeing a new country is so much more than seeing its cathedrals and other historical landmarks. It means so much more to learn about the people, what impressions and influences have shaped them and continue to influence their responses to life.

Alexandra Wells, ISEP participant from Ball State to Rennes 2

Do not expect everything to be just as it is back home. Above all, do not assume that those you encounter on the street or in shops will speak English. The French are proud of their language and way of life, and your efforts to speak French and live like a local will be appreciated and will go far in your interactions with those you meet.

When greeting people, the French will either shake hands or kiss on both cheeks. The former prevails when meeting strangers, while the latter is common among friends. If you are unsure whether to shake hands or faire la bise (give a kiss), wait to see what is initiated by the other person and follow from there.

It is always important to consider gender relations when traveling to a new country, as these can vary greatly according to cultural context. Women in particular should be cautious when interacting with strangers in a new environment. Some individuals may not understand that a familiar way with others, for example, is merely a gesture of friendliness and may misconstrue it as something more. Firmly say "no" to any invitation you don't want to accept, and give your address only to people you know and trust. We are not advocating narrow-mindedness, but rather pointing out that cultural differences, if not understood, could lead you into a difficult situation.

For more information about French culture and advice for adapting smoothly into your host country, ISEP recommends Polly Platt's book French or Foe.


FOOD AND MEAL TIMES

Food plays a major role in the country's social life. Wine and cheese are sources of national pride and reflect regional differences. Meals are ritualized and full of social and cultural meaning. There are also political aspects to the meaning of food. For instance, there has recently been much concern about the quality of "engineered" food and a rejection of foods that have been genetically altered.

The three main meals are le petit déjeuner (breakfast), le déjeuner (lunch) and le dîner (dinner). Although the midday meal had great importance in an agricultural economy and is still the main meal in rural areas, there is a tendency for families to eat the largest meal in the evening. Breakfast is a light meal of bread, cereal, yogurt and coffee or hot chocolate. Lunch and dinner generally involve several courses, at minimum a first course (l'entree) and a main dish (le plat), followed by cheese and/or dessert. In restaurants, it is common to have a price that includes all these courses, with a choice of dishes.

Meals involve a succession of courses eaten one at a time. A typical family meal starts with a soup, followed by vegetables and a meat dish and then a salad, cheese and dessert. Wine is commonly served at meals. Convenience foods are becoming more prevalent, and fast food is a growing trend.

STRIKES

Strikes (Grèves) in France are quite common; the right to strike is guaranteed in the French constitution, with the public sector having the highest frequency.

In France, striking is just part of the process. There is little bargaining between management and workers before things get to the decision stage. At that point, management acts and the workers respond. The concept of collective bargaining does not exist in France.

It is not uncommon at the national or local level for teachers, doctors and transport workers to strike – be it long term or just for a day or so. SNCF (national French train company) strikes can be quite disrupting, as France depends greatly on its rail system.

Health and Safety

https://www.isepstudyabroad.org/guides-and-tips/health-safety

Currency

CURRENCY AND EXCHANGE

France uses the Euro as it is the common currency of the European Union.

Compare your currency to the Euro.

BANK ACCOUNTS

When studying in France, you are required to open a bank account as your stipend will be deposited directly into that account by the host university. You should open an account during your first week at your host university and provide the account information to your host ISEP coordinator or the person on campus who handles financial issues for ISEP students in order to ensure speedy processing of your stipend. Your coordinator will advise you about recommended banks and procedures. Foreigners have little difficulty opening bank accounts. Usually the type of account that a foreigner holds is a special checking account for foreigners, called, reasonably enough, un compte d'étranger.

This account is similar to a U.S. account. The essential difference is that if you deposit your money in dollars, it is changed into euros at the exchange rate of the day it clears. Usually, three days are required before a deposit clears.

La Banque Nationale de Paris offers a completely free checking account of this type with monthly statements, and its checks are widely accepted throughout the country. Two of the other larger banks are the Crédit Agricole and Société Générale.

COST OF GENERAL ITEMS

Meals and Food Items
A meal

  • at a university restaurant: €3.00
  • at a fast-food restaurant: €7
  • at a neighborhood café or restaurant: €10-20
  • a sandwich: €3-5
  • coffee: €1-2
  • bread: €0.80
  • croissant: €1
  • cheese: €2-6
  • eggs: €1.50
  • 1 liter of milk: €1.20
  • 1 kg of potatoes: €1.20
  • 1 kg of rice: €1.90

Recreation and Amusements

  • Movie ticket (student rate): €6.80
  • Museum admission: €5-10
  • Theater ticket: €10-30
  • Newspaper: €1.20
  • Night in a mid-range hotel: €60
  • Admission to public swimming pool: €2.50
  • DVD player: €50-150
  • MP3 player: €30-150

Transportation

  • Monthly pass, Paris transport: €55-122
  • Round-trip ticket between Paris and Nice by high-speed train: €135
  • 1 liter of gasoline: €1.20

Sources of Information

LINKS

http://fr.franceguide.com
Maison de la France, the official site for tourism

http://www.france.com/
The French Information Center.

http://www.voyages-sncf.com
French National Railway reservations and information.

http://www.americansinfrance.net/
Resource for living and traveling in France.

http://www.wasteels.fr/
Voyages Wasteels

http://wikitravel.org/en/France
Wikitravel entry for France.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

*All links below will take you to the Amazon.com Web site for content and purchasing information.


Guides

Lonely Planet France 2009

Culture, History, and Politics

Culture Shock! France: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette (Culture Shock! France)

Asselin, Gilles and Ruth Mastron. Au Contraire: Figuring Out the French

Carroll, Raymonde. Cultural Misunderstandings: The French-American Experience

Howarth, David and Georgios Varouxakis. Contemporary France: Introduction to French Politics and Society (Hodder Arnold Publication)

Nadeau, Jean-Benoit and Julie Barlow. Sixty Million Frenchmen Cant Be Wrong

Platt, Polly. French or Foe?: Getting the Most Out of Visiting, Living and Working in France

Traveler's Health

CDC Health Information for International Travel 2010 (Health Information for International Travel)

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