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LIVING IN FRANCE

Having an affair, buying lemons and walking a snake: France’s weirdest excuses for breaking lockdown

Seeing a mistress, picking flowers or walking a pet snake. Some excuses presented to police in France during the nationwide lockdown were more memorable than others.

Having an affair, buying lemons and walking a snake: France's weirdest excuses for breaking lockdown
Police in France have handed out aver 900,000 fines since the beginning of the coronavirus lockdown. Photo: AFP

France has been on nationwide, strict lockdown since March 17th. 

To leave home, people must have a signed and dated form stating their reason for being outside as well as the time they left their house.

They can be fined €135 if they have forgotten the form, if they have been out too long, or if a police officer deems their stated errand as a bad excuse for being out and about.

Legitimate reasons for leaving the house are grocery shopping, going to the pharmacy, doctor's appointments (if urgent), legal obligations, short individual exercise, walking the dog and some other listed reasons that you can find here.

But not everyone has stuck to the official list.

Here are some of the most peculiar excuses presented to police officers during controls.

1. Not knowing about the lockdown
 
In Creuse, a man told police “I have never heard about the lockdown.”
 
While this excuse could perhaps have been accepted in the early days, this happened 10 days after its entering into effect, according to France Bleu.

2. Cheating

“I was sick of my wife, I absolutely needed to see my mistress,” one man told police in Haut-Vienne, a region a little southeast of Paris, according to France Bleu.

While the article did not state whether the police decided to fine the man, we can confirm that “cheating” does not feature on the official list of legitimate reasons for leaving home. (And is also naughty, don't do it).

3. Walking your snake

One man in Marseille told officers that his pet – a boa constrictor wrapped around his neck – “needed to get some fresh air,” according to Le Point.

4. Picking flowers

“We pick daffodils, it's the season. Afterwards there won't be any left,” said a couple in Creuse, midwest France, when they were stopped by police. 

The police chief in Creuse told France Bleu that the excuse was “not admissible.”

5. Your wife is drunk

One poor chap in Picardie told officers he was out to escape his own wife.
 
“My wife is completely drunk, I need some fresh air,” he told the police. The article does not say if he was fined or not.

6. Grocery shopping.. far from home or at midnight

Grocery shopping is of course listed as an essential errand on the lockdown permission slip. People have been allowed to drive to the store if they wish to, in the hope that people would then do more groceries at the same time, which would limit the number of necessary outings per person.
 
But one man tried to explain police that he was “buying a carton milk for a friend” as he was driving 35 km from his home, according to Midi Libre.
 
Another told officers earnestly that he was doing “essential grocery shopping,” but the problem was that it was midnight.
 
A third did “essential grocery shopping” 80km from his home addres.
 
None of the men got their excuses accepted by the officers.

7. Getting lemons for the apéritif

Then there's the endless debate about what is “essential” grocery shopping and not. One woman was stopped for having bought a six-pack of coca cola, claiming it to be essential shopping to her. 

Another man was stopped when getting three lemons.

“I need them for an apéritif,” he told the officers. Despite having filled out the form correctly, the man was fined, according to France Bleu.

Apéro is not essential? Whatever next.

8. Being a good driver

“I am a good driver, I don’t understand why you’re stopping me,” one motorcyclist told officers. He was stopped in Creuse, which seems to have either particularly disobedient residents or very strict police (or both).

While driving for essential errands is not banned during the lockdown, people are not allowed to go driving just for the simple pleasure of it. That goes for all drivers, no matter how accomplished they are.

9. Selling drugs

Key workers are exempt from the lockdown, but drug dealers are not among the professions listed as “essential” for the wellbeing of France. In fact, drug sales have largely decreased since the beginning of the lockdown.

One dealer in Limoges however told officers that “I need to sell my dope if I want to survive.” 

10. Buying sunscreen

One woman was fined after saying she was “buying sunscreen” 60km from her home address. 
 
Going that far for a bottle of sunscreen is perhaps stretching the rules a bit too far in a time when everyone has been told to strictly limit their outings to what is absolutely essential (sunbathing is not essential, unfortunately).
 
11. To exercise.. while wearing leather moccassins
 
According to Le Point, one man was one man in Bordeaux was fined for wearing leather moccasins while out “to exercise”.
 
There have actually been several incidents of people having ticked the physical exercise box on their lockdown permission slip, only to have police officers telling them they “don't look sporty enough”.
 

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MONEY

Revealed: What will you receive from France’s €65bn cost-of-living aid package?

The French parliament has finally passed a massive €65 billion package of measures aimed at helping French residents with the spiralling cost of living. Here's a rundown of the help on offer, who it's available to and when it comes into effect.

Revealed: What will you receive from France's €65bn cost-of-living aid package?

After three weeks of sometimes heated debate, France’s parliament has adopted its multi-part purchasing power package to help mitigate rising cost of living and inflation.

In total, parliament approved a budget of nearly €65 billion for the whole package. 

It includes a raft of measures including price shields, tax rebates and grants. Here’s what is included and who will benefit.

Electricity and gas The government has voted to extend the tariff shield on gas and electricity prices until the end of the year: this means that gas prices will continue to remain frozen and that price hikes for electricity prices will be capped at four percent. 

For who: This applies to everyone who has a gas or electricity account in France.

When: The price freeze is already in effect and will continue until at least December 31st.

Fuel subsidy – The government’s fuel rebate (on petrol/gasoline and diesel) will be increased from €0.18 per litre to €0.30 in September and October, and then in November and December it will fall to €0.10. 

For who: All drivers (including tourists) – this is applied automatically at all fuel stations in France

When: The €0.18 per litre rebate is already in place and remains until August 31st, and rises to €0.30 on September 1st.

