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INSIDE FRANCE

Inside France: Dried-up rivers, primped-up Paris and why we love the French tax office

From extraordinary pictures of France's rivers to voting rights for foreigners and a TV show that we will all love to hate, our weekly newsletter Inside France looks at what we have been talking about in France this week.

Inside France: Dried-up rivers, primped-up Paris and why we love the French tax office
A picture shows the dry bed of the Loire River in Saumur, western France. Photo by GUILLAUME SOUVANT / 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.

There really is one picture that has summed up France this week.

The mighty river Loire – famous around the world for wines, chateaux and its beautiful valley – has in places dried up to little more than a trickle.

It’s just one example of rivers, lakes and marshland drying up as France’s worst drought on record continues, and more and more of the country is placed under water restrictions.

IN PICTURES: French drought intensifies as River Loire dries up

We spoke to hydrologist and climate expert Emma Haziza about why the drought is so bad and what we can expect by the rest of the summer.

And if you’re wondering why French people are urging ex president François Hollance to visit their region, it’s because they think he might bring the rain – a reference to this photo from 2014 of a drenched Hollande continuing regardless with a World War II commemoration event in Brittany.  

Say what you like about Hollande, but he was a trooper . . . 

Voting rights

With parliament in recess and most Ministers on the beach, there’s not been a lot of political news this week, but one MP has trailed a new bill – to give foreigners in France the right to vote.

At present EU citizens living in France can vote in local and European elections (but not presidential elections), but non-EU citizens cannot vote at all, neither can they become local councillors (which meant that many Brits had to give up roles in their local communities after Brexit).

Now Macronist MP Sacha Houlié wants to give non-EU citizens who are living in France the right to vote in municipal elections, and to become local councillors.

However before we get too excited, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin is apparently “strongly opposed” to the idea.

Happy tax

This might sound unusual, but this week I have been sharing the love for the French tax office.

Yes, residents in France pay a lot of tax, but if you ever need to deal with the tax office, their staff are surprisingly lovely and helpful – a stark contrast to my experiences of dealing with HMRC back in the UK.

When I tweeted about a recent visit, many people replied sharing their positive experiences and French tax offices – which by the way exist even in quite small towns and you can walk in without appointment and find someone to help you.

Vive les taxes! 

City streets

And for readers in Paris or planning a visit, I can highly recommend this free exhibition of street art, hosted in the Tunnel des Tuileries, beside the Seine.

The tunnel used to be a road, but is now a walkway and cyclepath and this summer has this wonderful display of European street art – just one of the examples of the rapidly changing face of Paris. 

And speaking of Paris, if you loved to hate Emily in Paris, then September is going to be a good month for you!

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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