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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
Photo by Lucas BARIOULET / 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. 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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INSIDE FRANCE

Inside France: Bashing footballers, British royals and Breton cakes

From the climate row engulfing a French football club to a behind-the-scenes look at France's presidency, via the particular place that British royals hold in French hearts, our weekly newsletter Inside France looks at what we have been talking about in France this week.

Inside France: Bashing footballers, British royals and Breton cakes

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.

Football focus

We’ve seen this week in France huge outrage at Paris Saint-Germain football club taking a plane to Nantes, a city that is accessible by train in just two hours – a row that perhaps seems trivial, but one that I think shows how much the dial has shifted in France on environmental issues.

A big chunk of the population has already made changes to their own lifestyle because of the climate crisis, and now they expect businesses and the super-rich to follow suit and avoid what is becoming known as un effort à deux vitesses – a two-speed effort.

And here’s one protester putting a distinctly French spin on things;

“Our planet is the only one where they make Kouign Amann, save it!” – in case you’re unlucky enough not to have tasted it, Kouign Amman is a Breton speciality made of sweet, laminated pastry. 

France in mourning

And we also saw this week, on the announcement of the death of Queen Elizabeth II, just how popular the British royals are in France.

As well as fulsome tributes from political leaders, British flags were flown, the Eiffel Tower lights were turned off and three French daily newspapers made the death their front page story. Many Brits in France have also reported their French friends, neighbours and colleagues offering condolences on the death of the Queen.

I find it fascinating because you might think that famously republican France would have no time for royals, but in fact this obsession with the British royals is a long-standing phenomenon in France.

French cultural commentators all focus on one thing – unity, remarking that often-divided France envies the sense of stability that a monarchy brings. Which is ironic because in the UK itself the monarchy is far from an uncontroversial subject and a significant chunk of the population believe that they should have no official role.

Perhaps a case of things always looking better from the outside?

READ ALSO ‘The French have a taste for princes’ – why are British royals so popular in France?

Macron uncovered

You might have seen this clip circulating below, showing a phone call between Volodymr Zelensky and Emmanuel Macron on the morning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

It comes from a fly-on-the-wall documentary that was screened on France 2 TV channel at the end of June.

The whole thing (mostly in French) is well worth a watch, giving fascinating insight into how things work behind the scenes, the personal relationships and the secret smoking that goes on in the Elysée – find it here.

Talking France

And our podcast Talking France has returned from its summer break. You can find the new episode HERE, where me and Genevieve Mansfield talk with Europe editor Ben McPartland and veteran political reporter John Lichfield about the big questions facing France.

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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