French Language Blog

Chasing The Sun – L’Heure D’Hiver Posted by on Sep 30, 2015 in Culture

Last week was l’équinoxe d’automne (the autumnal equinox) marking shorter days and colder weather. It also marks la saison des moissons (the harvest season) and many holidays across the world. However, there’s one tradition d’automne (autumn tradition) that is annoying for everyone involved.

L’heure d’hiver
Standard time

En automne on gagne une heure (you gain an hour in autumn). The shifting clocks sont un casse-tête pour tout le monde (give everyone a headache) while people spend a week trying to wake up at a new time. Malheureusement, c’est encore plus compliqué (unfortunately it’s even more complicated) between France and the US.

I live in France, but mes parents habitent en Floride (my parents live in Florida). Normally, le décalage horaire est de six heures (there’s a six hour time difference) between France and the US East Coast, and heureusement (thankfully) that’s easy to figure out on a 24 hour clock.

There’s a period in autumn when the US falls back, but France still uses l’heure d’été (daylight-saving time) creating a 7 hour time difference between the two countries. Le décalage horaire (the time difference) lasts long enough to get used to before France falls back as well.

Le passage à l’heure d’hiver (the transition to standard time) happens on le dernier dimanche d’octobre (the last Sunday of October) in France and on le premier dimanche de novembre (the first Sunday of November) in (most) of the US. Having to figure out all these time changes is un casse-tête, and only gets worse when travel is involved!

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About the Author: John Bauer

John Bauer is an enthusiast for all things language and travel. He currently lives in France where he's doing his Master's. John came to France four years ago knowing nothing about the language or the country, but through all the mistakes over the years, he's started figuring things out.


  1. Holly:

    Is “casse-tête” the appropriate phrase to use for “headache” in French? I thought that meant “brain teaser,” and I’ve only learned the literal “mal de tête.”

    • John Bauer:

      @Holly Bonjour Holly ! It’s true “mal de tête” means “headache” in the medical sense, but “casse-tête” is used to mean “headache” in the colloquial sense in phrases like, “that’s a real headache” or in French, “c’est un vrai casse-tête”.

  2. Tom Reidy:

    excellent teaching technique
    I until now, used “malade a tete”
    In BC, Canada. the village of Tete Jeune is pronounced “Tee”

  3. Sam:

    I learn a couple of expressions today which is useful. I could have gone for lengthy detour by saying “la transition a l’heur d’hiver” or “la difference de fuseau horaire”, thanks