The French Work Ethic
“The French Work Ethic” — that’s how to which it is often referred, particularly in the month of August, as the signs are so acute.
The café on the corner usually is open all day, all evening, seven days a week, but this month, it’s shut tight. They still have the same rent to pay, so it boggles my mind how they can afford to simply lock the door and leave not even a sign on the window as to when they will return to reopen.
Most of the independent businesses in the non-touristy neighborhoods have done the same, this being the height of the Summer vacation period, when most ‘respectable’ French are whiling away their time in their country homes, on the seaside, or traveling to exotic places.
In casual conversation, on the streets with anyone still slogging it out as I am, asks, “Have you taken vacation yet?”…not “Are you taking vacation?”…as that couldn’t even be a possibility. Thank goodness, I’ve decided to become ‘respectable’ by luckily having a week on the Côte d’Azur at the end of the month thanks to an opportunity too good to pass up — a free ride down in a car to Marseille and free accommodations with friends there and in Nice. I’ve never been to Marseille and you know what they say (?), Nice is nice.
Most people love Paris in August or leave it. The streets are quieter, there’s plenty of parking and much less doggy poop. This Summer, the weather has been atrociously cold and damp, and everyone is complaining, wishing they had opted for a vacation like the rest of the ‘respectable’ French.
Meanwhile, we ‘unrespectable’ non-French continue to work off our ‘petooties’ because we just can’t understand how anyone can afford to cut off revenues for an entire month…but they do it, and they do it proudly, with a long list of valid reasons. We Anglo-Saxons, have a retort for each one of them, and all the reasons why we can’t relax and enjoy our lives, in lieu of earning money. (Don’t forget, one of the most important reasons is that the French, thanks to their ‘safety net’ of social security benefits, they don’t have as big a need to save for the future…college for their kids, major medical expenses, retirement income, etc.)
‘Course, many Anglos claim this is one big reason they love living in France…taking advantage of the benefits of “the French work ethic.” They became fed up with the idea that one should live to work, rather than work to live. Most of these folks, however, are close to or are of retirement age, and don’t really need to work so hard anymore, either. The Anglos I know who aren’t retirement age and have taken the risk of moving to France just because they love it, have a tremendous fear of how they will earn enough money without the obligatory working papers, perfect French language skills or technical skills that outperform the others in the same boat, consequently, they work harder and longer than anyone.
I have the regular occasion of consulting with people who have the burning desire to live in Paris or France and are willing to morph themselves into some new ideal, discovering the “petits chemins” and maneuvering their way legally or not into success in this foreign land. They aren’t afraid of working for it, either, and in fact with that hard work, entrepreneurship, resourcefulness, optimism and ‘sticktoitiveness,’ manage to succeed while their fellow Frenchmen are on the seaside in August.
Uh oh. There we go again, confused about why we’re here in the first place…to live to work or work to live…in France?
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
P.S. For those of you wishing to explore how you can move to France, earn a living (and work less like the French do), visit /parlerparis/services/generalconsultation.html or contact me at mailto:[email protected] to schedule a consultation.
P.P.S. While wandering in Le Marais, I noticed an apartment for sale overlooking the garden of the Musée Picasso, that a savvy buyer shouldn’t pass up. Scroll down to learn more!…or plan on attending the Living and Investing in France Real Estate Conference October 13th to learn how to own your own pied-à-terre in Paris or home in the countryside of France. Visit /frenchproperty/conference/LIF_Paris_Oct_2007/index.html