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Vive le pont - The best thing about French public holidays

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Vive le pont - The best thing about French public holidays
Photo: AFP
14:12 CEST+02:00
There are some major flaws of public holidays in France, when compared to the UK for example, but at least you can't beat the so-called "ponts".
The French won't get a day off for Christmas this year. 
Yes, in a cruel twist of fate, Christmas Day falls on a Sunday and the French public holiday system means we won't be getting Monday off like so many others around the world will. 
And in an even crueler twist of fate, New Year's Day, being seven days after Christmas also falls on a Sunday, meaning workers in France will have to go without the day off to recover from their "gueule de bois".
Yes, the French public holiday system and its lack of "carrying over" has some major disadvantages, depending on the whims of the calendar gods. 
This year, for example, France has 11 public holidays, which at a glance sounds better than the nine in the UK or the ten in the US.
The problem is, three of France's public holiday days this year fall on a weekend, meaning essentially they vanish into nothingness, leaving the French with just eight days off. 
Meanwhile in the UK and US, public holidays falling on a weekend are pushed forward to the Monday. They'll be off on Monday after Christmas enjoying leftovers while we're stuck in the office.
And the UK will also get the Tuesday off as that is their replacement Boxing Day. In other words a four-day break.
However, while it now may seem like France ends up the worst off with only eight days of actual holiday (this year), the French actually have a trick up their sleeve. 
They have a nifty little system called "doing the bridge" (faire le pont) whereby people take a Monday or a Friday off if a public holiday occurs on a Tuesday or Thursday (or sometimes even a Wednesday if you are going for a long 'pont'). 
And this year, there have been a magical three ponts, the next on Monday 31st of October (Tuesday is a public holiday for Toussaint).  
If they are lucky French workers will often be given the Monday off by their companies as it will be counted as an RTT day (extra holidays to make up for the 35-hour week). Other workers will just take the day off.
"Four day weekends" are a joy not just to workers but to the tourism industry as many in France will go away for a short break. This weekend Paris could feel like it does in mid-August when are the locals are at the beach.
The UK and the US miss out on the chances for these extra long weekends because all their holidays fall on a Monday or Friday. 
But, as with all good things, are downsides to this magical-sounding "pont" system.
While the days off usually provide a boon for retailers and the tourism industry, they cut hard into France's economy, with one report claiming that they cost the country around €2 billion a year. 
Last time there were three "pont" days in a year, back in 2014, experts estimated that the cost to the economy could be almost as high as €4 billion.
"People think more about their holidays than work," Patrick Durussel, who owns a  company in the Oise region of northern France, told Europe1 radio at the time of the report. 
He added that when too many long weekends crop up in a row, his business has to push back deadlines, then charge less for work, and ultimately lose money. 
Top business owners have tried to cut down on the public holidays in France, but union leaders reacted with fury, so rest assured, the public holidays (and their bridge days) look set to hang around. 
Vive le long weekend. 
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