The month of August in France: when the entire country goes on vacation. Shops in Paris close down, the Côte d’Azur fills with tourists. It’s hard not to love a country so intent on enjoying itself. In the U.S., the thought of closing a store or restaurant for a day, let alone a week or a month, merits close consideration of risks, costs, and benefits. Business owners just don’t do it. Yet I’ve seen boulangeries in Paris with handwritten signs in their windows declaring themselves closed, temporarily, with no explanation and often no details on when they plan to reopen. Weeks later, the doors open once more, the scent of fresh pastries drift onto the sidewalk, and the well-rested shop owners smile, nothing amiss. My business owner friends in the U.S. would never close their doors so they could take a vacation. American customers have expectations that our favorite haunts will be there for us, without fail, and if they aren’t, well, forget them. We’ll find somewhere else. And we do. I’ve seen French business owners in the U.S. try to operate their shops à la française… they never last. Often they are perplexed as to why they lost their “loyal” customers. The French in France and their lack of concern for the “consequences” of shutting their doors enjoy a freedom that’s hard to comprehend, yet hard not to admire.
My husband misses summers in France – as a child, August meant days filled with sailing on the Mediterranean, staying up late as the day never seemed to end, and enjoying time with his whole family; they were able to leave their jobs and go on vacation for most of the month.
So, instead, we have: Le Point. A major weekly news magazine in France.
Le Point keeps my husband connected to the goings-on in his home country. But in August, the magazine fills up with articles on history and philosophy, many of them probably written long ago and pieced together to make a full magazine. As if even the politically-obsessed French, journalists and readers alike, can’t be bothered with current events and politics while on vacation. Instead, it’s filled with stories, like the issue above, featuring Rome’s fall. Still highly intellectual and analytical, along with a bit of purple prose, it’s a touch of downtime. A beach read, French style.
Soon, Paris streets will once again fill with people dressed in their dark clothes, doing the métro-boulot-dodo. One weekend left – for the French, and for us, here – before school begins. The mornings in Colorado are already crisp, the sun rising later and setting earlier; fall is in the air.
One more weekend to celebrate summer, have a BBQ, and read Le Point.
It’s quite strange how your blog posts from America sometimes make me feel like going to France! 🙂
That’s a good thing! Just don’t visit in August!
It is indeed a good thing and I found your comparison of the two countries fascinating!
Merci ! I will be en France next month, but missed the summer there this year. You reminded me what i missed.
Hopefully a little vicarious summer helps. Enjoy your trip!
We had the bad luck this year to be driving through France on August 2, the first Saturday of vacation month. Luckily, we were headed north, as the southern bound highway was jam packed with stopped cars. Of course, I should say we had the bad luck to be ON THE ROAD in France, as it’s never a bad thing to actually be IN France!
Ugh – that does not sound fun. Glad you weren’t stuck in it! It still amazes me how the entire country goes on vacation. My husband has some great stories.
Quality of life vs. Business consumerism mindset is what makes France so special!
True – in some cases, for sure!
If shopkeepers can close for 3 weeks is because their customers come back when they re-open . And customers come back because they understand that everyone is equal, hence understand everyone has the civilized right to take vacations for a time .
Here, in the U.S., we certainly have different expectations. And shop owners tend to employ people to keep their shops open so they can take some time off without disappointing their customers. But it’s true that we don’t enjoy as much time off as the French!
Shops that close for holidays are small ones, generally held by a family or a couple, in any case with 3/4 maximum people working in them . Those folks know their customers and their habits, and can’t imagine leaving their “private” business into other hands . Big
businesses don’t close for summer . This type of small places and specially this type of relationship with their customers and their quality of service doesn’t exist much in the modern USA, even if it did for sure like everywhere else in the past until, say, WWII .
And concerning how much free time low classes can enjoy, well this is a question of political balance of power between the rich and the poor, coming from which philiosophy of life each country on earth has grown through centuries .
Love the long French summer days…enjoy the last week of your Summer – we had into Spring next week and the sun is already a little warmer here in Melbourne – Craving the Sun this year!
Enjoy your Spring and Summer, and hope you get lots of sun!
The first time I visited Paris was during the month of August. I wondered where all the French people were. But that was also the only time I ever piloted a car around the Arc de Triomphe and even then,what an experience!
Wow – that’s bold! I’ve never had the courage to drive in Paris, let alone around the Arc de Triomphe!
You’re so right. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING (professionally speaking) shuts down in August, and maybe even more in “province” than in Paris! Great post, I really enjoyed it 🙂
Glad you enjoyed it!