Posts Tagged strikes

Whistle While You Rest?

20 October 2010

The French are striking again. Aaaah, ze French!

I remember one Christmas when the Eiffel Tower workers went on strike because they claimed the staff parking lot was too far away. The rest of the world would say, “Hey, you have an allotted parking space in Paris!” (If you’ve ever driven in New York City, you can relate) But, considering the Eiffel Tower is their #1 tourist attraction, the government said: “Voila! You may have ze new parking spaces!”

And there was the time when farmers went on strike because of wheat prices or tariffs or the price of French bread and “planted” an entire wheat field in the Champs-Elysees. Vive la France!

The current issue? The French government has considered moving retirement age from 60 to 62.  French workers feel that this action would violate one of their fundamental rights. What? Did you just chuckle? Ah, but you must understand that the French take their time off very seriously.

We work at work and we work at play.

In the United States we pride ourselves in our Protestant Work Ethic, typified by the “3-day weekend” – the power nap equivalent to a vacation. What do we do with this day subtracted from our workweek? We work. We do our spring-cleaning or attack projects in our yard and then “relax” by holding a cookout for our neighbors and playing football.

We work at work and we work at play.

The concept of a 3-day weekend is as foreign to the French as Wal-Mart, garage sales, or wearing deodorant.

I remember my childhood in France as a cycle of 7 weeks in school followed by 2 weeks of vacation. France is at its core a Catholic nation and every religious holiday must be celebrated. No objections from me and my school friends! Each holiday was a chance to get away, travel, relax, unplug and spend time with our family and friends, mostly over long meals.

What would Americans do with 2-week vacations every couple of months? Probably get bored. We’d have no idea what to do with so much down time – except perhaps get a second job.

Yet perhaps we should be better “resters.” The American Psychological Association says that one-third of the U.S. population experiences extreme levels of stress. Nearly 1 in 5 Americans experience high levels of stress 15 or more days per month.

Severe stress takes a toll on both body and soul that can only be countered with rest – true rest.

Two-hour lunches, 6 weeks of paid vacation per annum plus innumerable holidays may seem frivolous to us. We think, “Those French people – it’s a wonder they ever get anything done!” Yet they have an enjoyment of life virtually unparalleled in any other society.

Perhaps we can learn a little from their joie de vivre.