Pensions – The index point for pensions will be raised by four percent.

Who: This covers anyone who receives a French pension – roughly 14 million people – it does not affect anyone who gets a pension from another country.

When: From September 9th. 

Abolishing the TV licence fee – The annual TV licence raised €3.7 billion a year for public broadcasting, with the majority having gone toward France Télévisions, but has now been scrapped. It was €138 per household. 

For who: Any household with a television. This equates to about 23 million households in France who will no longer have to pay this yearly tax.

When: The was due to be levied on November 15th, but this year no bills will be sent out.

Tripling the Macron bonus – The maximum annual bonus – which is exempt from income and social security taxes – will be tripled.

It is a one time, tax-free payout that can be given to workers by their employers – if they chose to. Companies will now be able to pay up to €3,000 to their employees (and up to €6,000 for those with a profit-sharing scheme).

Who: This pertains to salariés (employees) whose businesses choose to offer this bonus.

When: The bonus can be paid between August 1st and December 31st.

Rent cap – Rent increases will be limited to 3.5 percent per year for existing tenants. Some cities already have in place their own rent control schemes, but the 3.5 percent cap is nationwide.

Who – This affects anyone who already has a tenancy agreement for a property in France (and also affects all landlords who are banned from making big rent hikes).

When – The 3.5 percent cap concerns annual rent increases that fall between July 2022 and June 2023.

Housing allowance – Those who benefit from personalised assistance for housing (APL) will see that increased by 3.5 percent.

Who: This pertains to those who qualify for governmental financial assistance with rent. Typically, this means low-income households. If you are already on APL – around 3.5 million people – the increase will be automatic, if you think you might qualify, apply through your local CAF.

When: The increase comes in your next payment, with the increased rate backdated to July 1st 2022.

Social benefits – The RSA top-up benefit will be increased by four percent (local authorities, who deal with RSA, will receive €600 million to help them finance and allocate this increase). Additionally, those who benefit from the ‘prime d’activité‘ (activity bonus) will see that value raised by four percent as well.

Who: Unemployed people below the age of 25 can qualify for RSA – this pertains to about 1.9 million people in France. The activity bonus is available to low-income workers – about 4.3 million people.

When: Catch-up payments will be in place from August 18th to September 5th. On September 5th, the updated payment will begin to be paid out.

Student grants – An increase of 4 percent for student grants (bourses) for higher education

Who: Students under the age of 28 who qualify for financial assistance in the form of grants. These students must qualify as ‘financially precarious’ for the school year of 2022-2023.

When: September 2022

Back-to-school grants – Families who meet certain income requirements are eligible for an allowance to help cover back-to-school costs – that grant will increase by four percent this year. There will also be an extra €100 subsidy for eligible families (with an additional €50 per child) paid “to those who need it most” according to Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire in an interview with RTL. 

Who: Low-income families with children. You can test your family’s eligibility on the website www.service-public.fr. This aid will impact 10.8 million households.

When: The one time payment will be paid at the start of the school-year in September.

The option to convert overtime days into extra cash – This is encompassed in two measures: increasing the ceiling of tax exempt overtime hours to €7,500 and opening the possibility for companies to buy back RTT days from their employees.

Eligible employees covered by the 35-hour week agreement accrue time in lieu if they work overtime, known as RTT days. Currently this time is taken as extra vacation days, but now employees will have the option to forgo the time off and instead be paid extra.

Who: For the buying back of RTT days, this applies to employees (salariés) who have an RTT agreement with their company.

For the increased cap on non-taxed overtime work, this applies to a range of employees, such as those who have 35-hour per week contracts and have their employer request that they work overtime or those who work beyond their part-time contract amount. You can learn more about whether you have the ability to declare overtime hours HERE

When: The RTT days buyout will run from between January 1st, 2022 to December 31st, 2025. For employees eligible for tax-free overtime compensation, the ceiling of €7,500 will only be in place for the year 2022.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Why is France’s 35-hour week such a sacred cow?

Pay rise for public sector workers – public sector pay will get a four percent rise in the index.

Who: Anyone employed in France as a fonctionnaire (eg civil servants, teachers, librarians).

When: This will be retroactive to July 1st

Assistance for some self-employed workers – A reduction in health and maternity insurance contributions will be introduced for low-earning self-employed workers. “Microentrepreneurs” will also benefit from a reduction in their flat-rate contributions.

Who: Self-employed workers whose monthly income does not exceed 1.6 times the minimum wage and who are registered as ‘microentrepeneurs’

When: TBC

The biometric carte vitale –  The Senate introduced this into the purchasing power package, but it is not a benefit. It will involve the implementation of a biometric carte vitale health card to “fight against social fraud” by adding an electronic chip with biometric data on it to health insurance cards. You can read more HERE.

Who: Everyone who is registered in the French health system and has a carte vitale (about 60 million people)

When: Lawmakers will begin plans to implement the plans in Autumn 2022, but it’s not clearly exactly what form the rollout will take.

How much will these measures impact inflation?

Some measures will likely be more effective than others. For instance, the extension of the tariff shield and increase of the fuel rebate in the early fall is largely to thank for France’s inflation level being two points lower than the European average, according to INSEE.

On the other hand, the tripling of the ceiling for the (optional) Macron bonus will likely not make a large difference. This is because it will likely not be widely taken advantage of, as last year only 4 million French people received the optional bonus, with the approximate average of the bonus having been only €500.

The pension changes will impact about 14.8 million people in France. However, according to economist Christopher Dembik, the revalorsation values are based on actual inflation and not on inflation expectations. “These revaluation measures will be too weak by the time they will be implemented,” Dembik said to French daily Le Parisien.

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