August is vacation time in France. It is fully expected that employees will take off several weeks this month. The national attitude is that every French citizen has a right to time-off. They believe so strongly in this that many businesses close for several weeks during the month of August. Restaurants close, wine shops, offices, chocolate shops, little grocery stores. I even saw a pharmacy that was closed for vacation. We were at the local market last Saturday, and half the vendors were closed for ‘les vacances’, leading to unusually long queues at the vendors who chose to stay open. There is no apology for being closed, nor a suggestion for an alternate retailer, just a posted sign stating the weeks that they are closed.
During these holidays, many French flock to the coast, leaving the interior towns and cities eerily quiet. Meanwhile, the beaches and seaside towns are packed. Those who choose not to go to the beach stick around home and enjoy quality time with friends and family. We have seen and met neighbours that we have never laid eyes on before. All over town, families consisting of at least three generations go for strolls and bike rides.
To the outsider, that is me, this August behaviour is unusual, but surely a healthy break. It will soon come to an end though, as the most important work month in the French calendar is just around the corner. September is called la rentrée, or the entrance. It is when everyone heads back to work and school with a clear head for a super productive month. At least Gilles will soon have someone to sit with in the cafeteria!