France takes a unique approach to summer, with a huge number of businesses shutting up shop for the whole of August (and sometimes even July), and the number of French people in Paris dwindling to a handful as they make their escapes to the beach or mountains.
Jackie McGeown, who runs the blog Best France Forever has created a list of 26 of the defining features of a French summertime to help clue you in.
These will no doubt strike a chord with anyone who has spent a summer or two in France.
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1. Everything closes in August. As a newbie you might ask, Pourquoi? and have the reply, “Because it’s August.” Try countering this with the observation that August happens literally everywhere without closing an entire nation and then you will be introduced to C’est comme ça as the ultimate argument ender.
2. But your favourite boulangerie seems to be closed longer than anything else. By September you’re basically sitting on the doorstep, rocking back-and-forth, money clutched in your hand, muttering une baguette, s’il vous plait, madame to no one.
3. And if you do get sick in August you can’t see your usual doctor, so end up getting an appointment with the only doctor available, and quickly realise that (s)he’s an antibiotics-dispensing law-suit-waiting-to-happen.
4. Definitely don’t have a baby due in August. That’s CRAZY-bad timing. (I did.)
5. On the upside, since no one is going to work you can finally get a seat on the metro!
6. Until they start running fewer trains and then you’re back to standing again.
7. It’s so hot outside that you have to keep your shutters closed all day, then experience the irony of being in darkness when it’s super bright outside.
8. You step outside and are hit by a wall of heat like when you get off an airplane at your holiday destination. Except you live here and don’t have a swimming pool, an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet or a minibar.
Photo: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra/Flickr
9. You take your kids to the park then realise they can’t play on any of les jeux because everything’s so hot you could probably fry an egg on them.
10. You remember that brumisateurs are genius inventions and you can’t contemplate doing a long Ecar journey without one.
11. Everyone starts having barbecues. You smell them everywhere and they either make you very hungry (so much deliciousness) or very angry (‘cos it’s your neighbours and the smell goes right into your apartment).
12. And rosé-drinking season begins – hubba hubba!
13. Which means that supermarkets start selling bottles at 2 for the price of 1. So it would kinda be rude not to take them up on their offer…
14. The TV news stations start doing silly reports from holiday destinations which inevitably includes a shot of a topless woman.
15. And the TV weather starts reporting the sea temperature, AKA is the most exotic thing ever.
16. Everyone suddenly gets better looking. The streets are filled with total hotties not wearing many clothes. You’re all, “Where were you hiding all winter, pretty people? Were you all busy being in music videos?”
17. And you get serious dress envy walking down the street. Where do French women get work-appropriate summer dresses? I NEED to know.
18. Paris Plage happens! It’s a cute way of giving a taste of a better life to people trapped in a sweaty city. Like when Clarice offers Hannibal Lector the chance of holidaying on an abandoned animal-testing island in Silence of the Lambs. We know it’s not St Tropez but it’s better than nothing.
19. The strikes stop at last! Because, you know, everyone’s on holiday so there’s no one around to enrage.
20. Except for air traffic controllers, baggage handlers and employees of Air France who increase the strikes. Like expert torturers, they know how to hit where it hurts.
21. Les Terrasses become packed to the point you can't move elbows, knees or neck.
22. It's the same in all the parks.
23. Basically anywhere outdoors with a bench, a pigeon, and a view of a tree is summer-time picnic gold.
24. Tourists, much like grey squirrels, force out the native inhabitants and run wild.
25. As do brides doing photo shoots on Parisian bridges.
26. You find yourself wondering, “Where are all the French people?” The answer is that they are stuck in a traffic jam on the motorway en route to another part of France.
But in spite of the heat, the suspension of normal life, the changing populations, you realise that summer in France is the greatest and there’s nowhere else you’d rather be.
Jackie McGeown runs the site Best France Forever. Follow her on Facebook here for regular updates and you can read the original blog post on 26 things that happen in France every summer here.