Sports are deeply embedded in French culture, with high participation on a local level as well as great national interest generally. The two most popular sports in France are poles apart: football and fishing!

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The French love football and it took on increased popularity when France created history on July 12, 1998 by defeating Brazil 3-0 in the World Cup. In stark contrast, both river and sea fishing are extremely popular and of course France is a country which caters for all types, there being a vast range of rivers and lakes – not to mention coastline. Carp fishing is available to all anglers and many people actually choose their home by its proximity to a local carp fishing lake!

Coming up very close in third place is rugby. Rugby union is something you will find on every TV in every bar in every village during the season, and the French are very competitive when it comes to the sport being played at national level. Each year, France participates in the Six Nations Championship along with England, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. The French rugby team is consistently ranked as one of the strongest in Europe.

Tennis is also extremely popular, with the best clay court players in the world converging on the Roland Garros courts in Paris in springtime. Let’s not forget Marion Bartoli, who won the ladies’ singles championship at Wimbledon in 2013.

A lesser-known sport often taught in schools and gaining popularity in France is handball. The French established an official handball team in the early 1990s, and it has been going strongly ever since.

You can’t talk about sports in France of course without mentioning cycling. Every year after the Tour de France, you are likely to see endless serious cyclists pounding the roads all over the country. The first Tour de France was in 1903, and each race lasts for three gruelling weeks, with the participants having to cross some rather treacherous terrain.

Basketball is another surprisingly popular sport in France. There is a national team and this is something which is gradually being introduced into schools across the country.

Motor sport has become another of the most important sporting events in France. The FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) champions hailing from France include Alain Prost, Jean-Louis Schlesser, Didier Auriol and Sebastien Loeb, and France hosts one Formula One race each year. Alain Prost dominated the Formula One circuits back in the 80s and early 90s, representing teams such as McLaren, Ferrari, Renault and Williams. Currently France has four Formula One participating drivers.

Sport in general is of course a great leveller, and if you are coming to live in France and have a particular sport you love, it’s a great idea to seek out somewhere you can indulge in it and meet like-minded folk. Pool and billiard tables abound in bars and of course the lovely and very typical game of “boules” can be seen in church squares all over the country during the summer months. Anyone can join in, so go for it!


Further reading for Living In France

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Finding work in France

There are a number of ways that UK expats can fund their lifestyle in France.
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Education in France

Are you emigrating to France with school-age children?

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Social life in France

The best way to get settled in France is to find out as much as you can about your new community.
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Healthcare

The French healthcare system is one of the best in the world...

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