Did you know that:
- Nearly 20% of the territory of France lies outside Europe. These regions are known as “DOM-TOM” (overseas departments and territories), where over 2.5 million French citizens live.
- The Canal du Midi is Europe’s oldest functional canal. It was built from 1666 and 1681. It is 240 km (150 miles) long, has 63 locks, 126 bridges, 55 aqueducts, 7 canal-bridges, 6 barrages and 1 tunnel.
- French people cheek kiss to greet each others between family and friends, even between men. The number of kisses varies according to the region, from 1 (e.g. in the tip of Brittany) to 4 (e.g. Paris and most of the North), and occasionally up to 5 in Corsica.
- French people have the highest female and third highest male life expectancy in the European Union.
- France was the first modern country to legalise same-sex sexual activity, in 1791. In contrast, gay sex was only legalised nationwide in the USA in 2003.
- The French word for ‘deadline’ is (ironically) délai, and indeed delay is part and parcel of the French work culture.
- In France, in exceptional cases it is possible to marry a deceased person with the authorisation of the President of the Republic.
- The world’s first true department store was Le Bon Marché in Paris, founded by Aristide Boucicaut in 1838.
- There are about 2 new cooking books published every day in France.
- In 2013 France produced 60 millions hectoliters of wine.
- The French TGV is the fastest train in the world, with an average speed of 263.3 km/h from station to station. It reached a record 574.8km/h on a test run in April 2007 (still unbeaten). It also detains the world record of endurance, running from Calais to Marseille (1067.2 km) in 3h29min, in 2001.
PORTUGAL: click here for interesting details…
Did you know that:
- Portuguese language is most closely related to Galician language, spoken in northwestern Spain. Galician could be regarded as a dialect of Portuguese (or vice versa).
- Fatalism is an essential trait of Portuguese culture. Fado, as the Portuguese call it, is expressed by the common interjection oxalá, derived from the Arabic Inshallah, and which means “if only” or “hopefully”. Fado has given rise to the eponymous music genre, characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor, and infused with a characteristic sentiment of resignation, fatefulness and melancholia. Fado has been recognised by the UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2011.
- The Portuguese Water Dog has been claimed to be a hypoallergenic dog breed, in part because they do not moult. In 2008, the breed made the headlines when U.S. President Barack Obama and his family were given one as a pet. A Portuguese Water Dog was chosen to become the “First Dog” in part because Malia Obama’s allergies.
- In 1709, the Jesuit priest Bartolomeu de Gusmão invented one of the world’s first airships, for which he sought royal favour from King John V. Portugal could have changed history with this invention, had it not been for the Inquisition, which forbade Gusmão to continue his aeronautic investigations and went as far as to persecute him because of them.
- In 1761 Portugal became the first colonial power to abolish slavery, half a century before Spain, France, Britain or the USA.
Did you know that:
- According to the World Drug Report, Spain has the world’s highest cocaine consumption per capita (3.1% of the population in 2010), and Europe’s third highest annual prevalence for cannabis (10.6% in 2010).
- The Spaniards have a completely different life rythmn from other Europeans. They typically have lunch between 1 and 3 pm, dinner around 10 pm, and rarely sleep before the early hours of the night. Prime time TV in Spain starts at 10 pm and lasts until 1 am. Likewise the peak for radio listening in the morning is around 10 am.
- Tomatoes, potatoes, avocados, tobacco, and cacao, were all brought to Europe (then spread around the world) by the Spaniards from their American colonies. All these words were imported from Spanish language into English, which explains why they end in “-o”.
- Spain did not participate in either the First or Second World War.
- Personal consumption and home cultivation of cannabis are legal in Spain. As for cannabis possession, it has been decriminalised.
- It is a crime in Spain to slander or libel the dead.
- Under Philip II’s reign (1556-1598), and until 1640, Spain ruled over an empire comprising Spain, the Spanish Netherlands (most of present Belgium, and Northern France), Southern Italy, most of South and Central America (Brazil included), about half of the present USA, the Philippines (named after Philip II), as well as various smaller colonies in Asia and Africa (Macao, Malacca, Goa, Daman, Diu…).
Did you know that:
- Germany has nearly 700 zoological gardens, wildlife parks, aquariums, bird parks, animal reserves, or safari parks, including 414 registered zoos (more than the USA) ! Berlin’s Zoologischer Garten is the largest zoo in the world, both in terms of number of species (1,500) and animal population (14,000).
