- By John
- On Nov 6, 2018
- Travel Tips
Planning your France trip by our tips or book the south of France tour on the site. Each region looks and feels different, has its own style of architecture, its own characteristic food and often its own dialect. Though the French word pays is the term for a whole country, people frequently refer to their own region as mon pays – my country – and this strong sense of regional identity has persisted despite centuries of centralizing governments, from Louis XIV to de Gaulle.
Things not to do during France trip:
1) Get up early and carry a watch. Most offices, museums, art galleries and shops close at noon or 12.30 for a two-hour lunch. If it's Tuesday, a cultural site like a museum might be closed all day. Don't expect to go to the supermarket on Sunday, unless it's high summer in a tourist area. Supermarkets are nearly all closed on Sundays. France is still a Catholic country, which means everyone regards Sunday lunch as sacred. There is a big ongoing debate about the morality of Sunday shopping. France rates very highly on indices of work-life balance and the Sunday lunch is one reason why.
2) The obverse of the strict closure rule is the strict opening rule. It's 11.55 and you want a table for 12 for lunch. Can we come in, you ask? "Non, on est fermé!'. At midday, "on est ouvert" and not before. My local bank brings the door shutter halfway down about seven minutes before midday, so no new customer can arrive and delay the start of lunch for the staff. The French work 35 hours a week and they mean it – unless you are a train driver. They work less than 35 hours a week and they find that onerous – which brings me to the touchy topic of strikes.
3) SIX Summer is the season for "les greves", particularly rail strikes. Even though less than 8 per cent of French workers are in a union, they can get very cranky. Many unions were communist-led until recently. The summer of 2016 has been particularly bad because the Socialist government of Francois Hollande is trying to make hiring and firing easier in the private sector, in an attempt to ease France's 10.5 per cent unemployment rate. The workers in the public sector, who already have jobs and would barely be affected, are outraged. That has meant that on some days this summer most flights were grounded, most trains did not run and the petrol refineries were blockaded. Then the heavens opened and half the country flooded. The summer is both the best and the worst of times, sometimes.