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UNDERSTANDING THE FRENCH

The 8 signs that August has arrived in France

Summer holidays are popular the world over, of course, but France takes the tradition of les grandes vacances particularly seriously. Here's what to expect now that August has arrived.

The 8 signs that August has arrived in France
Photo: Sebastian Bozon/AFP

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.

READ ALSO 7 reasons to stay in Paris in August

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, especially as international tourists return after two years of travel restrictions.

 

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.

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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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LIVING IN FRANCE

Property, food labels and French fashion secrets: 6 essential articles for life in France

To rent or to buy in France - we answer the eternal question in our weekly round-up of must-reads from The Local. Plus, French second-hand news, the difference between AOC food and AOP food, how to complain like a native, the best walking and cycling routes the country has to offer, and the real secrets of French style.

Property, food labels and French fashion secrets: 6 essential articles for life in France

We begin with the eternal property question. After two years of steadily rising prices across France, the property market is starting to change. Some experts predict falls of up to 10 percent in some regions in 2023, though new-build prices continue to rise. So, we ask…

Is it better to buy or rent in France right now?

It’s good for the wallet and good for the planet. Second-hand products are cheaper than new, and – in extending the lifespan of a product – you’re helping the planet, too, by cutting down the number of products being thrown away.

In these economically and environmentally-straitened times, buying second-hand is well and truly in fashion in France. Here are some tips on where to look for a bargain.

Where are the best places for buying second-hand in France?

If you’re shopping in France it’s highly likely that you will see food and drinks that proudly declare their AOP or AOC status – but are these products actually better than the ones without a label? We have the lowdown.

What does the AOP/AOC label on French food and wine mean – and are these products better?

French people are often stereotyped as grumpy, and it does appear there is a national quirk that makes them fond of a good old moan. Former president François Hollande even went on TV to implore the French to complain less.

But, we say, embrace the stereotype – here are 12 phrases you need to know to mither like a French person…

12 phrases that will let you complain like the French

You may be planning your holiday – and France is a country that’s got you covered for outdoor activities, from Grand Randonees, to local walks and vélo routes – it’s full of them.

We’ve selected 13 walks and cycle routes, one from each region, ranging from the gentle and easy to the incredibly difficult. There’s even a donkey in one of them…

13 of France’s best hiking and cycling routes

The internet is teeming with hundreds of articles with tips for women on how to dress à la française. Not all of the advice out there is reliable – so, we asked a few in-the-actual-know people in the rarefied world of haute couture to separate the French fashion facts from the many, many fictions. 

How to dress like a French woman: Five tips to remember (and five to forget)

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