Without actually setting foot on French soil, there are innumerable places around the world where you can immerse yourself in the best of everything French, including the cuisine, culture, and language. France has been an important part of European culture for a large portion of its history. French artistic, culinary, and sartorial trends affected the high and popular cultures of countries all over the world after colonization and global trade opened up markets for France. French traditions, fashion, and ideas continue to be exported today.
Here are some French-influenced destinations you can visit and immerse in its culture, language and lifestyle.
Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad resembled past French colonies in many aspects, despite the fact that France never claimed it. The island was legally ruled by the British from 1797 to 1962, when Trinidad and Tobago gained independence. However, the island was actually under Spanish rule for around 300 years, from 1498 through the years 1797 to 1803. The French also claimed Tobago, but unlike Trinidad, there is little to no evidence of French or French Creole left there—only a very small number of toponyms.
The second Cedula de Población, which permitted Catholic immigrants and their enslaved laborers as well as free coloureds access into Trinidad, is what gave Trinidad its French heritage. French residents and others—some of whom were Irish—arrived in large numbers, quickly surpassing the Spanish population. French and French Creole languages were brought by the French.
French “colonization” of Trinidad’s social and cultural landscape began in 1783. Trinidad at the time “seemed like a French colony which Spain had recently acquired,” as historian Pierre-Gustave-Louis Borde phrased it. Trinidad had a population of roughly 28,000 people when the British came, 20,000 of whom were French Creole-speaking African slaves.
French influence was expressed not only in the widespread use of French patois but also in the people’s passion for the Catholic tradition of Carnival. For about a century, the language spoken in Trinidad and Tobago was a dialect form of French, which was essentially French with Twi or Yoruba words added. Trini still has a significant French influence, and in some rural regions, people still speak a tongue that is more closely related to French than to English.
Very soon after Trinidad and Tobago’s independence in 1962, official ties between the two countries were established. It was preceded by a two-century French presence that had a significant historical, cultural, and linguistic impact.
Many Trinidadian families with true French surnames claim French ancestry dating back to the 18th century, while many places still have their original French names, and the local Creole or “patois” still spoken in various areas has kept its French lexical base. The origins of Trinidad’s carnival, the most important celebration in the entire region’s cultural calendar, may be traced to the holiday customs that French immigrants brought with them.
In the early 1900s, France protected Morocco for a number of decades. Despite the nation’s independence from France having been established for more than 50 years, French influence may still be seen, particularly in the language. Although French is the second most popular foreign language and is typically used by government officials and in commercial transactions, Arabic is the nation’s official language.
The nation nonetheless maintains close business links with France; newspapers are printed in the language; street signs and storefronts include French; and French and Arabic films coexist in the nation’s cinemas.
By means of the Treaty of Fes, the French government formally annexed the bulk of the Kingdom of Morocco in 1912. This treaty, which explicitly outlined France and Spain’s rule over Morocco, was the climax of gradually growing European power over what had previously been one of the last non-European dominated regions of Africa.
Due to its location in the French region of Morocco, Marrakech naturally developed a connection with the French language that is still evident today and in most of Morocco. For example, all signs are in both French and Arabic, and many people speak both languages in the majority of the service industry as well as in general. In fact, the Moroccan dialect of Arabic is thought to be a combination of French, Spanish, Berber and Arabic. This combination of dialects is testament to the richness of Moroccan heritage.
French colonial influence can be observed not only in the language spoken by Moroccans but also in the real city of Marrakech. This was because the church served as the focal point of the French New Town, making the structure synonymous with the neighborhood as a whole. With its wide boulevards and cafés, restaurants, and bars decorated in the French manner, this neighborhood in particular exhibits distinct influences from French architecture.
One of the most “European” regions in North America is the Canadian province of Quebec, which is home to the sizable cities of Montreal and Quebec City. The architecture, street signs, and urban planning of the province’s cities all reflect French culture, despite the fact that the territory was long ago ceded to France and incorporated into Canada. Officially, French is still the province’s official form for linguistic communication.
The first European nation to effectively colonize what would become Canada was France. The French Canadian ethnic group originated from French settlers who came to Canada in the 17th century, mostly from the west and north of France. People with French Canadian ancestry may be found all throughout North America because French Canadians conquered several areas, cities, and villages during the 17th and 18th centuries. The Grande Hémorragie, or mass immigration of French Canadians to New England, occurred between 1840 and 1930.
Roman Catholicism is the main denomination of Christianity, which is the predominate religion among French Canadians. Since non-Catholics were not allowed to settle in New France until 1629, practically all French settlers in Canada were Catholic.
French influences is seen more in Quebec City. The city center is filled with picture-perfect squares where visitors and locals congregate to people-watch, sip lattes, and snack on crusty baguettes. It is one of the few cities in North America to still have its historic fortress walls. You will almost forget that you are on the other side of the Atlantic for a brief moment as you enjoy a delicious poutine dinner while being surrounded by the sounds of French.
French Canadians make up the majority of the population in all areas of Quebec, with the exception of the extreme North (Nord-du-Québec), where they make up 85% of the country’s population. During the French colonial era, the majority of the cities and villages in this province were developed and populated by French or French Canadians.
Meanwhile, the other city, Montreal, has a downtown filled with imposing buildings. However, the area known as Vieux Montréal (Old Montreal) more than makes up for any “old-world” design deficiencies the commercial district may have with its cobblestone lanes and centuries-old structures.
