The sounds of Paris: screaming babies, honking horns, Grèving Parisians
Welcome back to the wonderful world of France. For those of you who don’t keep up with international affairs, France is going through a bit of internal upset right now. The government wants to change the retirement age from 60 to 62, and the French have, to put it mildly, freaked out. They have been grèving the change for about 2 weeks now ( grève means to strike- but not in the American sense of the word- in France, a grève includes slow or stopped public transportation (metro, trains, buses), protests in the streets (mostly in parade format), stickers and flyers posted all over the city, trains and roads blocked by people and/or car/trucks, and occasionally riots. To a lot of Americans I have talked to, it’s a bit ridiculous to protest, strike, and riot about a two year retirement difference. But, to understand their point of view, you really have to try to understand how much the French love their “jours de congés”, or days off work. The French, unlike most work-aholic Americans, prefer to work as little as possible even if it means losing money . Most stores here are closed on Sundays and Mondays for the shop owners to spend time with their families. That would almost never be the case in America (with the exception of really small stores and the few Christian based stores who are closed on Sundays) because business owners know that every day they aren’t open is another day without profit. In the French mindset, family is more important than that small additional revenue. The French also get 5 weeks vacation every year. A few years back the government considered lowering it to 3 or 4 weeks and, just like right now, the French freaked out and started grèving. Just like with the store owners who don’t mind losing money on Sundays and Mondays, the French don’t mind leaving town for 5 weeks every year. It’s their government-given right, and they take it. In the States, I don’t know about everyone else’s families, but its hard for my family to get even 1 week of vacation (that’s not to say my dad couldn’t have more time off- he can have 2 weeks if he wanted, he just can’t stand to be away for that long). But, back to this current grève; since the French are very picky about their days off, it makes sense to me that they would panic when the government wants to make them work for two more years. Things here are getting interesting though. Apparently, the oil refineries have started striking as well, so no new petrol (gas) is being refined, so small towns are running out of petrol and it could eventually effect the airport big time. Between that and the metro strikes, truck strikes (they refuse to transport anything, and are blocking roads and train tracks), school strikes, manifestations in the road that cause the buses to be late everywhere, and the overall madness going on all over the country, I hope they vote on the issue soon so life can get back to normal.