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Twelve French phrases to use if you get caught up in a strike

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Twelve French phrases to use if you get caught up in a strike
What to say when France is 'en grève'. Photo: AFP
10:41 CET+01:00
If you are spending time in France it's not beyond the bounds of possibility that you will be caught up in a strike - here's the French vocabulary you will need.

While the French certainly strike less than their reputation suggests - in fact France doesn't lose a significantly higher number of work days to strike action than many other European countries - strikes certainly do happen in France.

And when they do, they are often targeted at the public sector - such as the train strikes currently causing widespread disruption - so are highly likely to impact your life.

READ ALSO Wildcat strike to hit Toussaint holiday weekend in France

If you do find yourself caught up in one, here are the French words and phrases you will need.

Une grève/en grève/les grevistes - Let's start with the basics, a strike is une grève and a worker who is taking strike action is en grève - on strike. The collective term for striking workers is les grévistes.

Un movement social - This is another phrase for any type of industrial action or social movement that you will frequently see on announcement boards to explain the reason for a closure or delay.

Les syndicats - The unions. France has a number of different unions even within the same professions, so for example railway workers can be represented by several different unions. In general there is only very severe disruption if the unions coordinate their strike action.

Perturbé - Disrupted. One reason France seems to have so many more strikes than anywhere else is that the strikes that do take place tend to target public services, particularly transport so are highly visible and very disruptive. You will frequently see and hear announcements on public transport networks that services are perturbé en raison d'un mouvement social - disrupted because of strike action.

Annulé - Cancelled

Supprimé - Usually translated as deleted or removed, if you see this on a notice board it means that your train or plane has been cancelled.

Retardé - Delayed. If you train/bus/plane is delayed you will see retardé on the notice board, or more specifically xx minutes à tard or xx minutes retardé -  xx minutes late.

Compensation - If you have been delayed by strike action you can claim compensation, and helpfully the word is the same as in English.

Le Gréviculture - Slightly controversial addition this. You might hear people using it but we wouldn't advise using yourself as it can be a sensitive subject in France. The word means 'strike culture' and people sometimes use it to grumble about a lot of strikes, but the phrase has some baggage.

La pagaille - Chaos or a shambles. You may find that in contrast to foreigners, the French are fairly phlegmatic about strikes. Yes they happen and yes they are annoying but you're unlikely to see many French people going totally beserk about them. This could be because they are aware of the link between strong unions and the protections and social support that employees in France enjoy. Nevertheless, grumbling is always fun and if you want to describe a situation as a total shambles, this is a good word. For example La grève a semé la pagaille à la gare Montparnasse - The strike has caused chaos at Montparnasse station.

C'est relou - It's really annoying. A slightly slangy verlan expression, this is a good one for describing something as really annoying or 'that sucks'. Tous les vols sont annulés, c'est relou - All the flights are cancelled, it sucks.

Putain - and of course if you're enormously inconvenienced by a strike (for example you have just learned that all the trains available to get you home in time for your own wedding have been cancelled) you could use the best (and rudest) French word of them all.


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