- Classical music has been widely dominated by German-speaking composers. A few famous ones born on the present territory of Germany include Bach, Händel, Beethoven, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Wagner and R. Strauss.
- Some of the world’s greatest philosophers were German : Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Heidegger…
- The Germans can be credited for the discovery of insulin, the invention of the clarinet, the pocket watch, the automated calculator, the light bulb, television (partly), paraffin, petrol/gasoline & Diesel engines, the automobile (as well as the engine, differential gear and other important devices), the motorcycle, the jet engine, the LCD screen and the Walkman.
- As of 1998, there were 5,752 museums in Germany (about as many as Italy and the United Kingdom combined).
- No less than forty-two Nobel Prize laureates studied or taught at the Georg-August University of Göttingen. Nobel Prize winners notwithstanding, famous people who taught there included Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855), the Brothers Grimm. Alumni count among themselves Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898) and the American J. P. Morgan (1837-1913).
- The German Autobahn is the oldest motorway network in the world (first section completed in 1932), as well as one of the densest (12,000 km for a country of 357,021 km²). It is also the only one in Europe to have no general speed limit.
Did you know that:
- Italy now has one of the lowest birth-rate and fertility rate in the world.A 2007 UNICEF report on child well-being in rich countries ranked Italy as the best country for family and peer relationships.
- Two of Europe’s smallest countries, San Marino and the Vatican, are enclaved within Italy.
- The catacombs of Rome are 13 km long and contain some 40,000 tombs. They lie 7 to 19 metres below the surface and extend for more than 13,000 square metres (140,000 sq ft). They also house the oldest image of the Virgin Mary on Earth (early 2nd century).
- The Republic of Venice was founded in 697 and was dissolved by Napoleon in 1797, exactly 1,100 years later. This makes it the longest lasting republic in human history as well as the longest lasting uninterrupted form of government that ever existed. In comparison the Roman Republic lasted just under 500 years.
- In the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, the Venetian Republic was one of the few states in Europe to openly tolerate the Jews. In 1516, the Jews were assigned to the foundry quarter of Venice, known as the ghetto’ (slag) in Venetian. The was the very first Jewish Ghetto, the one after which all the others were named, and which ultimately became a general term to describe a part of a city in which members of a minority group live.
- Each Italian consumes in average 25kg of pasta each year. However, pasta consumption is considerably higher in the centre and south of the country than in the north, where risotto and polenta are more common.
- There are thousands of traditional and regional Italian desserts. However, the most famous one abroad, the tiramisù, was only invented in the 1970’s. The name literally means “pick-me-up” (metaphorically, “make me happy”), due to two of its ingredients : coffee and cocoa.
- Many of the world’s most famous artists were Italian, with such names as Botticelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Donatello, Fra Angelico, Tintoretto, Caravaggio, Bernini, Titian and Raphael, among many others.
- The Romans love cats so much that they are considered a bio-cultural asset of the city. A new law condemns any person killing a cat to a 10,000 euro fine, and up to 3 years in jail. There is an estimated 300,000 cats in Rome, and they are the only inhabitants allowed on the ruins.
- Italians have won more Academy Awards (Oscars) for Best Foreign Language Film than any other country (13 so far, as of 2013).
- Italy has more famous fashion designers than any other country, including Gucci, Prada, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgio Armani, Ermenegildo Zegna, Gianfranco Ferré, Salvatore Ferragamo, Roberto Cavalli, Fendi, Valentino, Trussardi, Benetton..
- Italian Members of Parliament are the highest paid in Europe, receiving 11,000 € per month, more than twice the average in Western Europe. They receive many extra perks such as life pension, subsidised meals, chauffeured cars, and free mobile phones.
- In Italy divorced fathers must provide child support for their adult children still living with their mothers, even if they are over 30 years old. Considering that half of adult children in Italy still live with their parents, that may explained why the Italian divorce rate ranks among the lowest in Europe.
Did you know that:
- There are 443 named islands in Denmark, 76 of which are inhabited.
- The flag of Denmark, Dannebrog, is the oldest state flag in the world still in use by an independent nation. It was adopted in 1219.
