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WHAT CHANGES IN FRANCE

On the Agenda: What’s happening in France this week

From end of the Christmas holidays to rail strikes and the delicious Galette des Rois cakes you'll get to enjoy on Friday, here's what is happening in France this week.

On the Agenda: What’s happening in France this week
(Photo by JACQUES DEMARTHON / AFP)

January 1st marks the day when a host of new laws come into place, plus changes to financial support for households dealing with rising prices.

What changes in January 2023 

Monday

Back to work – With New Year’s Eve and Day falling over a weekend, many people will be heading back into the office on Monday, as it is not a public holiday. However, the holidays are not yet over for France’s parliament. Lawmakers will reconvene next week.

Big day for travel – With families coming home the day before schools start up again and workers heading back into the office, the roads are expected to be busier than usual in France. The Paris region and much of eastern France will be “Orange” – indicating “heavy traffic conditions” according to the traffic watchdog Bison Futé. 

Strikes in the Bordeaux area – Rail transport in Bordeaux and the surrounding region is likely to be disrupted, as Monday marks the last day of a local transport strike. 

Doctors strikeMedecines généralistes (GPs or family doctors) take another week of strike action this week in their ongoing call for more investment in community healthcare. The strike runs from Monday to Sunday inclusive.

If you need non-urgent medical care during this time, here are your options.  

Tuesday

Back to school –  Schoolchildren across France will be returning to the classroom after Christmas break on Tuesday.

Strike action impacting the Eurostar – For those travelling to or from the United Kingdom on Tuesday, Eurostar has warned that travel may be disrupted on January 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 7th due to an RMT strike involving “Network Rail and 14 train companies in the UK.” Similar strike action before Christmas saw some services cancelled but most running as normal. You can find more information here.

Friday

Epiphany – This is not a public holiday in France (unlike neighbouring Spain where they go mad for the Three Kings), but the day is marked with a special cake – the Galette des rois – which has a lot of fun and complicated rituals for consumption.

READ ALSO Everything you need to know about Galette des rois

Sunday

Last day of the Lumières en Seine festival – If you missed Lyon’s light festival this winter, you can still make it to one in Paris. The Lumières en Seine is held in the Parc de Sainte-Cloud, in the Bois de Boulogne just to the west of the city, and it runs until January 8th. The park is decked out in beautiful light displays for a night-time wander. Tickets are €20.

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WHAT CHANGES IN FRANCE

What changes in France in February 2023?

From the carnival of lemons and pancake day to rising bills for homes and drivers and - of course - strikes, here is what is on the agenda for February 2023 in France.

What changes in France in February 2023?

Strike action – As unions continue to protest the French government’s proposed pension reform – which includes raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 – more industrial action is likely throughout the month of February. As of January 27th – rail strikes were planned for February 7th and 8th, after two unions Sud-Rail and CGT-Cheminots filed renewable strike notices for ‘mid-February’ in addition to the two-day action for the 7th and 8th.

Unions representing ski resort workers – mainly lift operators – have filed “unlimited” strike notices that begin January 31st – so actions throughout February are possible. Additionally, oil refinery workers have threatened to strike for a period of 72 hours beginning on February 6th. You can keep up with ongoing strike action in France HERE.

READ MORE: Calendar: The latest French pension strike dates to remember

Pension reform – the bill for pension reform heads to parliament on February 6th for the first day of what are likely to be stormy debates. The government’s schedule is to have debates in both the Assemblée nationale and the Senate concluded by the end of March, with the bill coming into effect in September. We’ll see. 

Road Tolls – Toll rates on the main motorways across France are set to go up by an average of 4.75 percent starting on February 1st. More details here.

Olympics tickets – people who have been successful in the first round of the draw for Olympics tickets will be notified by email in mid February – and then have to go online to pick their events. Full details here.

Electricity bills – At the start of 2023, the French government increased the cap for energy price hikes. On January 1st, gas bills were allowed to rise by a maximum of 15 percent, and starting on February 1st, electricity bills will also be able to rise by a maximum of 15 percent. For the average household, this will represent an extra €20 a month. 

Fuel allowance – Motorists in France on low incomes who rely on their vehicles to get to and from work can now apply for the €100 fuel allowance – you can learn how to do so HERE. The request must be made before February 28th, 2023 on the website impots.gouv.fr.

Sales end – the winter sales in most of France end on February 7th, although in some border areas they end on January 29th.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about France’s 2023 winter sales

Savings – Some potentially welcome personal finance news. The Banque de France announced in January that interest rates for the Livret A savings scheme will increase to three percent from February 1st. This impacts those who already have existing accounts open. You can learn more about Livret A savings accounts here.

