Ethnic Groups in France

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  • 0:04 Ethnic Groups in France
  • 0:25 The Arab-Africans
  • 1:46 The Bretons
  • 2:38 The Basques
  • 3:44 The Catalans
  • 4:31 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Nicole Gaines

Nicole is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a master's degree in counseling.

France controlled one of the largest empires in history and consequently has many diverse ethnicities living there today. In this lesson, you'll learn about the larger ethnic groups residing in France today.

Ethnic Groups in France

Ethnicity is a difficult thing to talk about in regards to France. This is largely because the French government doesn't allow the collection of statistics on ethnicities for fear of prejudice or racism against those people. However, there are some key ethnicities in France that you would have a difficult time passing by without wondering, Who are these people?

The Arab-Africans

Aside from the French ethnicity, the Arab/African population is the second largest ethnicity in France at roughly 10% of the total population. Did you know that at one point in history, a large part of Europe was ruled by the Arab Empire? The movement of Arabs into France predates Islam and was largely influenced by the Arab Empire conquering what is now Spain and Portugal. Many Arabs migrated from French colonies after World War II, and a large amount of immigration has taken place since the Arab Spring in 2011 due to instability in multiple regions of the middle-east and Africa.

Many more Arabs came to France between the 60s and 70s during France's big economic growth and chose to settle in one of France's big industrial regions, like Paris, Corsica, Provence-Alps Cote d'Azur, or Alsace, for example. The majority of Arabs in France tend to be from Maghreb (Northwest Africa, including Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, and Algeria) and Mashreq (Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq).

Although most Arabs living in France identify with Islam, there is a portion of the population who are a part of the Arab Christian community. For example, over half of all Lebanese immigrants in France tend to be of the Christian faith, and many more Arab Christians seek refugee status in Europe.

The Bretons

The modern Bretons are descendants of the Celts and Vikings arriving after the fall of the Roman Empire. The Northwestern region of Brittany was named after the inhabiting Bretons. Today, they are concentrated mostly in Brittany, but Breton culture can be found in small pockets across France.

The official language of the Bretons is Bretonwhich is spoken by just over 360,000 people. However, Gallo is another language that is still spoken by a small minority in upper Brittany. Today, it is estimated that only around 20% of Bretons can speak Breton, so many Bretons see it as their duty to keep their culture and language alive.

Most Bretons are Roman Catholic but there are sizable amounts of whom are Protestants and non-religious. The Breton culture can be seen through their traditional music, dances, and festivals they call Festou-noz.

The Basques

If you've never been to the Basque Country, you are missing out on some of the best food, traditions, and genuinely friendly people. In total, there are over 40 Michelin-starred restaurants in Basque country and four of them have the highest honor of having three stars.

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