- Between 1397 and 1524, the whole of Scandinavia (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland) as well as southern Finland was unified under Danish rule, with Copenhagen as capital. The Denmark-Norway Union (including Iceland and Greenland) lasted until 1814.
- In 1989, Denmark became the first country to legalise same-sex unions (although same-sex marriage was not granted until 2012).
- Denmark has, along with other Scandinavian countries, the second highest standard V.A.T. rate in the world (25%) after Hungary.
- • he A.P. Møller-Mærsk Group (commonly known simply as Mærsk), headquartered in Copenhagen, is the largest container ship operator and supply vessel operator in the world, employing over 100,000 people in 125 countries.
- The Danish royal family is probably the oldest uninterrupted European monarchy. It traces back its roots to legendary kings in the Antiquity. Gorm the Old, the first king of the “official line”, ruled from 934 C.E.
Did you know that:
- The Austrian flag is one of the oldest national flag in the world. It dates from 1191, when Duke Leopold V fought in the Battle of Acre during the Third Crusade.
- The world’s largest emerald (2860 carat) is displayed in the Imperial Treasury of the Hofburg (Imperial Palace) in Vienna.
- Vienna’s Central Cemetery (Zentralfriedhof) has over 2.5 million tombs (more than the city’s live population), including those of Beethoven, Brahms, Gluck, Schubert, Schoenberg and Strauss.
- The father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, was Austrian.
- The Austrian celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, who owns over 70 restaurants in the USA, is the second top-earning chef in the world, with revenues of $16 million a year according to Forbes magazine. Another Austrian, Eckart Witzigmann is one of only four chefs to be named chef of the century by the Gault Millau guide.
- Austria is the only continental EU country that is not a member of NATO.
- Austria’s average unemployment rate from 1960 to 2013 is 4.59%, the second lowest in the European Union after Luxembourg.
- Among Europeans, Austrian people work the longest, with an average of 45 hours per week.
Did you know that:
- makes over 800 sorts of beer.
- produces 220,000 tonnes of chocolate per year. This amounts to 22 kg of chocolate per inhabitant annually,
- invented chips (French fries), and indeed about all towns and villages have their own friterie/frituur (chips seller)
- has one of the lowest proportion of McDonald’s restaurants per inhabitant in the developed world
- has legalised euthanasia in 2002, and gay marriage in 2003.
- is the country with the highest proportion of female ministers in the world (55% in 2000) and one of the earliest to have a female parliamentarian (in 1921)
- Possession of up to 3 grammes of cannabis is legal in Belgium.
- The Association of European Airports reported that Brussels National Airport (Zaventem) is the most punctual of the 27 largest European airports.
- has the highest density of art collectors and antiques collectors of any country.
- Belgian physicist and mathematician Ingrid Daubechies (1954-) developed the mathematical model used by the FBI to stock finger prints.
- has the one of the biggest proportion of Michelin star restaurants per capital
- has the biggest amount of contemporary fashion designers per capital
- has the world’s main diamond centre in Antwerp.
Did you know that:
- was the first country to legalise same sex marriages in 2001.
- 70% of the world’s bacon comes from Netherlands.
- The Schiphol Airport is actually 4.5 m below sea level
- 5% of the world’s flower bulb production comes from Netherlands.
- Parental leave for both full-time working mothers and fathers, is up to 57 days and can be taken at any time until the child is 8 years old.
- The Dutch were the first to import coffee to Europe on a large scale as early as the 1600s and 1700s
- The Dutch have been making cheese since 400 AD
- There are close to 1,000 museums in Netherlands.
- Despite soft drugs being legal in Netherlands, you almost never see a Dutch person getting high.
- Despite the rainy weather, the Dutch use raincoats and rain “suits” instead of umbrellas because the wind is too strong and it an acrobatic feat to hold one and cycle at the same time
- It is the bicycle capital of the world with more than 18 million in the country. That’s more than 1 bicycle per person.
- New York City started as Dutch colony called New Amsterdam
- Orange-coloured carrots appeared in the Netherlands in the 16th century. Before that carrots were white, yellow, black, purple or red.
- he Dutch were the first Europeans to discover Australia and New Zealand in the 17th century. Australia was then named “New Holland”. New Zealand was named after the province of Zeeland. Tasmania was named after Dutch explorer Abel Tasman (1603-1659).