French Language Blog

Les Vacances de Rêve – Experiencing Summer Holidays the French Way Posted by on Jul 31, 2011 in Culture

If you’ve ever heard the stereotype about the French lifestyle being much more décontracté (laid back) and tranquille (easy going) than life in other parts of the world, the French’s summer habits will likely come as no surprise. For most Frenchmen and women, heading to the south of the country or abroad is a ritual that simply can not be missed. While taking a holiday in and of itself may not seem like such a big deal, your own personal holiday likely doesn’t last for upwards of a month…yep, that’s right! A proper vacation in France lasts for several weeks!

While most of us aren’t privy to such an extended vacances de rêve (dream vacation) because of work commitments, French workers are legally entitled to 2.5 days off for every month that they work in a year. These congés payés (periods of paid leave) equate to a total of five full weeks of holiday for employees annually. When weekends are taken into account, the legally mandated vacation period effectively lasts six weeks, assuming a worker is expected to be at his workplace five days out of the week. The latest change in the legally mandated vacation period took place in 1982, when five weeks of paid vacation became officially required.

Most workers in the Western world probably can’t imagine taking a month off at a time – for French workers, however, nothing could be more routine! Most workers choose to take a full month off in either July or August, and use their remaining vacation time in small pockets throughout the year. Another popular French concept involves workers who choose to faire le pont. Literally translated as “making the bridge,” this simple idea means taking the Friday or Monday off whenever a jour férié (public holiday) occurs on either a Thursday or a Tuesday. The pont, or bridge in question, results in an extended four day weekend.

When you take into account that French workers work 35 hour work weeks, working in France is even more enviable! French workers are also entitled to titres restaurants, which are coupons that can be used to pay for lunch in cafés and restaurants throughout the country. The worker pays for half of the face value of these coupons in his paycheck, and earns one for each day he works. Not too shabby, eh?

In spite of all of these great benefits, you might be tempted to think the French workforce is lazy. In fact, studies have shown that French workers are some of the most productive in the world! Next time you feel like escaping on a tropical vacation, you might just want to remind your own boss that a little repos (rest) can go a long way!

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  1. Viviane:

    Shouldn’t “conges” in “conges payés” have an “é”?

  2. adam:

    Indeed it should Viviane! Thanks for catching my typo, I’ve revised accordingly. 🙂