Strikes: the art of living « à la française » !

France wouldn’t be France without its strikes, as France wouldn’t be France without its baguettes!
It is a core part of the French culture, as far as the French History goes back.
You will probably come to know quite fast the french term « grève » for strike during your stay, as they regularly occur… Incidentally, the term derives from « grava » in Gaulish, the language of the tribes who fought against Cesar’s invasion of Gaul in… 58 BC.
2000 years later, the right to strike is considered in France as a constitutional right: this highlights how important it is for the French!

 

So as an expat, should you fear strike movements?

 

République metro station, December 10th 2019, closed at rush hour because of the strike.

 

Not quite, but be prepared ahead in order to not be caught off guard.
When strikes occur, the country is not fully blocked, as the foreign media like to stress. And this is fortunate, otherwise how would we go on?! It’s true, public transportation can suffer from drivers’ desertation, as it happens now… But bear in mind that luckily there are plenty of other means of transport. Carsharing. Bikes (such as Vélib or free-floating bikes). Electric scooters. And even… walking – French towns are not that large, you can cross the bigger ones in 1 hour, even Paris! All of which will give you an opportunity to discover the city you live in under new light, and maybe meet a friendly « fellow sufferer » on your way. Because yes, strikes bring people together: for or against the movement, you will have a lot to talk about with your family, your colleagues and even bystanders !As for the demonstrations, they usually make the streets seethe with excitement and a high proportion of them are cheerful: people march in music, encouraging passerbys to join. All in all, unless you decide to be a frontliner in an unauthorized protest, and as long as you stand by in the distance, everything should be fine!

 

Eventually, strikes might be a pain sometimes, but remember that historically, a lot of the social improvements around the world come from them.

 

So take a deep breath and relax, the « grève » will be gone as soon as it arrived… until the next one!