The French want to work on Sundays.
The 2008 economic crisis has taken a huge you-know-what on most of the western world, and France is no exception. As the country battles high levels of unemployment, soaring taxes, and penny pinching strategies within families and individuals, Francois Hollande’s socialist regime includes a primary focus on same-sex marriage and adoption, lowering the retirement age to 60– (YES, SIXTY), and creating new jobs. However, an ancient French law still decrees Sundays in France as a mandatory day off to help ensure French citizens rest, relaxation, and better quality of life.
French citizens are used to this being the norm- though restaurants and tourist attractions are exempt, supermarkets are only open half days and all other types of retail stores, businesses, shopping malls, etc., are closed. The French are both traditional and progressive, so even though the idea of businesses being open on Sundays has received much backlash, some are beginning to believe that these laws and protections are a direct contrast to modern lifestyles and put France at a huge economic disadvantage. For example, France is the most visited country IN THE WORLD yet only ranks third in tourist spending- many believe this would change if more things were open on Sunday. Many store owners and employees also argue that Sunday openings give them needed extra revenue and pay, as well as better customer satisfaction from those who do not have time to shop during the week. After 14 Paris-area Leroy Merlin chain hardware stores were forced to shut down (and threatened the equivalent of $162,000 fines for daring to open on Sundays), some employees in protest wore t-shirts with the phrase, ”Yes Week End!” written across the front (inspired from Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan, “Yes We Can!” “We want to work Sunday! Let us work!” said a Leroy Merlin employee.
As an American, I am still not habituated to everything closing DAILY from 12 PM- 2 PM for lunch, as well as everything being closed on Sundays. In fact for the record I believe it is absolutely ridiculous and a waste of money to open your shops from 9-12, close from 12-2, and then reopen from 2-5. But that is the reality of the French city in which I am living, and around most of this country. I also do not believe the government has the right to tell business owners when they can and cannot open their establishments. Yes, I believe labor laws are set in for a reason, but to not allow owners to make the best decisions about their businesses, and deny unemployed French workers the chance to work an extra day of the week (and make more money, and perhaps not need so much government living assistance), is a huge overstep. I also sort of miss being able to stroll the malls and shops on Sunday afternoons like I can the US. But on the other hand, I do prefer the more relaxed mentality amongst the French. Rest and relaxation is an important part of the day and week; the French work to live- not live to work. At home, I am usually on edge if I am not working, especially because it is sort of expected that (especially young) people in the states work at least 40 hours per week. In France I don’t always feel like I need to be “doing something productive.” I am slowly but surely adapting to a more «laissez faire» attitude (which is a good thing for me!).
How do you feel about Sundays? Should France keep its day of rest or allow businesses to decide? Could the USA learn something from the French about rest and relaxation?