|c. 93 million[a]|
(Full or partial French ancestry
and citizenship worldwide)
|Regions with significant populations|
(Including all the overseas departments)
| United States||10,329,465|
(Includes French Canadian Americans)
| United Kingdom||126,049|
| Hong Kong||25,000|
| New Zealand||4,593|
| Dominican Republic||2,000|
|Related ethnic groups|
The French (French: Français) are an ethnic group and nation who are identified with the country of France. This connection may be ethnic, legal, historical, or cultural.
Historically the heritage of the French people is mostly of Celtic and Roman origin, descending from the ancient and medieval populations of Gauls, Ligures, Latins, Iberians, and to a lesser extent, Germanic people such as Franks, Alamans and Norsemen. France has long been a patchwork of local customs and regional differences, and while most French people still speak the French language as their mother tongue, languages like Norman, Occitan, Catalan, Auvergnat, Corsican, Basque, French Flemish, Lorraine Franconian, Alsatian and Breton remain spoken in their respective regions. Arabic is also widely spoken, arguably the largest minority language in France as of the 21st Century (a spot previously held by Breton and Occitan).
Modern French society is a melting pot. From the middle of the 19th century, it experienced a high rate of inward migration, mainly consisting of Arab-Berbers, Sub-Saharan Africans, Chinese and other peoples from Africa, the Middle East and East Asia, and the government, defining France as an inclusive nation with universal values, advocated assimilation through which immigrants were expected to adhere to French values and cultural norms. Nowadays, while the government has let newcomers retain their distinctive cultures since the mid-1980s and requires from them a mere integration, French citizens still equate their nationality with citizenship as does French law.
In addition to mainland France, French people and people of French descent can be found internationally, in overseas departments and territories of France such as the French West Indies (French Caribbean), and in foreign countries with significant French-speaking population groups or not, such as Switzerland (French Swiss), the United States (French Americans), Canada (French Canadians), Argentina (French Argentines), Brazil (French Brazilians), Chile (French Chileans) and Uruguay (French Uruguayans).
Citizenship and legal residence
To be French, according to the first article of the French Constitution, is to be a citizen of France, regardless of one's origin, race, or religion (sans distinction d'origine, de race ou de religion). According to its principles, France has devoted itself to the destiny of a proposition nation, a generic territory where people are bounded only by the French language and the assumed willingness to live together, as defined by Ernest Renan's "plébiscite de tous les jours" ('everyday plebiscite') on the willingness to live together, in Renan's 1882 essay "Qu'est-ce qu'une nation?").
The debate concerning the integration of this view with the principles underlying the European Community remains open.
A large number of foreigners have traditionally been permitted to live in France and succeeded in doing so. Indeed, the country has long valued its openness, tolerance and the quality of services available. Application for French citizenship is often interpreted as a renunciation of previous state allegiance unless a dual citizenship agreement exists between the two countries (for instance, this is the case with Switzerland: one can be both French and Swiss). The European treaties have formally permitted movement and European citizens enjoy formal rights to employment in the state sector (though not as trainees in reserved branches, e.g., as magistrates).
Seeing itself as an inclusive nation with universal values, France has always valued and strongly advocated assimilation. However, the success of such assimilation has recently been called into question. There is increasing dissatisfaction with, and within, growing ethno-cultural enclaves (communautarisme). The 2005 French riots in some troubled and impoverished suburbs (les quartiers sensibles) were an example of such tensions. However they should not be interpreted as ethnic conflicts (as appeared before in other countries like the USA and the UK) but as social conflicts born out of socioeconomic problems endangering proper integration.