Life in France – work a little, enjoy a lot!

La “dolce vita” might be an Italian saying, but the French are clearly experts at applying the concept on a daily basis. Among the many things the French are known for, time-off ranks quite high.

The two-week desert

Paris, between the 1st and 15th of August. If you are there on holiday with the purpose of practicing your French, you picked the wrong time of the year. This fortnight is the traditional period for the French to leave their usual residence to explore the world. Since the introduction of annual leave in the 1930s, the French have been increasingly benefiting from paid time-off. Thus, the 5-ish million Parisians hit the road at the beginning of August to gather on the (in)famous Côte d’Azur. The most adventurous will go as far as Spain; cheap facilities, guaranteed sun, bargains on alcohol and tobacco.

The French love their holiday and lucky them, they are entitled to quite a few! They have five weeks of paid holiday a year, which is more or less the standard in Europe: Finland, Austria, Greece and Denmark receive as many, Spain and Portugal 22 days, while the Belgians, Italians, Irish, British and the Dutch have four weeks. In comparison to countries like the US, Japan or Argentina where they are given less than two weeks, the Europeans are quite spoiled.

The French Touch

In addition to these 25 days (five weeks), the French celebrate eleven bank holidays. That’s already almost seven weeks! To which should be added the “RTT”: time off (Réduction du Temps de Travail). When the legal working time per week decreased from 39 to 35 hours in the early noughties, many companies chose to adopt the RTT system instead of restructuring their organisation. In practice, this means employees have kept on working 39 hours a week and receive, in compensation, extra days-off for the overtime they do.

In addition to these, some professions are granted an extra week off a year – among others, civil servants and members of staff in the catering industry.
So if you arrange your holiday strategically, you should be able to work as little as six months a year. Enough time to let you stroll through the streets of Paris with your colleagues enjoying the nice weather during that national passion they call “grèves” (strikes).

Still not convinced France is the best country in the world to work in? Bear in mind you can pull out a sickie every now and then, it’s all about knowing the right doctor!


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