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INSIDE FRANCE

Inside France: A new political era, pharmacy tunes and Macron’s suntan

From apocalyptic pronouncements to suntan jokes, via private jet rules and pharmacy tunes, our weekly newsletter Inside France looks at what we have been talking about in France this week

Inside France: A new political era, pharmacy tunes and Macron's suntan
Photo by Patrick VALASSERIS / 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.

Apocalypse maintenant

As France returns from its summer break, president Emmanuel Macron got la rentrée off to a cheery start by appearing to predict the apocalypse.

In his opening remarks to the first cabinet meeting – which, unusually, were televised – Macron predicted “the end of abundance, the end of insouciance, the end of assumptions – it’s ultimately a tipping point that we are going through”.

And in case anyone was nurturing the delusion that this was merely a tough winter that we face due to energy shortages after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Macron added that this was a long-term trend which is also linked to climate change.

OPINION: Macron’s Churchillian rhetoric provides a vital clue to events in France

It was left to his government spokesman Olivier Véran to attempt to reassure the French that Macron was merely laying out the challenges facing the country in a transparent fashion and that we won’t be living through a live-action version of Mad Max in the months to come (to slightly paraphrase his press conference). 

Here Véran also slips in a revival of the Covid-era slogan tenir ensemble (pull together).

Climate crisis

The Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne is due next week to set out the government’s long-awaited “energy transition”, and she has quite the challenge on her hands – coming up with a plan that will drastically cut France’s energy usage and finally take real action on climate change, while also maintaining the standard of living for the majority of the population.

She may be helped, however, by recent polls that show that climate change is now the number 2 concern of French voters, fractionally behind inflation but way ahead of immigration, crime or terrorism.

It seems that for many people the summer of sweltering temperatures, huge wildfires, storms and the worst drought in 60 years has really brought home the reality of the climate crisis on a visceral level.  

Bronzage 

There was one other aspect of Macron’s speech that caught many people’s eye – his distinctly bronzed appearance.

Even allowing for the fact that he’s been down on the French Riviera for the last few weeks, the president appeared to be unusually deeply tanned.

Private jets and swimming pools

One French proposal that really hit the international headlines this week was a proposal to ban or at least regulate private jets, in response to the climate crisis.

Digging closer into this, and it seems it was really nothing more than some remarks from the Transport minister Clément Beaune.

We’re nowhere near a government policy on this, and Beaune later added that he wanted to work on it on an EU level, so it seems that any action would be years away.

Interestingly, though, the idea seems to have been very popular in France, the country with the highest rate of private jet activity in Europe (according to 2019 figures).

A suggestion by a Green party MP that private swimming pools should be banned because of droughts, however, has been instantly shot down. Perhaps because France also has the highest level of private pool ownership in Europe.

End of summer

Although the government is back (with a bang), schools don’t return until next week, so this is the weekend that many French people will be reluctantly dragging themselves off the beach, packing away flip-flops and contemplating the return to work.

La rentrée really is a national mood in France, even for those who remained at work in August.

Pharmacy fever

And if you’re suffering from post-holiday blues, I can highly recommend heading over to Tik Tok to watch some of these lovely videos of French pharmacy signs set to music.

You may have noticed that the graphics on the distinctive green crosses outside pharmacies are getting more and more sophisticated – from just a simple time and temperature, some of them have become little pieces of entertainment in their own right.

I hope these raise a smile. 

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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