The 8 signs that August has arrived in France

The 8 signs that August has arrived in France
Photo: Sebastian Bozon/AFP
Summer holidays are popular the world over, of course, but France takes the tradition of les grandes vacances particularly seriously. Here's how you know that August has arrived.

1. Cities are largely deserted

If you’re in a city, especially in Paris, prepare for it to feel strangely empty outside of the obvious tourist destinations. This is because all sensible French people have packed up and gone to the beach or the countryside for a month. Next year, you will know to do the same.

 
2. But beaches are packed
 
France was a nation of staycationers even before the pandemic, and in August French people flee to the countryside or the beach. Expect resorts to be packed and hotels, Airbnbs and campsites to be fully booked.
 
This year the map of Covid hotspots gives a grim reminder of where the French are, come summer.

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3. Shops have cheery ‘back in September’ signs
 
Shop workers and owners take time off like everyone else and it’s very common for small independent businesses like boulangeries, pharmacies and florists to close up for a month.
 
Some will tell you when they expect to reopen, others just put up a cardboard sign saying fermé jusqu’à la rentrée – closed until September. 

 
4. Everyone you email is out of the office
 
Likewise office workers are also usually on holiday and a great many offices close altogether for three or four weeks.
 
Forget about out-of-office email replies suggesting an alternative contact or that the person will be checking their email sporadically – they will be on the beach and whatever you want can wait until they are back. This also applies to any kind of government bureaucracy.

 
 
 
 
5. Brumisateurs are everywhere
 
Obviously the summer means that it is (usually) hot, and most municipalities in France have their own hot weather plans.
 
These can involve extra water fountains, dedicated cool rooms for the elderly or the delightful brumisateurs (misters) which spray out clouds of cool water vapour for you to walk through if you are getting overheated.
 
Likewise fountains are regarded as legitimate places to cool down on a hot day.

Cool off with a water mister. Photo by GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP
 
6. No Metro lines are running
 
Many city authorities take the opportunity of a quiet month to do vital repair or improvement works on their public transport networks and this is particularly pronounced in Paris where you can expect at least half of the Metro lines to have some sort of temporary closure in August as work goes on (so yes, there is one group who work in August). 
 
7. Every road has a traffic warning
 
Bison futé, the nation’s traffic forecaster, gets good use of its red pen in August as most weekends there are red traffic warnings on dozens of roads as people head off on holiday or return from holiday.
 
The one to avoid at all costs is the weekend closest to the end of July and the beginning of August, when the juilletistes (July holidaymakers) return at the same time as the aoûtiens (August holidaymakers) set off. The final weekend of August, when people head home in time for la rentrée (the return to school and work in September) is also best avoided.
 
8. Supermarkets are full of stationery
 
Looking ahead to la rentrée, supermarkets begin stocking up their stationery aisles so that parents can buy the 29 items of stationery that are apparently necessary for every child attending a French school.
 

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