We French love our holidays. Don’t get me wrong: there are lots of holidays scattered throughout the year but July and especially August are the months of les grandes vacances, or literally the “grand vacations”. Most people take at least three weeks off in either July or August. What does it mean?
Well to cut a long story short, most emails I have sent for my French business have come back with an out-of-office reply. It sounds funny, but believe me, it can be very frustrating…
With everyone on holiday, business is almost non-existent in August (except for tourism, of course). So if you are in France and need to get some kind of administrative paperwork done during these months, don’t bother. Just try to relax and go to the beach just like everyone else. Nothing is going to get done until September anyway, you might as well make the most of your down time.
Even in Paris, a short walk around the capital will reveal that things just aren’t the same in August. Of course, lots of stores and restaurants remain open, but Paris looks and feels empty (except for the tourists spots, that is).
Many restaurants and shops opt to go on holiday themselves, leaving behind pulled down shutters and a (sometimes not so) polite notice. Come to think of it, closing at the height of the summer season may not make perfect business sense to some, but to us French it makes sense to leave town at the same time as the rest of the Parisians. It’s a French tradition, I suppose.
It’s the same too in most big companies. I remember having to take at least a couple of weeks off during August. It was mandatory (or at least strongly recommended).
If you are sick or have a tooth ache, then you might have to bear the pain a little a longer, until your doctor or dentist gets back from the beach.
August is also a bad time to give birth in Paris, because all the best midwives and doctors are on the beach. You are warned.
In short, it’s a time to reflect and relax.
But did you know that India is not the only country to have a public holiday on 15 August? France, too, celebrates this day and has a national holiday. Why is that? Well, it’s Assumption Day in France. I shamefully admit that I had completely forgotten about yet another French public holiday. I might have become British! Shame on me…
Assumption day is a Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics in France. It is also a public holiday with banks and most businesses closed. I think that I might have lived abroad for far too long, I am just lost now, and I have lost track about public & bank holidays in France.
In short, It’s a time to reflect and relax, and ponder about what’s next…More about this soon! In the meantime, I hope that you are doing things the French way, with a much needed-break!