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The population is divided by social class, political party affiliation, generation, ethnicity, and region.

Having had a significant rural population well into the twentieth century, the country continues to be marked by a rural-urban split. The French often refer to their nation as a hexagon to describe its six-sided shape, and this term is also a symbol for the country.

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Regional languages and dialects such as Breton, Catalan, Corsican, Basque, Alsatian, and Flemish are still in use, and some are taught in regional schools.

The law of 11 January 1951 permitted the teaching of regional languages in regions in which they were in use.

Metropolitan France has an area of over 200,000 square miles (518,000 square kilometers), making it the largest Western European nation. Paris is the capital and cultural center, long dominating the rest of the nation.

The older provinces, now reconfigured in what are officially called regions, have played an important role in the nation's history. The French Republic includes four overseas departments ( départements d' outre-mer DOMs): French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Réunion.

Overseas territories ( territoires d'outre-mer ) include French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Wallis, and Futuna.