Understanding the Hexagonal Metaphor: Geographic and Cultural Insights into Why France is Dubbed the ‘Hexagon’

On May 5, 2024 , updated on May 5, 2024 - 4 minutes to read

France, often nicknamed “the Hexagon” because of its unique geographical shape reminiscent of a hexagon, is distinguished geographically by its natural borders and its particular territorial configuration. This name is not a simple cartographic coincidence, but it sums up a national identity marked by history and geopolitics.

The geographical configuration of France

The geographical configuration of France

The metaphor of the hexagon to describe metropolitan France takes its origins in the arrangement of its borders. If you draw the outline of the country on a map, you will notice that France actually seems to fit into a shape with six relatively symmetrical sides.

The north of the country is delimited by the English Channel, which separates it from the United Kingdom, while the North-east sees its borders with Belgium and Luxembourg extending over plains. To the east, the powerful massifs of the Alps and Jura mark its limit with Italy, Switzerland and a small part of Germany. The South-East And South are bordered by the Mediterranean Sea. The Pyrenees, the extreme southwest, draw the border with Spain, and the Atlantic landscape shapes the west from France.

An almost perfect hexagon

Although the resemblance to a perfect hexagon is a simplification, this representation is surprisingly close to reality, especially if we omit the details of the coastlines and border irregularities. The metropolitan contours of the country are organized around some 5,500 kilometers of land borders and an impressive maritime expanse.

The role of natural boundaries

France’s natural borders have been decisive in its territorial defense over the centuries. The Alps, the Pyrenees, as well as the Rhine, served as ramparts against invasions and favored the creation of a competitive and coherent territory. Likewise, the use of rivers as delimitation elements has simplified the administrative and economic organization of the country.

Cultural implications of France

Beyond the geographical aspect, the hexagonal appellation has a strong cultural dimension. It materializes a certain uniformity and equality between the regions that make up metropolitan France, thus consolidating the idea of ​​a united and indivisible nation.

Symbolism of the Hexagon:

The hexagon is a geometric shape that evokes balance and stability. By associating France with this figure, we emphasize the harmony of the territories that constitute it. This symbolic representation also helps to strengthen the image of a strong and structured France on the international level.

Territorial and Social Unifier:

This concept of the hexagon also resonates as unifying. It roots the idea of ​​a common belonging to a delimited space which transcends the cultural, linguistic or ethnic diversities of the inhabitants of France. The hexagon, in everyday language, therefore asserts itself as an element of social cohesion.

Marketing and Branding of the Territory:

Using the hexagon as a trademark helps promote a coherent and recognizable image of France. This is found both in tourism and economic communication campaigns, where the hexagonal shape is regularly highlighted to establish a feeling of identification among citizens and recognition abroad.

France and its overseas departments

France and its overseas departments

Considering France only as a hexagon would be simplistic. It should be noted that the name ignores the overseas departments and territories (DOM-TOM) which extend the French presence well beyond European waters and contribute to the cultural diversity of the country.

An Extended Geography:

Guadeloupe, Martinique, Réunion, Guyana and Mayotte, all territories which expand the geographical radius of France. The Overseas Territories reflect another facet of French identity, more cosmopolitan and multicultural.

Incorporation into the Hexagonal Identity:

If the hexagon remains a central element in the geographical description of France, a more inclusive approach gives rise to new terms to encompass all French territories. This global consideration allows us to nuance the perception of France, which is both European and global through its geographical plurality.

The role of education in the propagation of the hexagonal image

Education plays a crucial role in disseminating the French image of France. School books, educational materials and historical accounts emphasize this representation which, over time, becomes a component of collective identity.

France in school textbooks

From primary school onwards, atlases and maps of France highlight this particular form. School geography instills in children the image of the hexagon as a fundamental reference point for the territorial configuration of their country.

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