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Commerce on dimanche: Should France expand Sunday store hours?

February 13th, 2015 No comments

Bonjour! I hope your new year is off to a great start.

As many veteran and new expats alike know, stores and shops in France tend to be closed or have limited hours on Sundays – especially outside of big cities. How many times have you needed groceries after 7pm on Sunday only to have to wait until Monday? This is not the experience in all stores – but it is often the case outside of Paris.

According to The Washington Post, France is currently debating whether or not to increase the number of Sundays shops can be open per year.

It is perhaps a surprising move from the French Socialist Party, but not as surprising knowing that the French presidential cabinet has appointed in recent months more conservative, business-friendly ministers like Macron who are cozying up to capitalism.

What are your thoughts? Feel free to share and post comments!

Bon weekend à tous !

France may finally allow more shops to open on Sunday
By Rick Noack
February 12, 2015

Baker Stéphane Cazenave is said to produce France’s best baguettes. However, according to French law, he can only produce those baguettes six days a week.

Cazenave had ignored that rule because demand for his baguettes was so high that he was able to employ 22 people seven days a week. Instead of being applauded, Cazenave now faces a lawsuit. “People see me like a thug just because I asked to work,” he told France Television. “Working shouldn’t be a crime in France.”

It might seem strange to Americans, but French businesses are often closed on Sundays in most parts of the country and are only allowed to open five times a year that day. Despite the French tradition of separating religion and state, labor unions and Catholic lobbies have so far succeeded in defending Sunday as a sacred ‘day of rest’ for the entire country.

This, however, could change. To many French, the current debate about allowing more businesses to open on Sundays is of a fundamental nature: Should the country become more commercial and capitalistic?

French President François Hollande believes so. He shocked many when he recently announced he would pursue a law known under the name of France’s economy minister Emmanuel Macron. The initiative aims to liberalize the country’s bureaucratic economy. For Hollande, a lot is at stake: Having so far been unable to decrease unemployment and boost growth, his popularity has sunk dramatically.

The law — pursued by a leftist Socialist Party government — is supposed to end a variety of monopolies and allow more competition, but its most contentious proposal is to allow stores and businesses to open more often. According to the draft, they could soon operate on 12 instead of five Sundays a year. Cities could decide on their own whether they would implement the rule, and there are exceptions in areas, such as in Paris.

One of the 2012 election promises of Hollande had been to keep Sunday a day of rest. Hence, breaking with this promise has been interpreted by some in France as a sign of governmental despair with an uncertain economic impact.

Critics are outraged. “It is a moment of truth speaking to the one question that truly matters: What kind of society do we want to live in?” former French employment minister Martine Aubry asked in an op-ed in Le Monde in December.

“Does the political left have nothing else to offer as a societal model than a Sunday stroll to the mall and the accumulation of consumer goods? Sunday should be a time set aside for oneself and for others,” Aubry argued.

Without actually naming it, Aubry implied what she did not want France to become: a country with a 7-days a week consumption culture as it is common in the United States. France is not the only country in which shopping is limited on Sundays: Germany, for instance, has upheld similar regulations.

When France’s economy surprisingly started to grow slightly at the end of 2014, it was mainly due to domestic consumption. Allowing consumers to spend money seven days a week instead of only six could boost the country’s outlook, some said.

Others, however, are more skeptical. “The bill is a ‘catch-all’ text that does not address France’s serious structural issues,” Emmanuel Martin, Director of the Paris-based Institute for Economic Studies-Europe, told The Washington Post. “France’s issues are structural: a bloated government administration both at the central and local level which generates inefficient regulations, inefficient spending and of course then, higher growth-killing taxation.”

Even though Martin is not convinced of the law, he acknowledged it does sometimes feel like something from another era. “For sure, it feels weird to see shops closed in a major shopping street of Paris — one the most beautiful cities of the world,” Martin said.

French food added to UNESCO cultural heritage list

November 17th, 2010 No comments

According to the Washington Post, French food has been included by UNESCO on a list of cultural heritages around the world. While there are certainly rich culinary traditions in many countries (Italy, China, Japan, Mexico, to name a few…), it is true that French gastronomy is world-renown for its gastronomy that contributes to the country’s cultural reputation around the world. But it is true that the traditional French meal is facing changes due to globalization and the work world. Your thoughts on French food?

Excerpts below from the article (click link above to read entire piece). cheers, and bon appétit.

UNESCO adds French food to cultural heritage list
Edward Cody, Washington Post Foreign Service
November 16, 2010

“…The decision by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to include French food among new additions to a list celebrating the world’s “intangible cultural heritage” came as no surprise in Paris. For centuries, people here have been convinced that nothing is so fine, so culturally satisfying, so spiritually uplifting as sitting down for a good French meal with friends and family. (Or maybe a lover, but that is another heritage.)…

…UNESCO honored traditional Mexican cuisine as well, although that fact tended to be lost in the din of self-congratulation in France over the world body’s acknowledgment of the country’s flair for orchestrating the perfect cascade of mealtime pleasures: from aperitif to appetizer, on to the main course, salad, cheese, dessert and perhaps fruit, with the appropriate wine bringing out the best in each dish…It was that ageless choreography – epitomized by Sunday lunch at Grandma’s rather than three-star preciosity – that UNESCO singled out as worth preserving for the good of the human race.

“The meal is a profound part of French people’s identity,” said Jean-Robert Pitte, the president of the University of Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV), who led the effort to win UNESCO’s blessing and explained the reasoning online. “This exists in a lot of other countries. But we have a certain form of gastronomy, with the marriage of food and wine, the succession of dishes, the way of setting the table, of talking about it, that are specifically French.”…

In fact, the traditional French meal has been meeting with growing indifference on its home ground as the demands of a modern economy encourage quick, alcohol-free lunches, particularly among the young. Sandwich consumption is rising by 10 percent a year, and experts estimate that only half of France’s 64 million people still sit down to eat regular family meals of the kind honored by UNESCO.

Nevertheless, a multicourse lunch with wine at an expense-account restaurant remains the most popular way to celebrate a contract, seal a friendship or pass along a tip. Lunch at Grandma’s is still imperative for many families, particularly in the provinces. Television programs devoted to cooking and dinner parties have also proliferated in recent years, generating a mini-renaissance of home cooking…”

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