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France Facts: There are eight cheese families in France

It's well known that there is a lot of cheese in France and that French people in general are fond of cheese, but did you know about the cheese 'families'?

France Facts: There are eight cheese families in France

No, these aren't families who survive all year round on nothing but cheese (although that does sound like an appealing lifestyle) it's the families that the cheeses themselves belong to.

There are hundreds of different cheeses in France, nobody can quite agree on a number, since many cheeses have regional variations of the same basic recipe, but its generally agreed to be over a thousand.

Certainly a lot more than former president Charles de Gaulle's famous quote on the subject: “Comment voulez-vous gouverner un pays où il existe 246 variétés de fromage?” (How can anyone govern a nation that has 246 different kinds of cheese?).

But one thing that is agreed is that there are eight different types of cheese, known in French as familles de fromages – cheese families.

And they are;

  • Fresh cheese, such as cottage cheese or the soft white fromage blanc
  • Soft ripened cheese, such as Camembert or Brie
  • Soft ripened cheese with a washed rind, such as l'Epoisses or Pont l'Eveque
  • Unpasturised hard cheese such as Reblochon or saint Nectaire
  • Pasturised hard cheese such as Emmental or Comté
  • Blue cheese such as Roquefort 
  • Goat's cheese
  • Melted or mixed cheese such as Cancaillot

A good cheeseboard in France is generally considered to consist of at least three families – a soft cheese, a hard cheese and either a blue or a goat's cheese.

Read our full guide to the complex cheese etiquette of France.



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For members


France Facts: Paris once had a ‘strike square’

The French have something of an international reputation for being fond of a strike - but did you know that Paris once had a Place de Grève (strike square)?

France Facts: Paris once had a 'strike square'

But in this case the French did not name the square after one of their favourite activities, in fact it was the other way round.

The Place de Grève, in central Paris next to the Seine, was the place where unemployed workers gathered, seeking casual labour.

Over time grève came to signify a group of people who were not working.

After the French won the right to strike in 1864 – 20 years before they won the right to form a union – the word attached itself to workers who were choosing to without their labour, rather than people who were unable to find work.

These days the French are quite fond of une grève, and between 2010 and 2017, the number of French strike days was 125 per 1,000 employees, according to a study by the European Trade Union Institute.

As a comparison, the UK, Germany and Sweden had 20, 17 and 3 respectively. 

The Place de Grève still exists, but in 1802 it was renamed the Place de l'Hôtel de Ville and houses the very impressive city hall of Paris.

The square's other claim to fame is that it used to be where public executions took place, and saw the first public use of the guillotine when robber Nicolas Jacques Pelletier was executed on April 25th, 1792.

And France has seen one or two strikes since 1864.