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Why the French prime minister is being sent ladies’ underwear

It might be all in a day's work for rock musicians and movie stars, but now France's prime minister is also being sent women's knickers in the post.

Why the French prime minister is being sent ladies' underwear
French prime minister Jean Castex is getting an unusual postbag. Photo: Martin Bureau/AFP

But it’s not just the charms of 55-year-old PM Jean Castex that have prompted the daily deliveries of lingerie – this is a particular form of protest.

Lingerie shops in France are currently classed as non-essential so are closed during the country’s ‘partial lockdown’ – even though hairdressers, book stores and music shops have all been classed as essential so stayed open.

A group of shop owners have hit on this particular form of protest, and are sending a steady stream of culottes to Castex, in the hope of catching his attention.

The protest, named Action Culottée, began with a video posted on TikTok in which a shop owner calls for others to join her, saying: “No, putting on underwear every morning is not something to be relegated to the background, we have every right to be open.”

@mmetoutlemonde21

Action Culottée ! 💪🏼💪🏼💪🏼 ##pourtoi ##pourtapage ##actionculottee ##matignon ##castex ##bisous

♬ son original – Mme Toutlemonde

She is particularly angry that supermarkets are allowed to keep selling underwear, creating an unfair situation for the lingerie shops.

In a press release, the organisers say small independent stores present a lower risk of the virus spreading.

“Studies show that it is not in independent shops that the risk of transmission is the highest. Our small stores allow us to regulate the flow of visitors in a precise manner.

“The big stores are open, welcome the public often without respecting the fixed distances and do not always enforce the measures of social distancing.”

The French government is expected to publish over the next two weeks a plan for reopening. No details are yet available, but ministers have suggested that the reopening will begin in mid May with the reopening of non-essential stores and bar and café terraces.

READ ALSO Schools, shops, bars and cafés – France’s timetable for reopening

Castex has so far not commented on his unusual postbag.

Vocab

Une culotte – knickers/panties (singular in French, as with trousers and jeans)

Sous-vêtements – underwear

Commerçant/commerçante – business owner

Une petite entreprise – a small business

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LIVING IN FRANCE

Bikes, gig tickets and holidays: Seven things the French government might pay for

Living in France does have its drawbacks, among them a hefty tax bill for most people. But there are also plenty of perks, including the free stuff that the French government give you. Here's a roundup of just some of the things that you may be entitled to claim.

Bikes, gig tickets and holidays: Seven things the French government might pay for
The French government might pay for both your bike and your cycling holiday. Photo: Guillaume Souvant/AFP

Culture

If you’re a teenager, the government could be funding your books, films, music or video games, thanks to the new culture pass.

President Emmanuel Macron announced earlier this year that teenagers in France will receive €300 when they turn 18 to spend on as they like on cultural products such as books, video games or festival tickets.

Full details of the pass culture are available HERE.

Holiday vouchers

Based on the notion that holidays are essential, the French holiday voucher system – known as chèques vacances – was launched in 1982 by then-President Francois Mitterrand. Millions have benefited from the scheme ever since.

Run by the Agence nationale des chèques-vacances (ANCV) the scheme offers help with paying for holidays for four main groups; young adults, people with disabilities, older people and families, especially single-parent families.

One such scheme, Départ 18:25 was launched in 2014 to help 18-25-year-olds have a summer vacation, providing vouchers that cover up to 75 percent of reservation costs (capped at €200).

Beneficiaries can choose between 10,000 destinations across France and internationally, with reservations made through the Les Stations sites. The site allows visitors to test their eligibility and simulate the total cost of trips taking the ANVC voucher into account.  

This particular scheme scheme is open to French residents aged 18-25 making a net salary of less than €17,280 per year.

It’s also open to students working on apprenticeships, civic service volunteers, those benefiting from special aid contracts (often given to handicapped people, for example), “second-chance” schools that offer another shot to those that had difficulties in school, beneficiaries of the Youth Guarantee initiative and those receiving social aid within their families. 

ANCV also offers a holiday voucher scheme for small businesses

Spa treatments

Yep, really. If you’re registered in the French health system and hold a carte vitale you might be able to get a cure thermale (treatment at a spa) on prescription – and have all or part of the cost of the stay reimbursed by l’Assurance Maladie.

The health system has tightened up the rules on this a bit recently so unfortunately it’s no longer possible to argue that you’re tired and stressed and really fancy a spa day. There are now 12 eligible categories listed by the health service, which includes digestive disorders, skin conditions, gynecological issues and rheumatism. 

It must also be prescribed by a GP or specialist.

READ ALSO Five surprising things available on your French health insurance

Language classes or driving lessons

If you’re an employee in France the government has earmarked up to €800 a year for you to spend on training. This is for your further professional development so can include vocational training or language classes or driving lessons.

The self-employed, too, can access the compte personnel de formation (CPF) by paying into the scheme via their social charges.

The money is available by setting up and accessing a personal online account and can be used to finance any approved training relevant to your work, including:

  • Additional qualifications
  • Skills training
  • Skills assessment
  • Driver’s licence
  • Setting up a business
  • Training needed for people volunteering or working in civil service
  • French language courses are accepted for foreign employees and if you need to drive for your work you can claim the cost of driving lessons and tests.

Cross-border Covid tests

France will reimburse its residents (who are registered in the French health sytem) who have to get Covid-19 tests while travelling in the EU for costs up to €50. 

Anyone who has to get a PCR or antigen test for medical reasons (presence of Covid-19 symptoms) or administrative reasons (when they are mandatory to enter or leave an EU state), will be able to claim back money up to €50.

Meanwhile, 27 percent of the cost of tests taken outside of the EU is covered – but only if it is taken for medical reasons, not just to get back across the border.

Home improvements

If you’re planning some building work then think about energy efficiency – if the work you are planning will make your home more energy efficient then the government might help you with the costs.

A scheme for €1 home insulation and boiler replacement schemes will end on July 1st, six months earlier than planned. 

But other government grants and help are still available through the MaPrimeRénov website.

These grants have replaced income tax credits which used to be offered for eco-friendly home improvement work.

An electric bike

Propelled by a combination of people abandoning public transport during the pandemic and government financial aid, the market for bicycles jumped in 2020 by 25 percent, according to Union Sport & Cycle. 

More than 500,000 new electric bikes hit the streets in 2020 – a year-on-year rise in sales of 29 percent, meaning one in five new bikes on French roads are electric.

That jump is set to continue after MPs voted in April 2021 in favour of a measures to encourage people to buy bicycles as part of the new Climate Bill.

The amendments include incentives – similar to the bonuses available for swapping an older car for an electric or hybrid vehicle – for anyone who wants to swap a polluting vehicle for an electric bike.

Grants of up to €1,000 are available for buying a new electric bike – details here – while you can also claim up to €50 towards the cost of bike repairs, and several local authorities including those in Paris are offering their own incentives to cyclists.

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