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CULTURE

Challenge: Are you as well read as a French high school student?

While most teenagers spend their summers hanging out with friends and spending time away from their books, for the students at one of France's most prestigious schools the summer break means yet more work. Here's a look at their recommended holiday reading list. How many have you read?

Challenge: Are you as well read as a French high school student?
Photo: Frédéric BISSON/Flickr
It certainly doesn't make for light reading. 
 
In fact, the recommended summer reading list handed to school students aged 15 about to start at the illustrious Henri IV school in the 5th arrondissement of the French capital is almost a tome in itself. 
 
“It is more than desirable for the student who arrives in high school at Henri IV to have a small cultural background, especially in literature,” the school management tells its students.
 
Sorted into literary periods, the list is a collection of classic works made up of French literary legends such as Zola and Victor Hugo to foreign writers including George Orwell, Edgar Allen Poe and Mark Twain.
 
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It also encompasses works from the Middle Ages right through to the 20th century and a mixture of poems, plays, novels and novellas. 
 
And while it might look pretty demanding to the average reader, the school is also keen to promote it's message the reading should be a pleasure. 
 
With a total of more than 60 works of literature on the list, students dedicated enough to attempt the challenge would have to read more than a book a day throughout their summer break. 
 
So, why not challenge yourself to some serious summer reading in the style of a French high school student?
 
Here's a selection of the books on the list:
 
Middle Age, 16th and 17th centuries
 
Yvain, the Knight of the Lion and Perceval, the Story of the Grail by Chrétien de Troyes
 
Le Cid and Horace by Pierre Corneille 
 
The Fables of Jean de La Fontaine
 
The Princess of Cleves by Madame de Lafayette
 
Macron with a bust of French author and philosoper Francois-Marie Arouet, known as Voltaire. Photo: AFP
 
18th century
 
The Barber of Seville by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais
 
Slave Island, a one-act comedy by Pierre de Marivaux
 
Zadig and Micromégas by Voltaire
 
19th century
 
Colonel Chabert, Ferragus: Chief of the Devorants, Eugénie Grandet, The Unknown Masterpiece by Honore de Balzac
 
Happiness in Crime by Barbey d’Aurevilly
 
Sophie's Misfortunes by Comtesse de Ségur
 
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
 
Photo: 3 Musketeers/ Depositphotos
 
20th century
 
Le grand Meaulnes by Alain-Fournier
 
Antigone by Jean Anouilh
 
The Ice People by René Barjavel
 
Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter by Simone de Beauvoir
 
French author and philosopher Simone de Beauvoir. Photo: AFP
 
Foreign works
 
The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway
 
Animal Farm by George Orwell
 
For the full reading list in French CLICK HERE

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MONEY

Everything you need to know about France’s 2022 summer sales

In France, you can only shop the best deals twice a year - during the soldes. Here is everything you need to know about this year's summer sales.

Everything you need to know about France's 2022 summer sales

They happen twice a year – Each year, France has two soldes periods: one in the winter, usually starting January, and another in the summer, usually starting in June.

This summer, the soldes will start on Wednesday, June 22nd in most parts of France and run for four weeks, so even though you might be tempted to go on the first day, keep in mind they’ll be going on for a while.

They are progressive, so items will be continuously marked down as the soldes wear on. If you wait, you are risking that your favourite t-shirt might sell out quickly, but if you’re lucky it might end up marked down even further.

During 2020 and 2021 the government altered sales dates and time periods to help shops cope with closures and lockdowns, but now we’re back to the usual timetable.

This is the only time stores can have “sales” – Technically, the soldes are the only time that stores are allowed to have sales, but the definition of ‘sale’ is important.

Basically, the French government qualifies a ‘solde‘ as the store selling an item for less than they purchased it for.

During the rest of the year discounting is allowed in certain circumstances, so you might see promotions or vente privée (private sales, usually short-term events aimed at regular customers or loyalty-card holders) throughout the year.

In these situations the stores might be selling items for less than their original price, but they are not permitted to sell the item for less than they bought it for. 

Shops are also permitted to have closing-down sales if they are shutting down, or closing temporarily for refurbishment.

They are strictly regulated by the French government – Everything from how long the soldes go for to the consumer protection rules that apply to the very definition of ‘solde’ is regulated by the French government, and the main purpose of this is to protect small independent businesses which might not be able to offer the same level of discounts as the big chains and multi-national companies.

Whether you shop in person or online, the same rules apply.

As a consumer, you still have the same rights as non-sales times regarding broken or malfunctioning items – meaning you ought to be entitled to a refund if the item has not been expressly indicated as faulty. The French term is vice caché, referring to discovering a defect after purchase.

On top of that, stores must be clear about which items are reduced and which are not – and must display the original price on the label as well as the sale price and percentage discount. 

READ MORE: Your consumer rights for French sales

They started in the 19th century – France’s soldes started in the 19th century, alongside the growth of department stores who had the need to regularly renew their stock – and get rid of leftover items.

Simon Mannoury, who founded the first Parisian department store “Petit Saint-Thomas” in 1830, came up with the idea.

Funnily enough, this department store actually is the ancestor for the famous department store Le Bon Marché. His goal was to sell off the previous season’s unsold stock in order to replace it with new products.

In order to do this, Mannoury offered heavy discounts to sell as much merchandise as possible in a limited time.

The soldes start at different times depending on where you live – The sales start at the same time across most of mainland France, but there are exceptions for overseas France and certain départements, usually those along the border.

France’s finance ministry allows for the sales to start at different times based on local economies and tourist seasons. 

For the summer 2022 sales only two parts of metropolitan France have different dates; Alpes-Maritimes sales run from July 6th to August 2nd, while on the island of Corsica they run from July 13th to August 9th.

In France’s overseas territories the sales are held later in the year.

You might qualify for a tax rebate – If you are resident outside the EU, you might be eligible for a tax rebate on your sales purchases.

If you spend at least €100 in one store, then you qualify. You should hold onto your receipt and tell the cashier you plan to use a tax rebate so they can give you the necessary documentation (a duty-free slip).

Then when you are leaving you can find the kiosk at the station or airport dedicated to tax rebates (détaxe) and file prior to leaving France. For more information read HERE

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