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Lesson Transcript

Virginie: Bonjour!
Eric: Eric here. Top Five Things To Know About France.
Virginie: I am Virginie and thanks again for being here with us. Okay, Eric, I have a surprise for you today.
Eric: Well thank you Virginie, what is it?
Virginie: I prepared some sort of a quiz for you.
Eric: Oh my god! I hope it’s not a movie quiz, I am horrible at those.
Virginie: Don’t worry. It’s a quiz about topics you know very well.
Eric: Ah so there is a good chance it will have something to do with France, right?
Virginie: Yeah it’s actually a few questions to find out if you know the top five things you have to know about France.
Eric: Well I suppose I do but knowing that you are going to probably try to trick me and talk about things I’ve never heard of.
Virginie: Maybe but afterwards, you will shine with knowledge in cocktail parties.
Eric: Ah it sounds pretty good. Okay so try me.

Lesson focus

Virginie: Okay. What is most commonly said about French workers?
Eric: That they are permanently on strike.
Virginie: Yeah right.
Eric: Well is that the truth?
Virginie: It is the truth actually. First of all, let’s make a point here. In order to understand why people seem to protest a lot in France, you need to know that a lot of our services are part of the public sector.
Eric: Okay so that means that they are all part of the government basically?
Virginie: Yes for example, education and health research are public, government owned.
Eric: Why is it important to know that?
Virginie: Because in those cases, protesting is not just some eccentricity. It’s meant to prevent the government from abusing its power over budgets, employment et cetera.
Eric: Okay. So what about the private sector?
Virginie: A lot less people go and strike in the private sector but it happens.
Eric: Okay so it’s less common for people in the private sector to go on strike. Is that because it’s more risky?
Virginie: Yes. You know, there is less security in private jobs, of course. You can’t really afford to go on strike, not be predictive and lose your position. Does that make sense?
Eric: Yeah okay, that does make sense.
Virginie: But France is a very productive country too no matter all those strikes.
Eric: Well thanks for the highlights. What’s the next question?
Virginie: Let’s turn to geography here and do you know how many regions France has?
Eric: I am not even really sure what a region is.
Virginie: Well France is divided into 26 regions or geographic and administrative areas if you prefer.
Eric: Okay. So it’s like states in the US.
Virginie: Not quite but more or less French regions don’t have as much power as American states for example especially legally.
Eric: Okay. So they don’t have their own laws?
Virginie: No they don’t.
Eric: So what do they do?
Virginie: Well, they are actually getting more and more power lately especially since the 90s but anyway to have power over health programs and environmental projects, roads and housing etcetera.
Eric: That makes sense. So what region are you from?
Virginie: My region is called Midi Pyrénées. It’s in southwestern France.
Eric: So I bet it’s in the Pyrénées?
Virginie: Uhoo you really impress me with your perspicacity.
Eric: Who governs a region?
Virginie: The president of the region governs the region.
Eric: It sounds like a pretty important job?
Virginie: It is.
Eric: So what is a department. I’ve heard that they have departments in France too?
Virginie: There are departments and a department is a subdivision in a region. There are a 100 of them.
Eric: Are you serious or do you know them all?
Virginie: If you ask me to regurgitate them right now, I might make a fool of myself but I learned them at school.
Eric: Okay. So what’s your favorite department?
Virginie: La Guyane francaise, French Guyana, South America.
Eric: South America, so that’s not in France?
Virginie: No. Well it is part of France but it’s not geographically in France, that’s true. People tend to forget about its existence as a French department. So I just thought I would mention it.
Eric: Have you been there?
Virginie: No. I have a good friend who lives there though. I would love to go but no.
Eric: So a new question please.
Virginie: Let’s continue with something a little more sexy.
Eric: Finally.
Virginie: Some pop culture.
Eric: I’ve never heard of pop culture as being so sexy.
Virginie: Well French pop culture is quite sexy. Here is my question. Who is Gad El Maleh, is he a singer, is he an athlete or a comedian?
Eric: Comedian?
Virginie: Yeah.
Eric: So why is that sexy?
Virginie: That’s a good question because Gad El Maleh happens to be a very sexy comedian. Well you probably don’t know.
Eric: Okay. I take your word for it. So I thought you guys were really into like Jerry Lewis.
Virginie: No I know people think that French people love Jerry Lewis. I don’t know why because we don’t.
Eric: I didn’t know you’ve had your own comedians even.
Virginie: That’s true. We have a lot of comedians, a lot of political comedians and Gad El Maleh is a very funny comedian.
Eric: So what is Gad’s specialty?
Virginie: Oh he parodies French society.
Eric: Oh okay it sounds pretty funny.
Virginie: It is funny.
Eric: Okay so let’s have some more pop culture.
Virginie: I would just like to mention a French singer and his name is Alain Bashung.
Eric: Why him?
Virginie: Well he actually died a few months ago and he was one of France’s best pop singer. He was really good. It’s good pop culture.
Eric: Hmm. So what does French pop music sound like?
Virginie: Well it varies a lot and Alain Bashung’s songs were beautiful without being cheesy and very politically powerful.
Eric: Talking about sexy, what about Carla Bruni?
Virginie: Okay. Well if she is too busy being the first lady right now, but she will be back on stage after her husband’s term.
Eric: And what do you think about her music?
Virginie: Ah I will pass on this one.
Eric: Okay. So what should we talk about next?
Virginie: I am afraid it will have to be economics.
Eric: I love economics.
Virginie: Here is my question then. Which of these economic sectors is the most powerful in France? Industry, agriculture or services?
Eric: I’d say agriculture?
Virginie: Wrong, it’s the sector of services that we also call the third sector.
Eric: But there are so many farms in France?
Virginie: Well you know, most of our farms are now turned into houses actually, however agriculture has a very strong lobbying action in France for sure.
Eric: Hmm so like the wine industry?
Virginie: Exactly.
Eric: The sector of services though.
Virginie: The sector of services however employs 72% of the active population which makes it the strongest.
Eric: So what part of the service industry is the most important?
Virginie: Without a doubt, the tourism industry.
Eric: Really? I thought the French hated tourists.
Virginie: Well that’s a myth. A lot of regions lives, thanks to tourism in France and you know what?
Eric: What?
Virginie: My last quiz question is actually about tourism in France.
Eric: Well, we are really on the same page, aren’t we?
Virginie: Yeah what a team.
Eric: Okay go ahead, quiz me.
Virginie: Ah okay, what do you think is the most popular destination in France?
Eric: I’d say the French Riviera?
Virginie: You mean “la côte d’Azur” that’s how we call “la Riviera” in French.
Eric: Côte d’Azur. The Blue Coast?
Virginie: Yeah it’s by the sea, so...
Eric: So am I right or wrong?
Virginie: You are right, “la Côte d’Azur” and more widely southeastern France is the #1 destination for foreigners and locals too.
Eric: Did you go a lot growing up?
Virginie: Not really actually. I prefer the west coast, the Atlantic Ocean. It’s less crowded.
Eric: And what does the Atlantic look like in France?
Virginie: It’s gorgeous. To give you an idea, we would compare it to the US west coast.
Eric: Like sand dunes?
Virginie: Yeah exactly. A lot of sand dunes, wild beaches and winds. I used to ride my bike a lot over there in the pine tree forest.
Eric: Ah it sounds beautiful.
Virginie: And you can surf there too. I mean like you know that actual surfers can.
Eric: You know what, I will show you my surf skills some day.


Virginie: You know, I can’t wait. I think we are done right now.
Eric: Thank you.
Virginie: Thank you all for listening and have a great day! Au revoir!
Eric: Bye bye.