French Canadians make up the majority of the population at 85% of the country’s population, in all areas of Quebec. The extreme North (Nord-du-Québec), though, is an exception. During the French colonial era, the majority of the cities and villages in this province were developed and populated by French or French Canadians.
Due to interprovincial migration, there are several large and small communities outside of Quebec in Canada that have long-standing populations of French Canadians dating back to the late 19th century.
New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
Following the French conquest of Louisiana in 1682, New Orleans was established by two brothers with the surname Le Moyne, who were officially known as Sieur d’Iberville and Sieur de Bienville. In addition to being called in honor of the Duke of Orleans, who served as France’s interim monarch until the infant Louis XV could ascend to the throne, La Nouvelle Orléans was given a French name to attract French immigrants who would have been discouraged by a town with an Indian name like Biloxi or Natchitoches.
The first 66 squares of a walled settlement, later known as the French Quarter or the Vieux Carré (Old City), were planned out by two French engineers. Streets in the Duke’s court were given names of lower royalty. Where the French Market is now, an area where trading between German farmers, Indian hunters, and trappers once took place. There can be little doubt about the influence the French had on the growth of the city during its time as a colony of “New France” in North America in the 17th and 18th century.
There are French cafés along the streets, and 7% of the population speaks French. French (and Spanish) cooking is the ancestor of both Creole and Cajun cuisine, as is the most well-known dessert in New Orleans, the beignet. Beignet is a deep fried pastry prepared from pâte à choux but also from other forms of dough, such as yeast dough. This delicate pastry, which the French Acadians brought to Louisiana in the 18th century, is a favorite in New Orleans. In 1986, the beignet was designated as Louisiana’s official state treat.
Traditional French meals are still popular at establishments like Galatoire’s and Antoine’s, and French cuisine has had a significant impact on American cuisine. Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday in French, has its roots in French Roman Catholic customs even if it has mostly turned into a rowdy carnival. Louisiana has more areas with French culture than New Orleans.
Other towns in the region have French names, such Baton Rouge and Dulac, which hint at their past French heritage. Mardi Gras and Bastille Day are observed as though they started in the state.
Saint Martin, Caribbean
Holland made the decision to bring settlers to St. Martin between 1627 and 1631 in order to take use of the island’s natural salt resources. The Treaty of Concordia, commonly known as the Partition Treaty, was signed by the French and the Dutch on March 23, 1648. France and Holland therefore divided the island into two pieces. The Dutch controlled the southern section (13 mi2), while the French controlled the northern part (20 mi2). According to legend, two walkers—a Frenchman and a Dutchman—determined the boundary. They started moving in separate directions down the shoreline while still standing back-to-back. Consequently, two nations’ mutual respect is the foundation of St. Martin’s history. The two nationalities were to no longer be separated by a physical barrier.
If it weren’t for the French flags flying everywhere, you wouldn’t have any reason to think that Saint Martin was so strongly influenced by the French, at least not at first glance. The beaches are smooth and white, and the buildings are low-lying and painted in the light colors typical of other Caribbean islands. However, on closer inspection, he names of all the businesses and street signs are still written in French, their official language is still French, and there are many restaurants serving delicious food that is a unique combination of French and Caribbean cuisine.
The Fort Louis, which hangs above the Bay of Marigot, is a reminder of a troubled past filled with conflicts between the English and the French. It was constructed in the 18th century to safeguard the port’s warehouses where the cane crops were kept, but now it just guards a beautiful view. Meanwhile, the village of Marigot, below, has maintained its allure with its lovely homes decorated with galleries and angular balustrades, as well as its vibrant market.
St. Lucia, Haiti, and Martinique are a few more Caribbean islands having historical links to France.
French Polynesia, an archipelago of more than 130 islands in the Pacific Ocean east of Australia, was a French protectorate at the end of the 19th century. Although Polynesian languages are also widely spoken, French is currently the official language of this overseas collectivity. Despite having political and economic ties to France, French Polynesia’s culture is much more Polynesian than French; aside from the language, there aren’t many other signs of French influence, and the people still have a strong sense of island identity, which they express through dress, customs, dance, and music.
The French Polynesian cuisine, which frequently gives local products a French twist with dishes like “poisson cru,” a French interpretation of ceviche, is where most aspects of French culture can be observed. The local vanilla is also given a French touch when used to make rich; while, French wine is also widely accessible.
Luang Prabang and Vientiane, Laos
Laos appears to be very different from France at first appearance, and in many ways, that is the case. The towns of Luang Prabang and Vientiane may be quickly observed to have lush green rice fields, Asians racing around on scooters and motorbikes, and monks gravely making their way to gilded Buddhist temples. But a lengthy relationship with France has left its influence on the much ignored nation.
It’s interesting to see the small ways that France is still visible in the lives of the people, especially in the cuisine, baguettes sold on every corner, the sporadic glimpses of European-style architecture, and the faces of the many French ex-pats who still live in the country, even though you may not hear much French spoken here and the culture is unmistakably Lao.
One of the most significant cultures in the world today is French culture, which includes art, fashion, gastronomy, and language. Nearly 8% of the earth’s surface was under France’s dominion during the height of its empire, which covered close to 5 million square kilometers of territory. While the majority of the former French colonies have developed their own identities, many nonetheless bear the enduring imprint of French culture (some more so than others, of course).
During the French Revolution, many people migrated to Canada and the United States, as well as many more who settled in the bordering nations (primarily Great Britain, Germany, and Austria). These Frenchmen’s expulsion facilitated the growth of French culture, immigration control measures, and a shelter for Royalists and other counterrevolutionaries to survive the bloody French Revolution.