Time is an illusion…

…lunchtime doubly so.

 

Seafood_lunch

 

Perhaps Douglas Adams had France in mind when he wrote these words, because the 2 hour lunch break is something we’re still trying to get to grips with after over a year here.

Basically, if you want to buy something here from midday to 2PM, apart from lunch that is, then basically you can forget it.

Sure, many supermarkets now have all day opening, but that’s about it.

Even in the large out of town shopping districts – the zones commerciales – finding something like a brico (think B&Q, and of which more in a later blog post) that’s open is a task akin to seeking the Holy Grail and marginally less fruitful.

Want a tin of peas or a lump of cheese?

No problem.

Want a tin of paint or some wall plugs.

Fat fucking chance.

Organising a comprehensive shopping trip has to be done with some care if you don’t want to hit lunchtime and a potential 2 hour wait until the shop you want is open. So, it’s either leave home early so you get there with plenty of time before noon, or set off during lunchtime so you get there for 2.

Then there’s the traffic…

When we were looking for houses early last year, we were told that houses situated some distance from main centres of work weren’t popular as a long lunchtime commute cut into the lunch break too much.

Consequently, properties lying over 20 minutes or so from employment areas are less desirable – although potentially slightly cheaper and less sought after, which may offer a small advantage to potential buyers.

However, those people living close to their work then behave like lunatics on the road as they drive as if their heads were on fire to get home as quickly as possible – and the same disregard is shown going back to work, of course.

But why a 2 hour lunch break in the first place?

Well, it may be due to the working week in France being very short – a statutory 35 hours – but this has been modified since it was introduced and is really just a reference point for calculating overtime. Besides, the 35 hour maximum doesn’t go right across the board:

The 35-hour rule applies to all employees except those with special working conditions, such as sales representatives, executives, limited liability company managers, caretakers in residential buildings and domestic staff. There are many other exceptions, so the main beneficiaries are blue-collar workers and those in large organisations.

I can understand a 2 hour siesta type break as in Spain, because of the heat, but France doesn’t enjoy such good weather – especially in the north.

I’d hate a 2 hour lunch break.

When I became self-employed in about 1990, I used to prefer to work without a lunch break. So, if I was doing a 6 hour day and paid per hour, I’d work straight through from 8.30 or 9 and then try and leave as soon as possible. My philosophy was that I wasn’t getting paid for lunch breaks so I’d rather have any down time at the end of my work. Sometimes having to take a lunch break was unavoidable, however, if the person I was supposed to be seeing was at lunch.

Anyway, there’s no point in resenting the two hour lunchtime here as it’s just something we have to adjust to, but when it gets to 11.45 in the morning and you’ve just run out of paint and you have over two hours to wait to get it, it can be irritating, to say the least!

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2 Responses

  1. They’re all bloody mad in France. That’s what I think.

  2. When I worked as a ski rep in France years ago, they had a tourist tax; it was never mentioned in the brochure of the firm I worked for, so I had to collect it on the coach in to resort every week.

    That was the first real interaction I had with the tourists every trip, taking money off them for ski passes, ski school etc (which they were expecting), and a pissy little amount for the tourist tax, which they weren’t. They all resented it, and I resented like hell the fact that it made my job harder and in a few cases immediately fucked up my relationship with what I saw as my clients.

    A little man came to collect the proceeds of this government extortion every couple of weeks. Unfortunately, because of my duties, I was only ever available between 12 and 2………
    ….he was never in a very good mood 🙂

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