SQUIZ THE WORLD (1400 × 700px)

Squiz the World goes to… France

Beyonce and Jay Z bring pop culture to the Louvre: (Language warning) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbMqWXnpXcA
Link to preschool lunch menu: https://karenlebillon.com/tag/french-kids-school-lunch-project/
French Onion Soup recipe: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1017256-french-onion-soup
Baguette recipe: https://momsdish.com/baguette


Each week, we give the world globe a spin, and see where we land. Then we take the kids of Australia on an audio excursion to visit that country and its people.

I’m Amanda Bower, and today on Squiz the World we’re visiting a country famous for eclairs, baguettes, and garlicky frogs’ legs… you probably don’t need another clue, do you? We’re heading to France!

This European country gets 89 million tourists per year—more than its entire population of 67 million, and more visitors any other country in the world! Let’s find out why. Strap yourselves into the Squiz Kids Super Fast Supersonic Jetliner as we take off and take a squiz at France …

Just the Facts
France is the biggest country in the European Union, and the third-biggest in all of Europe, after Russia and Ukraine. It’s known in French as “L’Hexagone”, which means “The Hexagon.” Hexa, as all you Greek speakers would know, means six, and if you look at a map of France, you’ll see that it does look quite a lot like a shape with six equal sides. I mean, don’t look tooo closely… and don’t include the island of Corsica, or some of the French territories scattered around the world.

Maybe some of you have been to France, or seen pictures or videos from there.

Give a silent wave if you’ve seen the Eiffel Tower… the tallest structure in the capital, Paris, at 81 stories high. It’s the most visited monument in the world that you have to pay to see, and one of the most recognised structures in the world.

Or how about the most-visited art museum in the world, the Louvre, which is home to the famous Leonardo Da Vinci portrait of Mona Lisa? More than 10 million people walked through its doors in 2019—a record that some people think Beyonce and Jay-Z helped to set, because a video they filmed there got more people to visit. I’ve popped a link in your episode notes… it does a beautiful job of highlighting the paintings and the building, but be warned: there is some fruity language.

Other top tourist destinations in France include the Palace of Versailles… Notre Dame cathedral, which was burned in a devastating fire in 2019 and is now being rebuilt… the countryside of Provence… the skifields of Chamonix… the rugged coast of Brittany… the villages of Alsace… the glitzy beaches of Biarritz… France has something for everyone, and there’s no way you can see it all in just one trip!

Whenever you travel, it’s important to learn a few words in that country’s language. It’s a great way to show respect… So, let’s….

Learn the Lingo

In France the official language is French. And the French are VERY protective and proud of their language. The Académie Française is an organization which is actually in charge of the French language… it adds official words to French, updates the meaning of existing ones, and, because there’s so much English in the world nowadays, the Academie spends a lot of time trying to prevent English words filtering into French by choosing or inventing French equivalents.

When I visited France, people wouldn’t talk to me unless I at least tried to speak French. So we’ve got Squiz Kid Alice here, who’s 10, to help us. Alice was born in France and moved to Canberra when she was 8. Alice, how do you say hello in French?


Go on, you give it a try! It literally means good… that’s bon… day… that’s jour. Bonjour!

People are always really grateful when you just try to speak their language. They may even thank you for it. Hey, Alice, how do we say thank you?
Merci beaucoup

And merci beaucoup to you, too, Alice”
Now that we can communicate a little bit, it’s….

Time for School
Believe it or not, kids in France must start school when they’re just THREE! They start in what’s called an ‘école maternelle’, which is sort of pre-school which introduces them to learning in groups, sharing, taking turns… so it’s a lot like preschool here, it’s just compulsory.

At the age of six, kids then move to an ‘école élémentaire,’ which is similar to primary school here – they focus on reading, writing, maths, science, and so on. In one week at school, kids receive 24 hours of teaching — which is a little less than in Australia — and they often have part or all of Wednesday off school. That gives the teachers time to plan and prepare… and of course the kids time to do other stuff.

But possibly the best thing about school in France is school lunch.  Up until students are about 12, French schools are called “restaurant schools.” They have cooks on-site, as well as servers who will even cut up kids’ food if needed. Local food is used whenever possible, and menus are reviewed by a dietician.

Now here in Australia, you’ll often see “kids menus” at restaurants, serving chicken nuggets, or plain pizza, or hamburgers without lettuce and tomato. No such thing in France, which is famous for its fancy and delicious food. Parents there don’t believe in a difference between kids and adult food, so school lunch is… wait for it… THREE COURSES. You start with a vegetable salad, then have a protein and another vegetable. There’s bread and cheese on the side, and yes, there’s dessert. Sometimes it’s just fruit, but it can also be a tarte tartin (apple tart) or some other fabulous pastry. I’ve popped a link to a month’s worth of school lunch menus in your episode notes to take a look. It’s pretty mouthwatering.

Lunch is the biggest meal of a kid’s day, and they’re encouraged to take their time eating it… they sit at the table for a full half an hour and are encouraged to socialise as they munch. And the cost of those meals to parents varies, depending on how much families can afford, but the most you’ll pay is about $5. For three courses! Wow.

One of the best things about visiting another country is immersing yourself – that means surrounding yourself – in a different culture. So, ….

Let’s Get Cultural
France is known for its poets and novelists… its philosophers… its art… but as we’ve learned already, French cuisine—that means food—is one of the most important parts of the country’s culture. In fact, French cuisine has United Nations World Heritage status—which basically means that it has been judged to have outstanding value to humanity. Pretty impressive for food! Then again, every day in France, TWO new cookbooks are published – so they are tres serieuse about their food. That means very serious… I think…

Food is so important in France that since 2016, it’s actually illegal to throw away food! Supermarkets face a massive fine – more than $100,000 and even jail time if they throw away or destroy unsold food that is still edible. Instead, they have to donate it to food banks and charities.

You’ve probably already heard about a lot of famous French dishes… the average French citizen eats 500 snails a year, served as an entree with garlic butter… there are more than 400 different kinds of cheese made in France, some of them quite stinky… and although the croissant was actually invented in Austria, there’s no doubt the French have perfected that flaky, buttery piece of perfection.

But did you know that turning a baguette upside down—a baguette is that long, skinny loaf of crusty white bread—is considered unlucky? This supersition is said to date back to when people were still being executed for crimes in France. Executed means put to death… and legend has it that on the day the executioner had to go to work, he wouldn’t have time to pop by the bakery before doing his grisly job. So the baker would reserve the executioner a loaf by turning the bread upside down… and everyone who saw that upside down loaf knew what was happening that day. Today, people are no longer put to death in France, but turning a baguette upside down is still associated with death and misfortune.

Okay, enough talking about food… I’m starving! It is DEFINITELY …

Dinner Time
There are so many French recipes to try, but all that talk about baguette means I need to get some in my gob… so I’ve popped a fantastic old fashioned French Onion Soup recipe in your episode notes. Top it with cheesy baguette slices, and have some baguette on the side for good luck. If you’ve got extra time on your hands, there’s also a recipe for home made baguette, too! The smell of bread baking in your oven? Mmmmm.

The S’Quiz
This is the part of the podcast where you get to test how well you’ve been listening.

Question 1 Which American celebrities are said to have boosted tourist visits to the Louvre art museum?
Question 2 How old are French kids when they start school?
Question 3 How many snails does the average French citizen eat in one year?