I’ve heard it for years: Paris in August is empty. After being here in August, I can 100% agree with that sentiment. It is truly like a ghost town and it started happening around July 28th. Slowly, one by one, I saw signs go up with “Fermé, Vacances 24/07 – 28/08.” I would do a double take with the dates with it adding up to usually at least a month or longer. Who closes their shop for a month? Hundreds in Paris, that’s who! From the boulangerie to the pharmacy to the tabac to the shoe store. There were even a few overlapping days early August when every one of my local boulangeries were closed–we went without bread.
I also want to point out how French society respects the vacances and it’s not just for the upper class. Our local tabac/brasserie has a small staff of about 5-7. One of the waiters, Frederic has been quite kind to me since moving in and I noticed early July that he was gone. I inquired and they told me: vacances. The weeks passed and I realized his vacances was going on 3+ weeks. Then, I saw the sign posted on the tabac they were closed for August. It dawned on me that this waiter, with a wife and children, was in a position to be on holiday for almost 2 months. Have you ever heard of a working class person in the U.S. going on a 2 month holiday? Even the senior team members at my previous employer had to go through special procedure to take a holiday that long. And here in France, our friendly waiter at the tabac is relaxing and rejuvenating with his family somewhere in the world.
How great would it be if the U.S. had the same respect for all class of workers that they could be paid a wage that allowed them do this. I believe a lot of this stems that French citizens do not have to worry about their basic human rights not being cared for: they have universal healthcare for a small fee and free education through university. In the U.S. approximately 17% / 60 million of Americans are uninsured and who can think of a vacation when they don’t even have health care? There are many bureaucratic issues that I am personally experiencing in France, but in the end, knowing that the peoples education and healthcare are considered a basic human right makes me feel proud to be in this country and that when I start working, I too will be able to take a 2 month holiday.