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France Facts. There is a place in France called Misery

Most people we know in France are pretty happy to be here, but some 137 people can truly be said to be living in Misery.

France Facts. There is a place in France called Misery
The village probably loves company. Photo: Google Maps

In the Nord-Pas-de-Calais area of northern France there is a small village which proudly bears the name of Misery.

Home to approximately 137 people it looks a pleasant enough place and not too miserable.

For the French inhabitants its name would have a slightly different meaning, but still negative – in French misère does have a sense of misery about it, but also means poverty or destitution. So in Victor Hugo's 1862 classic Les Misérables, the characters are generally poverty stricken (although I don't remember a lot of laughs in the book either).

Perhaps influenced by this, the inhabitants of Misery in 2019 decided that for official purposes their commune would merge with a neighbouring one, so they know officially live in the commune of Marchélepot-Misery, which sounds a whole lot cheerier.

For more of the best place names in France, including the villages of Anus, Stains and Dole – click here.

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France Facts: Paris once had a ‘strike square’

The French have something of an international reputation for being fond of a strike - but did you know that Paris once had a Place de Grève (strike square)?

France Facts: Paris once had a 'strike square'

But in this case the French did not name the square after one of their favourite activities, in fact it was the other way round.

The Place de Grève, in central Paris next to the Seine, was the place where unemployed workers gathered, seeking casual labour.

Over time grève came to signify a group of people who were not working.

After the French won the right to strike in 1864 – 20 years before they won the right to form a union – the word attached itself to workers who were choosing to without their labour, rather than people who were unable to find work.

These days the French are quite fond of une grève, and between 2010 and 2017, the number of French strike days was 125 per 1,000 employees, according to a study by the European Trade Union Institute.

As a comparison, the UK, Germany and Sweden had 20, 17 and 3 respectively. 

The Place de Grève still exists, but in 1802 it was renamed the Place de l'Hôtel de Ville and houses the very impressive city hall of Paris.

The square's other claim to fame is that it used to be where public executions took place, and saw the first public use of the guillotine when robber Nicolas Jacques Pelletier was executed on April 25th, 1792.

And France has seen one or two strikes since 1864.