Ten bizarre stories from France that aren’t April Fools

Today is April Fools' Day, which means you should treat most things you read with a healthy dose of scepticism - but sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.

Ten bizarre stories from France that aren't April Fools
Photo: Cobalt123/FLickr

Here are ten of the weirdest stories The Local France has covered, which you might be surprised to learn were not published on April 1st.

“Women are better off without bras” says French scientist

Women better off without bras: French study
Photo: AFP

A French scientist insisting women would be much better off if they ditched their bras sounds like a classic April Fools’ story, but he wasn’t winding anyone up. The happiest academic in the world is still carrying out further research, measuring hundreds of breasts to confirm his theory  .

French drug dealers offer loyalty cards

A local resident said he thought he was “hallucinating” when an enterprising drug dealer offered him a reward card for regular custom. But the business venture, giving loyal clients a €10 discount once all ten boxes on the card had been stamped, was serious.

French workers told to email bosses for toilet break permission

Photo: Michael Filion/Flickr

A new rule forcing workers to to click on a toilet icon to alert their supervisors of their need for a break, and then waiting for permission before leaving their desks, sounds too ridiculous to be true. But employees at a French call centre threatened to strike over the very real measure, which required them to prioritize calls from customers over the call of nature.

Paris to become 'a model of cleanliness' in Europe

How Paris plans to become a 'model' of cleanliness - really
Photo: AFP

Even the most fanatic Francophile would have to admit that Paris is a rather dirty city, and that becoming Europe's cleanest would take a lot of work. A clean-up of the Canal Saint Martin uncovered all kinds of rubbish that had been floating around in its murky depths, and 350 tonnes of cigarette butts end up on the city’s streets every year. But the Town Hall launched the optimistic plan for the city's transformation with a straight face in February this year.

French manager paid to do nothing for 12 years

We all know the jokes about the relaxed French attitude to work and their beloved 35-hour week, but those who live here know that reality doesn't quite match the stereotypes. Except in the true story of a manager who received a monthly pay packet – and holiday bonuses – despite not working a single day for 12 years. And the manager in question demanded €500,000 compensation for the error.

France tries to ban 'hashtags'

France is known for being protective over its language, guarding particularly fiercely against the intrusion of Anglicisms into the vocabulary. But would it really go so far as to attempt to ditch the ubiquitous term ‘hashtag’ and replace it with ‘mot-diese’ (literally ‘sharp word’)? Apparently so.

Frenchman invents Valentine's Day fart pills

Photo: Parke Ladd/Flickr

The French are famed for being romantic, but this invention – a pill to make bodily gases more fragrant – sounds too bizarre to be true. In fact it was the third smell launched by the company, which also sells rose- and chocolate-scented varieties. “Say it with love, flavour your farts with ginger,” was the Valentines product's slogan.

Frenchman invents cure for builders' crack

Frenchman develops 'cure' for builder's bumPhoto: cobalt123/Flickr

Another entrepreneurial Frenchman focussed his efforts on solving a different embarrassing problem, albeit affecting the same area. His creation? Underwear to cure builders’ bum. Though the story wasn't a joke, he was modest about his achievement, telling The Local: “It's not like I've found a cure for Aids – just for the builder's crack.”

'Jellyfish-lamb' ends up on French plates 

'Jellyfish-lamb' ends up on French plates by error
Photo: [email protected]/Flickr

Many French consumers probably wished it was an April Fool when it was revealed that a fluorescent-skinned lamb, bred for medical research, had been eaten by unsuspecting shoppers. But it actually happened; Ruby the lamb was genetically modified with jellyfish protein and was never meant to be eaten, but found her way to the abattoir by error.

Parking machine calls French mayor a b**tard

Politicians can expect harsh criticism from the opposition and members of the public, but the mayor of Meaux probably thought he was being pranked when he was told that even the town's parking machines had turned against him. Unfortunately for him, it was true. The machines issued around 500 tickets calling him a “bastard, thieving mayor”, and he launched a legal complaint.

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France’s mystery rooftop panther stolen from zoo

A black panther rescued from rooftops near the northern city of Lille last week has been stolen from the zoo where it was taken after capture, officials said.

France's mystery rooftop panther stolen from zoo
Photo: AFP/ Sapeurs Pompiers du Nord

The feline was seized overnight from the zoo in Maubeuge near the Belgian border, the city's mayor, Arnaud Decagny, told AFP on Tuesday.

“This animal was the only target,” Decagny said, adding that “considerable efforts” were made to force locks and avoid security systems.

Zoo personnel are worried about the young panther's health, “which is rather delicate because he lacks strength,” the mayor added, saying the animal was just a few months old and weighed between 25 and 30kg.

The panther after its capture. Photo League Protectrice des Animaux de la Nord de France/AFP

The panther was going to be transferred to a centre specialised in rehabilitating wild animals that had been domesticated.

Firefighters caught the cat last Wednesday as it roamed rooftops in Armentieres after escaping through the window of a private apartment believed to have been its home.

The panther's owner is thought to have escaped through the same window, for fear of being charged with illegally harbouring a wild animal.

Police have not located the fugitive owner, who could face charges of endangering the public, which is punishable by up to a year in prison and €15,000 in fines, Decagny said.