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INSIDE FRANCE

Inside France: Energy crisis, the next holidays and chocolatines

In the week that France went back to work, our newsletter Inside France takes a look at energy rationing, climate plans, wine sales, cross-Channel chat and dodgy French jokes about pastries.

Inside France: Energy crisis, the next holidays and chocolatines
France went back to work and school this week. Photo by LOIC VENANCE / 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.

Happy returns

France is now back at work after the summer break – shops have reopened, offices are fully staffed and the kids are heading back to school (staggering slightly under the weight of all that stationery the French government insists that parents buy).

Loving the vibes from broadcaster BFMTV, which is literally counting the days until the next holiday.

Sober start

The government has also gone back to work, with sobriété energétique (energy sobriety) the main focus – in other words how France can cut its energy use to get through a winter without Russian gas, and in the longer term tackle the climate crisis.

We don’t know the exact details of the plan yet, but Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne started the week with a speech to business leaders, in which she outlined how businesses will be expected to have their ‘sobriety plans’ – detailing how they will cut their energy use – ready for October 1st.

Although the fuel shortage following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the immediate crisis – and householders have been reassured that there will be no power cuts this winter – the plan also looks to the future and the increasingly obvious need for all countries to cut their emissions to tackle the climate crisis.

Borne began her speech with a simple outline of the summer we have just had – record-breaking heatwaves, the worst drought in 60 years, raging wildfires and fatal storms – to underline the necessity for action. 

Exemplary Britain

It’s always exciting when your country is held up as an international example, right? Unfortunately for Brits, the UK is now being used in France as an example of what governments should not do in relation to the energy crisis, with politicians including government spokesman Olivier Véran reassuring the French that “what is happening in the UK [with soaring energy bills] will not happen in France”.

Wine

Other than la rentrée, the other thing that happens every September in France is both the wine harvest and the Foire aux vins – this is essentially a sale when retailers including supermarkets clear out their shelves ready for the new wines, and it’s a great place to grab a bargain, or maybe to get a deal on some wines that are normally out of your price bracket. 

The sex files

You might have heard the stories about Donald Trump having ‘secret intelligence’ on Emmanuel Macron’s sex life? Given that the only evidence that this exists is the word of notorious liar Trump we’re probably not going to dignify that with too much analysis, other than to flag up this seemingly quite relevant scene from one of our favourite French TV shows Au Service de la France (available on Netflix).

Podcast

For fans of our Talking France podcast there is some good news – it’s back from its summer break. We’re working on a new episode that will be out next week, and in the meantime you can catch up with old episodes HERE.

Blague de papa

And let’s finish with a terrible French joke, courtesy of the national police’s airborne unit.

“Did you know? At breakfast for the gendarmerie there is an exactly equal number of pain au chocolat and chocolatine, so as not to offend early morning sensibilities” – the joke being, of course, that a pain au chocolat and a chocolatine is exactly the same thing.

What you call the delicious chocolatey breakfast pastry, however, is the subject of fierce regional debate

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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