Wednesday, August 10, 2005

French Particularities No. 4: The August Holiday

It's August 10th today, and it's silent as the grave here in the suburbs of Paris. We went out to look for a restaurant the other night and found the only one that remained open was a Chinese. All the rest, several pizza restaurants and creperies, had signs saying they were closed for the majority of August. Not only that, but most of the shops are closed as well.

To a Brit like myself, it seems extraordinary that anyone could take a month off work, but in France it is considered perfectly normal to go away on holiday for the whole month of August. And if you have more holiday saved, you can go away for longer. One of my colleagues has disappeared for a six week break!

A friend we talked to about a week ago, said that the head count in his office is normally around 1000 people, but is currently 25! That translates into an exodus more or less on the scale of wilderbeest herds trampling across the African savannah, except in this case it concerns Peugeot estates packed to the gunnels and moving southwards across France in the general direction of the Mediterranean.

Americans find this particularly difficult to understand, since they generally have an annual holiday entitlement of only two weeks a year (so much for the land of the free!). An employee of a large corporation told me recently that the French Director of the French subsidiary where he worked had announced he would be taking a month of holiday in August. He said the reaction among bosses on the other side of the Atlantic was to ask: "So do we really need this guy?".

Fortunately, offices can keep running in August due to: (1) foreigners, and (2) students doing summer placements. You can tell there are lots of students on summer placement just by the length of queue for pizzas in the restaurant at around 11.45, when lunch service begins. The poor old pizza guy has to work flat out.

1 comment:

Andrea said...

Here in Japan they can bank their holidays. You receive one new paid holiday every year to a max of 20 days. Most never use. I have some guys who have two months worth of holidays and still work on weekends. They never use. CRAZY!
As for the work group thingy, failed french sorry, great idea. Here in Japan it is called a union, but it is nothing like what a union is in the America. It is more like what you have there. hmm. Interesting.