I like France - it always surprises me how somewhere so close can manage to also be so different. Here's an example:
They have more police per person in France than anyone else in Europe. A lot of time they are standing around looking cool in shades and smoking Gitaines. That's when the police stations aren't shut for two hours at lunch.
Maybe it's to keep them off the streets, but the beach lifeguards are actually provided by the CRS riot police. That's the same guys with the Thunderbirds uniforms and the savage reputation. I imagine that they will drag you drowning from the sea and then club you like a seal pup.
On the beach we were on they interrupted their posing every now and then with announcements on the PA that something or other was strictly 'interdit'. Best of all, one afternoon they issued a warning about jelly fish in the sea - and the dangers of being stung.
They then went on to announce a competition for kids with a prize for the child to bring back the most jelly fish they could collect in a bucket ...
Superb. The French state may be occasionally authoritarian and arrogant, but at least you couldn't accuse it of being a nanny-state.