France – World Champions in … Champagne
To celebrate the national fête – Bastille Day — and ahead of the July 27 opening of the London Olympics, a French magazine has been pondering the unashamedly chauvinistic question of where France leads the world …
The sun for instance never sets on France. Thanks to the Dom Tom – or overseas territories (comprising island territories in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, French Guiana and several Antarctic islands all with a total population of 2,685,705 people), France has 12 different time zones — one more than the US– when the mainland and its overseas territories are taken into account.
The navel gazing was prompted by the US magazine Slate — which also publishes a French online edition – and has released a long list of areas where the US dominates — Americans are the largest and strongest in the number of Olympic medals won, numbers of billionaires etc — so here then is the rival list produced by its French counterpart Slate.fr:
Wine: in litres of wine per year per capita, France at 54 litres remains the largest consumer in the world, while in terms of production and export it ranks number one. More importantly the French remain the world’s greatest consumers of champagne.
Agriculture: While France is not the number one global agricultural powerhouse it does have 572,000 farms and more than 30 million ha of cropland and is champion in Europe. According to the Food and Agirulture Organisation France ranks first for foie gras, poultry fat, milk powder and a range of other products.
Holidays: France is world champion in terms of annual leave with the country enjoying an average seven weeks per person per year. In terms of the 50 largest global cities, Parisians reportedly work fewer hours per year than the others — 1481 — yet France still ranks among the most productive among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member states. All those holidays must be beneficial as the French also enjoy the longest retirement period in the OECD — 22 years for men and 27 for women.
Health: Globally the country boasts the best healthcare system … or at least that was certainly true in 2000 when WHO – the World Health Organisation, produced a comparative study on health systems among 191 member states — an exercise it has not updated.
Luxury: France leads the world in luxury goods: not only is LVMH Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton S.A part of the Bernard Arnault group — undisputed world champion, but more broadly 36% of worldwide turnover in the luxury sector is produced by French firms, comfortably ahead of closest rival the U.S. at 23%.
Tourism: Here it is hard to dethrone France which since 1980 has reigned supreme as the world’s number one tourist destination welcoming 80 million foreign visitors in 2011.
Nuclear: Despite the concerns of many after the Fukushima calamity, France proudly remains the leading nuclear power, generating 77% of its electricity through nuclear energy (although the recently-elected Socialist government has plans to trim this).
Literature: In literature, a touchy area with Montréal recently staging a world congress on the future of French, France is the only country that is ahead of the US in respect of Nobel Prizes for literature with 13 awards. Jean-Marie-Gustave Le Clézio was the most recent award winner taking a Nobel in 2008 as “author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization”.
Life on the fast track: France’s 30 year old TGV holds the official speed record for train travel with a specially equipped train exceeding 574 km / h in 2007. However China disputes the record claiming its TGV reached 586km / h in 2010…
Finally the magazine turns to the Olympics: “Let us finish with the Olympics, being held in London from July 27 to August 12. France will defend its title as the best Olympic nation in cycling – 86 medals since 1896 far ahead of other countries, and in fencing, where it has 115 medals in total”.
So there we are. If you live in France do remember the priorities — and the Olympics are way down the list.
Story: Ken Pottinger
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