The people of France receive four to six weeks of paid vacation each year – normal for this part of Europe though I am sure Americans will be scratching their heads in wonderment at this laxity!
The majority of the annual leave seems to be taken in August.
The French Government is to all intents and purpose AWOL and in Paris it is estimated that 40% of the inhabitants will leave the City for the entire month of August – and that number is a lot less than just a decade ago when it was said to be nearer 60%.
It’s the same throughout France, not just in Paris; French people take time off in August. Shops, restaurants, businesses of all kinds just come to a halt for weeks on end.
A surprisingly high number of French people remain in France for their vacation – just somewhere different from where they live. Let’s face it, they have a huge choice of places to go to, this country is so diverse.
Where I live, the Town Hall, nearest Post Office, various council offices, builder’s yards, boulangerie and all sorts of other shops and businesses close in August. The first time this happened I was absolutely incredulous. How can an entire town just close down its administrative offices?
Now, I’m used to it, anything that needs doing has to be started in June and you hope it’s finished by July.
If you live here you get used to it and you plan accordingly.
However it is now nearly September and that marks the beginning of La Rentrée. Everyone comes back from their fabulous vacations and returns to their usual routines. The shops are spruced up, inventory is replenished and the people are refreshed too. School children dust off their huge sacks for lugging around the ridiculous amount of books they are expected to carry to and from school each day. Parents succumb to the advertising campaigns exhorting them to buy their children pens, pencils, calculators and other school paraphernalia. Everyone prepares to return to normality, the daily routine of life, La Rentrée is like an awakening after the long hot summer, time to come back to the real world and we all seem to get a bit of a burst of energy. I think that might also be to do with the fact that the mornings and evenings are a bit cooler with the autumn approaching.
I don’t do the August time off thing – I’m British, I wait until September!
I always think it is the best time to take a break in France as there are less French tourists, less tourists all round, the prices come down as it’s not high season, the flowers are at their best and it’s a mellow time of year. The weather is usually perfect – warm in the day with cool evenings.
This September though, I don’t have a holiday planned. Normally by now I’m totally organised with it but the OH has a rush job on and I have press trips and interviews lined up and, to be honest, I now have so many animals that getting anyone to take the herd of dogs, cats and assorted poultry over for a few days is proving more problematic than I’d like!
À la rentrée