Are the French really lazy?

We are deep into the August vacances here in France and I am struggling to get hold of agents, owners and Notaires; it sometimes seems that everyone is on holiday (and nothing wrong with that; I am planning to join them very soon). This is of course exactly the image of France that is held across much of the world; that the French spend most of their time eating and drinking and as little time as possible actually working. It is the country of the 35-hour working week and endless long lunch breaks, both of which certainly exist and there is no doubt that the French work to live and not the other way around. Interestingly, however, productivity figures across Europe do not bear out this theory of the indolent Frenchman; quite the opposite in fact with France having one of the highest levels of productivity of any European country (Germany tops the polls) and certainly much higher than the UK.

So is this another French paradox along with staying slim and healthy on a diet of red wine, croissants and cheese? Well of course, there are always two sides to every story and numerous sides to every statistic but, in my experience over the last 15 years of living in France, one of the great myths about the French is indeed that they don’t work very hard. This seems to have arisen mainly through envy of visitors to the country seeing that every day the café terraces are full at most of times of day in every village and town, large and small and that everything stops for lunch.

In this respect, they are right but what most people don’t see is that many jobs begin at 8am (even school starts at 8) and finish at 7pm. And that is just for employees. Once you start asking those in self-employment about the hours they work, you will find that 7am – 8pm is not at all uncommon and it is the same for many professions. Our local doctor starts surgery at 7.30am and is still to be found seeing patients at 9pm. I recently had to have a course of antibiotics and the district nurse (one of a team) came to the house every day to give the injections – he told me he often started at 7am and finished at 9pm. Our dentist works from 8.30am until 9pm Monday to Friday. Our local shop is run by a couple who are there six days a week from very early to very late. Likewise the pharmacy is 8am – 8pm and then all night one day a week. Even our local garage is a one man band and he usually starts at 7am and does a 12 or 13 hour day. I could go on but you get the picture. There might not be the rush and stress in the air in France as there are in many countries and almost everyone takes the time to sit down for a proper meal at lunchtime but don’t mistake quality of life for laziness because, in my experience, this could not be further from the truth.

On that note, I am taking some holiday from next week until the end of the month so I wish you all a formidable fin d’été and look forward to helping you find your dream homes in September. If you need help with your property search, you can get in touch any time:



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