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INSIDE FRANCE

Inside France: French icons, rowdy MPs and travel chaos

The summer is about holidays and this week in France we've had holiday travel chaos, grumpy French MPs not allowed to go on holiday and the build-up to the best party of the summer - welcome to our weekly newsletter Inside France, which looks at what we have been talking about in France this week.

Inside France: French icons, rowdy MPs and travel chaos
Marianne, the symbol of the French republic. Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP

Inside France is our weekly look at some of the news, talking points and gossip in France that you might not have heard about. It’s published each Saturday and members can receive it directly to their inbox, by going to their newsletter preferences or adding their email to the sign-up box in this article.

Politics and other games

A lot of French workers have now turned on their out-of-office auto replies and headed to the beach, but French MPs are still at work and have even pulled several all-nighters (nuits blanches) to get vital bills like the cost-of-living financial aid package passed through parliament.

They’ve even been told that they’ll have to carry on working until at least August 6th, much later than the parliamentary session usually ends, in order to get legislation passed.

The reason that all debates are taking so long is the lack of an absolute majority for president Emmanuel Macron’s party, meaning that painstaking negotiation and alliance-building has to happen for each section of each bill.

When Macron lost his outright majority, some predicted that this would herald a new era of proper public debate and robust scrutiny of government. It seems those people were a little optimistic – in the past week alone we’ve had a row over whether MPs should wear ties in parliament, a (mocking) Nazi salute in the chamber and endless slanging matches on Twitter. 

Grown-up politics indeed.

Olympic spirit

I freely admit it – I love the Olympics and Paralympics and I believe that the 2024 Paris Games will be amazing, notwithstanding worries about budgeting and security.

Paris has now unveiled its slightly underwhelming slogan Games Wide Open (it sounds better in French – Ouvrons grand les Jeux) coupled with another of its very cool promo videos and the announcement that tickets go on sale in December.

I like that in addition to Games footage, these are stuffed with references to French history and culture – in fact The Local team put together a little quiz to see how many of these you recognise.

Travel chaos

In travel terms, this was the week the Brexit chickens finally came home to roost and thousands of Brits realised what those of us living in France had been forced to face years ago; Brexit brings significant changes to the daily lives of ordinary people and those changes are almost all bad.

Obviously the Brexit transition period began back in January 2021, but pandemic related-travel restrictions meant that this year was the first time since then that the UK saw a peak weekend for holidaymakers trying to cross to France. It did not go well

Our columnist John Lichfield says that the UK travel chaos won’t end until the British government gets real about Brexit. As this looks highly unlikely to happen any time soon, prepare for long waits if you are travelling from the UK to France.

This was also the week that several UK tabloids ‘discovered’ that travel rules for non-EU citizens now apply to Brits. What a shocker. 

In fact there are a whole host of rules for non-EU citizens that now apply to Brits when travelling into an EU country like France – here’s a full list of them

Still, there’s always this old fall-back for British politicians. 

Language laughs

And if you’re on Twitter I highly recommend following the very funny bilingual actor Loïc Suberville, who makes regular short films pointing out the absurdities of the French and English languages.

A little snippet to brighten your day as you wrestle with French grammar.

Inside France is our weekly look at some of the news, talking points and gossip in France that you might not have heard about. It’s published each Saturday and members can receive it directly to their inbox, by going to their newsletter preferences or adding their email to the sign-up box in this article.

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INSIDE FRANCE

Inside France: Strikes, Citroëns and Champagne communists

From good news for French bill-payers to the art of surviving strikes, via festivals and the iconic Citroën 2CV, our weekly newsletter Inside France looks at what we have been talking about in France this week.

Inside France: Strikes, Citroëns and Champagne communists

Inside France is our weekly look at some of the news, talking points and gossip in France that you might not have heard about. Members can receive it directly to their inbox, by going to their newsletter preferences or adding their email to the sign-up box in this article.

After a surprisingly quiet summer in terms of strike action, French unions are once again causing chaos – this time all over Europe – as air traffic controllers go on strike in a dispute over pay, working conditions and future recruitment.

It’s obviously never fun getting caught up in a strike, especially airline strikes which can ruin important trips and much-anticipated holidays.

However they are a fact of life and I believe that one of the most important skills for life in France is learning how to be philosophical about strikes. Everyone finds their own path to this form of inner peace, but for me it was realising how much of the French social contract – from good public services to workers’ rights – depends on the power of the street to hold governments to account.

Oh, and strike days are also a great time to learn some new French swear-words. 

READ ALSO How to stop worrying and learn to love French strikes

It looks we may all be getting some practice at this soon in a possibly troubled autumn – unions and leftist political parties are already calling for demos later in September over the cost-of-living, and that’s even before Emmanuel Macron introduces his highly controversial bills for reforming both the pension system (again) and the unemployment benefits system.

Things could get lively. 

Bills

Whether because they’re afraid of social unrest or because they’re lovely people, the French government has announced that the cap on energy prices will be extended into 2023, albeit raised to a maximum 15 percent increase.

Bills increasing is never good news, and of course will hit those on low incomes the hardest, but a glance over the Channel at 200 percent increases in electricity bills is enough to make me thank my lucky stars that I live in France.

Champagne communists 

Running since 1930, the Fête de l’Humanité is a pretty big deal in France, attracting around 500,000 people – it raises funds for the Communist newspaper l’Humanité but attracts speakers from across the political left, as well as being a major music festival with dozens of well-known bands appearing over the three days.

But for my money, the best thing about it is that local Communist parties from all over France (and the world in fact) come and set up stands, most of which lure in punters with the food and drink speciality of their regions.

If dancing in a tent with drunk French Communists while sipping €4 glasses of Champagne is your thing, then you will love the Fête de l’Humanité. (And no, ‘Champagne socialist’ is not an insult in France, instead we say gauche caviar).

Podcast

If you like idle chit-chat about France – as well as some serious topics – check out our weekly Talking France podcast.

In the most recent episode we tackle the heavy subjects of assisted dying, plus the problems of the French nuclear industry, before heading to the lighter waters of Dijon mustard, Bordeaux wine and some topical French phrases.

Listen on Spotify, Apple or Google podcasts, download it HERE or listen on the link below.

Photo of the week

This has to be the French photo of the week, for all the reasons explained below

Inside France is our weekly look at some of the news, talking points and gossip in France that you might not have heard about. Members can receive it directly to their inbox, by going to their newsletter preferences or adding their email to the sign-up box in this article.

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