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LIFE IN PARIS

Gilets Jaunes plan ‘festive blockade’ at French airports this weekend

After a big day of protests on May 1st, the 'yellow vests' look set for a more subdued weekend in France. However some members of the anti-government have plans for France's airports which could disrupt travellers. Here's what they have in store for Act 25.

Gilets Jaunes plan 'festive blockade' at French airports this weekend
A protester wears a vest reading 'No to the privatisation of ADP' (Paris Airports) during a 'yellow vest' demonstration. File photo: AFP
As the French government, police and 'yellow vests' are still debating who was behind the violence that took place in the French capital during Wednesday's Labour Day protests, some Gilets Jaunes are busy preparing for Act 25 this Saturday. 
 
Although admittedly, from the looks of things, not many of them. 
 
The main action looks set to take place away from Paris city centre, with the focus for this weekend's action on France's airports, meaning those travelling could face some disruption. 
 
The event, dubbed 'Mum, I'm going to miss my plane', calls on 'yellow vests' to do a 'festive blockade' of airports around the country, particularly at Orly airport in Paris, and Lyon, Toulouse and Nice airports.
 
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'Yellow vest' protesters hold up a sign saying, “Those who sell France are traitors” at a previous demonstration at CDG airport in Paris. File photo: AFP

The action is planned to last over both Saturday May 4th and Sunday May 5th, with organisers calling on participants to come up with “music, dance and shows” to put on at the airports. 
 
Organisers also specified in capital letters on the event's Facebook page that the protest should be 'peaceful'. 
 
The aim of the protest is to voice opposition the planned privatisation of France's airports, as well as the privatisation of lottery and scratch-cards monopoly Francaise des Jeux (FDJ) and energy company Engie. 
 
French President Emmanuel Macron planned to sell the airports and invest the proceeds of the sale in an innovation fund – a key campaign promise –  and reduce the public debt, which stood at 99 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in the second quarter.
 
However in early April, French opposition MPs and senators claimed a victory for democracy after using a little-known constitutional article to try to trigger a referendum on the government's controversial plans to privatise Paris' airports.
 
Elsewhere
 
Despite the fact that there are no big plans for a protest in the centre of the French capital on Saturday, the police aren't taking any chances. 
 
The Paris police prefecture has ordered the closure of the following Metro stations from 8am on Saturday: Concorde, Champs-Elysées Clemenceau, Miromesnil, Charles de Gaulle – Etoile, Franklin D. Roosevelt, George V, Assemblée Nationale, Invalides, Varenne and Tuileries. 
 
 
There are some plans for protests elsewhere around France this Saturday. 
 
For example, in the central French city of Lyon, 'yellow vests' are planning to align themselves with the Youth for Climate movement. 
 
This may come as somewhat surprising news for anyone who has followed the Gilets Jaunes from the beginning, with the anti-government group initially starting in opposition to Macron bringing in an ecological fuel tax. 
 
However the Facebook page for the event insists on the similarities between the two groups, including their “common adversaries”, such as  the “system that exhausts the planet to meet the needs of the market and keeps giving to the richest, the government that destroys public services, seriously undermines the freedom of the press and criminalizes the “ecological challenge” and “large companies that do not pay their taxes in France, exploiting and imposing increasingly difficult working conditions on people and polluting and destroying the environment.”
 
The march is due to start at 2 pm at place Jean-Macé although as in recent weeks much of the city will be off limits to protesters. 
 
Smaller protests and get togethers have also been planned elsewhere in France, including in the town of Dax in south west France. 

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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Snobs, beaches and drunks – 5 things this joke map teaches us about France

A popular joke 'map' of France has once again been widely shared on social media, sparking endless jokes at the expense of certain regions of France.

Snobs, beaches and drunks - 5 things this joke map teaches us about France
Image AFP/cartesfrance.fr
But while the map – created by cartesfrance.fr – is clearly intended to be comic, it teaches us some important points about France’s regional divides, local stereotypes and in-jokes.
 

 
 
 
Here are some of the key points.
 
1. Everyone hates Parisians
 
The map is purportedly France as seen through the eyes of Parisians, and contains a series of snobbish and rude generalisations about every part of France that is not maison (home) in the capital and its surroundings. The great majority of the country is labelled simply as paysans (peasants).
 
The general stereotype about Parisians is that they are snobs, rudely judging the rest of the country which they regard as backwards and full of ploucs (yokels) apart from small areas which make nice holiday destinations.
 
Like all sweeping generalisations, this is true of some people and very much not of others, but one of the few things that can unite people from all areas of France is how much they hate les parigots têtes de veaux (a colloquialism that very roughly translates as ‘asshole Parisians’)
 
 
2. Staycations rule
 
Even before Covid-related travel restrictions, holidaying within France was the norm for many French people.
 
As the map shows, Parisians regard the southern and western coastlines as simply plages (beaches) which they decamp to for at least a month in July or August. In the height of summer French cities tend to empty out (apart from tourists) as locals head to the seaside or the countryside.
 
 
In winter the Pyrenees and Alps are popular ski destinations.
 
3. Northerners like a drink
 
There is a very widespread stereotype, although not really backed up by evidence, that the people of Normandy, Brittany and the Nord area like a drink or two. Many suggest this is to cope with the weather, which does tend to be rainier than the rest of France (although has plenty of sunshine too).
 
 
Official health data doesn’t really back this up, as none of these areas show a significantly greater than average rate of daily drinkers, although Nord does hold the sad record for the highest rate of people dying from alcohol-related liver disease.
 
What’s certainly true is that Brittany and Normandy are cider country, with delicious locally-produced ciders on sale everywhere, well worth a try if you are visiting.
 
 
4. Poverty
 
The map labels the north eastern corner of France as simply pauvres – the poor.
 
The north east of the country was once France’s industrial and coal-mining heartland, and as traditional industries have declined there are indeed pockets of extreme poverty and high unemployment. The novel The End of Eddy, telling the story of novelist Edouard Louis’ childhood in a struggling small town near Amiens, lays out the social problems of such areas in stark detail.
 
However poverty is not just confined to one corner of France and the département that records the highest levels of deprivation is actually Seine-Saint-Denis in the Paris suburbs.
 
5. Southern prejudice
 
According to the map, those from the south are either branleurs (slackers) or menteurs (liars). 
 
This isn’t true, obviously, there are many lovely, hard-working and truthful people in southern France, but the persistent stereotype is that they are lazy – maybe because it’s too hot to do much work – and slightly shifty.
 
Even people who aren’t actually rude about southerners can be pretty patronising, as shown when south west native Jean Castex became the prime minister in summer 2020. 
 
Castex has a noticeable south west accent which sparked much comment from the Paris-based media and political classes, with comments ranging from the patronising – “I love his accent, I feel like I’m on holiday” – to the very patronising – “that accent is a bit rugby” (a reference to the fact that TV rugby commentators often come from France’s rugby heartlands in the south west).
 
 
In his first year as PM, Castex has undertaken a dizzying schedule of appointments around the four corners of France, so hopefully the lazy myth can now be put to bed.
 
And anyone tempted to take the piss out of his accent – glottophobie (accent prejudice) is now a crime in France.
 
For more maps that reflect France, head to cartesfrance.fr
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