Monday, February 05, 2007

Contrast and diversity

France is known around the world as a diverse country in its people, architectures and landscapes. About 56% of the French population claim to have foreign background , which makes France one of the most diverse countries in Europe. Old and more recent immigrants came to France from the five continents (Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and the Americas). China and the United Kingdom contributed most of its immigrants in 2005. France is also home of the highest point in Europe (Mont-Blanc 4,810 m; 15,780 ft) and one of the lowest points in Europe, Delta du Rhone, (-5 m; -15 ft). France is seventeen-times smaller than Brazil and half the size of Ontario, which means that one hour by plane or eight hours by car are enough to cross the whole country from one extremity to the other. Despite its size, France's landscapes are extremely varied from one region to another, ranging from Paris and its suburbs to high alpine territory to oceanfront resort towns.

On the one hand, France is highly densified with old architecture such as the city of Paris or the Centre of Troyes. The French Family Code is 200 years old and has been written under Napoleon. On the other hand, France is a highly developed country with an extensive highway network (for example: France is slightly bigger than California but its highway network is more than twice as long), 32,000 kilometres (20,000 mi) of railways (SNCF), along with modern ski resorts and gigantic malls. France is also the country with the fastest average internet connection speed (ADSL and more recently optical fibre in Paris), and in 2004, for the 3rd time in a row, the French healthcare system has been ranked number one in the world by the World Health Organisation.