En grève. On strike!

 

'One strike may conceal another!'
‘One strike may conceal another’

Note to readers: The management would like to apologize for any inconvenience as the regularly scheduled post cannot be shown this week due to a labour dispute.

This would not be a blog about life in France without a little strike action. The right to strike – faire grève – is deeply engrained in the French culture, and it is one that is regularly exercised.

As the French national rail company, SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français), or, as I’ve heard it popularly referred to: Société Nationale des Connards et de Fainéants – national company of jerks and lazy asses – now enters its second week of strike, I feel inspired to join them.

There is a certain time pressure. The period between the month of long weekends in May and the official start of the summer holiday period in July is all too short. This is prime-time strike season: a window of opportunity to make your point before heading out for some well-earned vacation.

So, I am officially on strike this week in protest against the poor pay and work conditions offered by WordPress. Since starting this blog over a year ago I have received zero remuneration and no time off. Don’t even ask about medical and retirement benefits! Sure, I’ve enjoyed it, gained a great many readers and met fellow bloggers whose work I also enjoy. On a personal level, I have learned a lot, enriched my writing and had a lot of fun. But fun is not the point.

The point is that if I don’t strike now and send a very strong message to the management, who knows where it will all end? WordPress might be taken over by foreign owners who could impose an even more draconian regime. Who can say? They may very well outsource my (unpaid) job to India.

No, I’m not a member of any union. Didn’t you know that the French are among the least unionized workers in the world? But I will defend to the death my right to strike. Negotiations you ask? Maybe. All in due time. Strike first, negotiate later, that’s the French way!

So when you come back next week (you will return of course?), I hope to be able to once again offer normal service. But I’m not making any promises.

Vive la France!

Taking French leave

French leaveTo take French leave (or go AWOL as we say in North America) is known in France as ‘filer à l’anglaise’. Like the humble condom (variously known in French and English as a ‘capote anglaise’ or a French letter), this is another example of something that neither side wants to take credit for.

As the year draws to a close, it’s important to take a step back and reflect on what’s been accomplished – and what’s been left undone. So I’m taking a time out – to recharge the proverbial batteries, spend precious time with my family over the holidays and think about where I want to go next year.

I started this blog back in January with the vague notion of sharing my experiences of life in the land of the Gauls while venting twenty years of pent-up frustration over culture clashes and feeling like a stranger in a strange land. It has been cathartic. Also educational: I’ve learned a lot – about myself and the wonderful world of blogging – along the way.

Living in a foreign land means there’s an endless supply of material. Especially one as rich and wonderful as France. I’ve barely begun to exhaust my treasure trove of humorous, embarrassing and sometimes outrageous examples of how things work (or don’t) in this country.

As I clear away some of the clutter from my mental shelves, I find myself struggling to distinguish very clearly what is of interest to anyone but moi.

I feel inspired to hold up different facets of life in France to the light. The tiny nuances of behavior, of mindset and of what makes the French, well, French. And the rest of us, well, foreign.

So, what do you think? Should I continue in the same vein, attempting to decode the culture cues? Do you find the observations of language as interesting as I do? Or would you like to see more positive examples of beautiful things and places that la belle France has to offer?

I would love to hear your thoughts, so please share them in the comments! And the meantime, bonnes fêtes de fin d’année!