School holidays – schools have a two-week holiday in February, but the exact date depends on which zone you are in. Zone A holidays run from February 4th to 20th, zone B holidays run from February 11th to 27th, and zone C holidays run from February 18th to March 6th. You can see which zone applies to you and your family with the graphic below:

Credit: Éducation Nationale

La Chandeleur –  February 2nd marks La Chandeleur aka the French pancake day. As well as eating lots of delicious crêpes, the French also have a complicated and fun set of superstitions around this day which apparently bring good luck for the year ahead.

READ MORE: La Chandeleur: The day the French get superstitious and go crazy over crepes

Nice Carnival – The Nice carnival is ranked among the top three in the world alongside Rio and Venice and has been going on since the 13th century. The carnival will start on February 10th, and a jam-packed calendar of activities is scheduled until February 26th. This year is the event’s 150th anniversary, and you can find more information about schedules and attending on the website here. Keep in mind that Nice is not the only French city that hosts a Carnival festival – other places like Colmar and Mulhouse also host smaller versions of the event.

Fête du Citron – When life gives you lemons…create a festival involving over 140 tonnes of citrus fruit and invite about 230,000 visitors annually? That is pretty much what Menton, a town on the French Riviera did in 1928 when a hotelier in the region wished to increase tourism. From parades to intricate lemon floats and exhibits – this year the lemon festival will run from February 11th to 26th. 

Retro car show in Paris – Rétromobile Paris is a show dedicated to classic cars. The second largest show of its kind in Europe, it happens yearly at the Porte de Versailles in Paris, welcoming over 100,000 visitors each year. This year marks the 47th edition, and it will run from February 1st through 5th. 

Ski world championships – The alpine ski world championships will be held in Courchevel Méribel from February 6th to 19th. You can find more information on their website here.

Flu vaccine campaign extended – The French government has extended its annual flu vaccination campaign until February 28th. You can learn more about getting a flu shot in France here.

Monthly lending rate adjusted – On January 20th, France’s Minister of Economy, Bruno Le Maire, announced that the timing for when lending rates are updated will be temporarily adjusted to help make borrowing less restrictive. From February 1st to July 1st, the lending rate (i.e. for mortgages, consumer loans, and other loans to local authorities) will be adjusted and updated on a monthly – rather than a quarterly – basis.

Train tickets – Starting on February 1st, the French national rail service, SNCF, will change its terms for exchanging and cancelling tickets. During the pandemic, SNCF allowed the free exchange or refund of tickets up to three days before departure. However, this will now be extended to seven days prior to departure, and related fees will be increased from €15 to €19, according to reporting by Le Parisien.

Student platform – On February 1st, the French government will launch its now “Mon Master” platform which will allow students and other applying for master’s programmes to do so on one single site that will provide access to the “entire range of master’s programmes in France,” according to the Ministry for Higher Education. This will put France’s 8,000 public and private master’s degree programmes together on the same website. Students will be able to send applications on the platform starting March 22nd.

Unemployment benefits – Starting February 1st, the duration of unemployment benefits will be reduced by 25 percent. This means that a person who may have previously qualified for 12 months of compensation will, beginning in February, only qualify for nine months worth of benefits. The new decree will keep a minimum benefit period of six months. This is part of the French government’s recent unemployment reform bill – you can find more information here.

Ride share and cab fares to increase – Local authorities will need to announce any increases in standard cab fare rates by February 1st. They will be able to raise standard rates by a maximum of four percent. The minimum price for a taxi journey will remain at €7.30, including for those in Paris, throughout 2023.

Uber and other rideshare drivers reached a landmark agreement to establish minimum wages in January. This means that a drivers will be owed a minimum income per trip of €7.65, “regardless of the application being used”. Ride share organisations also agreed to institute a minimum price for rides – setting it to at least €10.20 for the cheapest ride, which represents a rise of about 27 percent from previous minimum fares. These changes go into effect February 1st.

READ MORE: Uber reaches landmark agreement on drivers’ minimum wage in France

Renovation grants – Launched back in January 2020, the government scheme MaPrimeRénov’ lets homeowners apply for financial help to renovate their homes. Starting on February 1st, the French government will take into account rising inflation and will raise ceilings for the financing of renovation work. The amount offered will depend on your individual situation – for example, for the “copropriétés” scheme (people who live in shared buildings), the maximum renovation price will be increased from €15,000 to €25,000. For those with modest incomes looking to do energy renovation, the maximum amount will be raised from €30,000 to €35,000. You can learn more about MaPrimeRénov here.

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