French astronaut returns to earth after 200 days… and will find France has changed a little

French astronaut Thomas Pesquet returns from space on Friday, and some things have changed in France since he left.

French astronaut returns to earth after 200 days... and will find France has changed a little
Photo: AFP
Astronaut Thomas Pesquet left Earth in mid-November on a six month mission on the International Space Station. But on Friday, he's coming back. 
During his time away he has seen the world from among the stars and has snapped a lot of it along the way, including some incredible pictures of France, something his Twitter followers are no doubt very grateful for. 
When Pesquet eventually returns to France he will find his country has changed somewhat.
When he was first launched into space, Francois Hollande was still president and hadn't yet decided whether or not to run for reelection.
(Thomas Pesquet returns to earth.)
At the time, it looked likely that Alain Juppé of the right-wing Republians party would become France's next president, given his lead in the polls.
When Pesquet went into space on November 19th, it was just a few days after the country's new president Emmanuel Macron had announced his own bid. 
When Pesquet returns to earth he will find that Macron, who no one really gave a hope of winning back in November, is the country's new president, with a brand new party behind him. Not only that, he is also the talk of the globe after trolling Donald Trump and standing up to Vladimir Putin in recent days.
Macron's efforts have made the French proud of their president, on an international level at least, something that was certainly not the case when Pesquet left for space.
The astronaut may even find some of the doom and gloom which has clouded France in recent years, and even decades, has lifted somewhat.
The astronaut might notice an air of optimism around the country given that a recent poll showed the French felt positive about the future and consumer confidence was the highest it has been since 2007.
Pesquet will also be pleased to hear that the unemployment rate has dropped below ten percent while he was away. Indeed it's the lowest it has been for five years.
But aside from the serious political and economic changes that took place in the months since Pesquet's ascent, there have also been some smaller (and stranger) changes to take place in his home country.
Being fluent in English, Pesquet will be interested to find that the 2018 editions of France's Robert and Larousse dictionaries have revealed the addition of several new words to the French language that have been influenced by English. 
Many of them he will be familiar with such as “retweeter” and “liker”, which are already common for social media users.
Parlez-vous franglais? More English words officially enter French language
The astronaut may also want to know that as of January 1st 2017 every person in France is automatically an organ donor.
Pesquet will have to sign himself off the official register if he doesn't want to donate. 
Pesquet might be less interested but nevertheless intrigued by the fact that since he has been away France has published its first school textbook depicting the clitoris in a move that has been hailed as a “big first”.
He will also get to spend some of the new anti-forgery 50-euro notes that have been introduced to buy himself a decent meal at a French bistro and a glass or two of red wine.
And he's definitely earned it. Just see the link below.
IN PICTURES: France as seen from space through the unique lens of an astronaut

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What changes about life in France in May 2022?

A new government, May marches, flowers and public holidays as well as a rise in the minimum wage, tax deadlines, and the return of the Cannes Film Festival - here's what is happening in France in May.

What changes about life in France in May 2022?

Public Holidays

There are several public holidays in the month of May, but sadly two of the three fall on Sundays this year.

International Worker’s Day, or May Day, is on Sunday, May 1st. The holiday also coincides with the first Sunday of the month, when many museums offer free access. Though several businesses will close their doors on May Day, some museums will stay open and offer free entry, like the Air and Space Museum.

The other two public holidays are May 8th (Victory in Europe Day), which will also fall on a Sunday, and May 26th (Ascension) which will fall on a Thursday. May 8th is marked with military parades and remembrance events in towns and cities around France.

READ ALSO Why 2022 is a bad year for public holidays in France

May Day

As we mentioned, May 1st falls on a Sunday this year but although there is no extra day off work the other May Day traditions remain in place – notably trades union demonstrations and marches and the giving of the lucky lily-of-the-valley flowers.

School holidays end

Schools in zone B (northern France and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur) have already returned after the Easter holidays, but schools in Zone A (central France) restart classes on Monday, May 2nd while schools in Zone C (Paris and south west France) go back on Monday, May 9th). 

New government

The newly re-elected president Emmanuel Macron is shaking up his government, with Prime Minister Jean Castex having announced that he will resign.

This allows Macron to create a new top team of ministers and appoint a new PM, whose focus will be on fighting the parliamentary elections in June.

Voter Registration Deadline

If you are a French citizen but are not yet registered to vote for the parliamentary elections, then do not delay because you have until Wednesday, May 4th to do so online and until Friday, May 6th to do the process in person (either at your town hall or by the post).

READ ALSO When are the parliamentary elections and why are they important?

Candidate deadlines

Aspiring deputés (the French equivalent of MPs) must file their declaration of candidacy with their respective préfecture between Monday, May 16th and Friday May 20th. 

Tax Deadlines

May brings the first deadlines for the annual tax declaration – compulsory for almost everyone in France.

If you choose to file your tax returns on paper, the deadline is May 19th, 2022, regardless of where you live. For the online declarations, you have until May 24th if you live in the départements 1 to 19, and until May 31st 2022 for the départements from 20 to 54. For the remaining départements, you have until June 7th, 2022 at midnight.

READ ALSO The French tax calendar 2022

Minimum wage increase

Due to inflation, the minimum wage automatically increases on May 1st. INSEE, the national statistics bureau of France, has specified the minimum wage must increase by 2.65 percent (or €33) starting May 1st – this means that the gross hourly minimum wage will increase from €10.57 to €10.85.

Benefit increases

In line with the minimum wage increases, there will also be an increase of 1.8 percent to certain benefits including the RSA, family allowance and disables persons allowance. The back-to-school grant that families get in August will also increase to €376.98 for children aged 6 to 10, €397.78 for those aged 11 to 14 and €411.56 for teenagers aged 15 to 18.

Jobseekers training

A new payment system comes into effect for jobseekers who are undertaking extra professional training – trainees aged 16-18 will be paid €200 a month instead of the current €130. For trainees aged between 18 and 25, it will be €500, and €685 per month for those aged 26 and over.

Black boxes in cars

All new cars on sale in France are now required to be fitted with a ‘black box recorder’ similar to those in planes, in accordance with an EU measure voted into place in 2019. The measure will be extended to all cars on sale, including used cars, by 2024.

Bac delays

Initially scheduled for mid-March, the speciality tests for the general and technological baccalaureate have been postponed to May 11th-13th due to disruptions caused by the fifth wave of the Covid-19 epidemic. 

The Cannes Film Festival 

The 2022 festival will take place from May 17th to 28th at the Palais des festivals et des congrès in Cannes. It will be the 75th edition of the world renowned festival.  

Bubble Museum

The new bubbles, balls and inflatables exhibition at the Grand Halle of La Villette in Paris, will let you continue diving into ball pits until August 21st. 

VIDEO Check out Paris’ new bubble exhibition 

Deadline set for student grants

If you are interested in obtaining a student grant, student social housing, or aid for the 2022-2023 academic year, you have until May 15th to apply. According to the official website, even if you do not have all the elements required for the application, it is still important to fill out the application by the stated deadline.

A new increase in the interest rate?

The tax-free, government-regulated savings account known as the Livret A – used by over 55 million French people – may increase its interest rates due to inflation starting May 1st, 2022. For the moment, no official announcement has been made. But if this announcement is confirmed, then it will be a first in the history of the Livret A. Usually, the rate of the Livret A and the Livret de développement durable et solidaire (LDDS) can only be increased twice a year, specifically on February 1st and August 1st. The rate of the Livret A already changed on February 1st this year, from 0.5 percent to 1 percent.