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LIVING IN FRANCE

What you should know about sending packages to and from France at Christmas

With Christmas just a few weeks away, here's what you need to know about sending gifts between France and the UK, America, Canada, Australia, and Ireland.

What you should know about sending packages to and from France at Christmas
(Photo by GEORGES GOBET / AFP)

The French postal service is key for foreigners living in France as you depend on it for everything from sending important documents to receiving gifts from people back home – especially at Christmas.

La Poste handily allows you to check out how much it will cost you to send your letter or package in advance. You can do that here.

Here’s what you can expect for those all-important Christmas parcels and care packages.

UK

Parcels can be sent between France and the UK easily because of long-standing links. Most shipping companies can deliver products between the countries within one or two working days. It’s unlikely, in most cases, that delivery will take longer than four days.

However, Christmas is a very busy time for delivery services. To guarantee delivery in time for Christmas, Britain’s Royal Mail recommends sending parcels no later than Wednesday, December 14th.

Since January 2021, parcels sent between France and the United Kingdom have been subject to customs and duty fees and VAT – and some extra paperwork at the post office, as anyone who has tried to post birthday or Christmas cards will be aware. 

READ ALSO: How foreigners in France are being hit with big parcel fees

If you mark the parcel as a gift, you should not incur any custom charges if it is below the value of €45.

Customs duty is due only on orders worth more than €150, and will depend on the nature of the product. VAT must be paid on all products imported into France from a non-EU country. The standard rate is 20 percent, although reduced rates apply to certain products, such as books (5.5 percent). 

La Poste charges €2 to €5 for these frais de gestion if VAT is paid online in advance (at laposte.fr), or €8 when paid upon delivery.

READ ALSO: The post Brexit rules and charges for sending post between UK and France

USA

You will need to complete a customs declaration when you send parcels between the US and France. Your parcel may also incur customs duties and taxes that will need to be paid by the recipient.

Generally a parcel from France to the US – and vice versa – takes up to 10 days door to door, though it can be done much faster if you’re prepared to pay for the privilege. Again, Christmas deliveries are more difficult to guarantee, but the last date you can send parcels to the US that you can confidently expect to arrive in time for Christmas is around December 7th. 

The following restrictions apply:

Prohibited items: alcoholic beverages, pharmaceutical products not approved by the American administration.   

Food shipments: Food producing companies must be registered with the Food and Drug Administration.

CANADA

Generally a parcel from France to Canada – and vice versa – takes between five and eight days door to door. Christmas deliveries are more difficult to guarantee, but the last date you can send parcels that you can confidently expect to arrive in time for Christmas is around December 7th. 

As with the US, you will need to complete a customs declaration when you ship to Canada from  France. Your parcel may also incur customs duties and taxes that will need to be paid by the recipient. But all this should be taken care of when you take your parcel to the post office.

You have to declare all food, plants, animals and related products sent to Canada, and there are – unsurprisingly – restrictions on firearms, explosives and ammunition and other items. For complete information, click here

AUSTRALIA

You will need to complete a customs declaration when you send parcels between France and Australia. Your parcel may also incur customs duties and taxes that will need to be paid by the recipient.

The cost of sending a parcel to Australia will vary depending on the size and weight of the package you’re sending and how quickly you need it to arrive.

Christmas deliveries are more difficult to guarantee, but the last date you can send parcels to the US that you can confidently expect to arrive in time for Christmas is around December 7th.

Australian quarantine laws are strictly enforced on imports of all products of plant and animal origin, as well as those made from soil or sand. Shipments should not be packed in wooden boxes or fruit cartons.

IRELAND

As Ireland is a member of the EU, no customs duties or VAT rules apply on parcels sent from France. Deliveries take two to five days in normal circumstances, but Christmas parcels should be sent no later than December 14th for arrival in time for the celebrations. And vice versa.

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For members

LIVING IN FRANCE

Why 2023 (especially May) is a great year for holidays in France

Did you know that there are good years and bad years for holidays in France? Well 2023 is a good year, very good in fact . . .

Why 2023 (especially May) is a great year for holidays in France

France is pretty generous when it comes to jours fériés (public holidays) – in total there are 11 public holidays every year, apart from in Alsace-Lorraine where people get 13 days off for historical reasons (that’s explained here).

However all public holidays in France are taken on the day they fall on that year, rather than being moved to the nearest Monday as is the case in some other countries.

This creates the concept of ‘good years’ and ‘bad years’ for holidays, and we’re happy to report that 2023 is a good year.

Faire le pont

If the holiday happens to falls on a Saturday or a Sunday, then workers don’t get any extra time off work and the holiday is ‘lost’ – both 2021 and 2022 saw a lot of lost holidays for this reason.

If the holiday falls on a weekday then most workers get the day off.

If it falls on a Monday or a Friday it means a nice long weekend, but if it falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday then people can faire le pont (do the bridge) or take one day of their annual holiday entitlement to create a nice four-day break. 

2023

In 2023, only two of France’s 11 jours fériés fall on weekends – New Year’s Day (Sunday) and Armistice Day (Saturday).

December 25th is the only official holiday day over Christmas in France – December 24th and 26th are normal working days – and in 2023 that’s on a Monday.

Only two holidays in 2023 fall on either a Tuesday or a Thursday, so you will not have many opportunities to faire le pont this year. Holidays that can be ‘bridged’ in 2023 are Ascension Day on Thursday, May 18th, and Assumption, on Tuesday, August 15th.

There is one opportunity to faire le viaduc (take two days off to ‘bridge’ to a Wednesday) and that is All Saints Day on November 1st.

May

May always has two holidays – May Day on May 1st and VE Day on May 8th – but there are two other spring holidays whose dates change each year – the Christian festivals of Ascension and Pentecost.

This year both of these fall in May, giving a whopping four public holidays, all of which are on week days (although not all workers get Pentecost as a day off, some practice ‘solidarity day’ instead).

Pentecost: The French public holiday where people work for free

Here is the full list of 2023 holidays in France:

Sunday, January 1st – New Year’s Day
Monday, April 10th – Easter Monday
Monday, May 1st – Worker’s Day
Monday May 8th – V-E Day
Thursday, May 18th – Ascension Day
Monday May 29th – Whit Monday (Lundi de Pentecôte – for some workers only).
Friday, July 14th – Bastille Day (Fête Nationale)
Tuesday, August 15th – The Assumption (l’Assomption)
Wednesday, November 1st – All Saints’ Day (Toussaint)
Saturday, November 11th – Armistice Day
Monday, December 25th – Christmas Day

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