Say Merci to France on Bastille Day

French kissing, good bread and protesting are just some of the things we can thank them for


It’s Bastille Day and the whole of France is en fête.

Celebrating the storming of the Bastille in Paris in 1789 during the French Revolution, people seize the day to march in many French towns. The oldest and largest military parade in Europe is held on the morning of July 14th on the Champs-Élysées in front of the French president. It is a day to take the national anthem La Marseillaise literally.

Expect a national shut down, and ponder the fact that France’s petite predilection for taking it easy at significant moments is just one thing we can thank them for.

Here are a few more ....

Les bons mots

No Westlife, it is not only words. More than 220 million people in the world speak French.

Passing swiftly over France’s colonial past, the OIF of which 77 French-speaking countries are members says that French is the second most-widely learned foreign language after English and the sixth most widely spoken language in the world.

Whether Brexit means the English language is on the wane has yet to be seen, but one assumes, the French will be ready. The Irish might follow the French example and think about taking their holidays in the Gaeltacht to brush up on their own cúpla focal.

In the meantime, the French are happy to share. So bon voyage, we hope this bouquet is up your boulevard - or is that just a cliché?

Perfecting the protest

The French have made protest an art form. Anyone who has ever hung out in Paris’ Place de la République will have seen that.

Marches regularly take over the city-centre as the French to stand up to terrorist attacks or demonstrate about moves to increase the retirement age.

According to Alternatives Economiques, France has fewer strikes than it did in the 1970s, but still has more strikes than most other developed nations. As the national anthem La Marseillaise says: “Marchons, marchons!”

The French Kiss

Paris is one of the most romantic cities in the world. So you would, wouldn’t you? Doing this in Crumlin or Ballybunion may give it a different frisson, but the French kiss retains a certain je ne sais quoi wherever it happens.

Using their loaf

Cuisine de France has become a national staple in the convenience stores of Ireland. You can’t make your way out of a Mace without hanging about slack-jawed by the baguettes. Naturally, the French dedicate whole shops to bread, which they must eat daily. Gluten intolerance seems to have totally passed the French by.

Le tricolore

Adopted in 1794, the French turned the red, white and blue the other way around and packaged it in a way the Irish can take it. Until those colours are worn by Thierry Henry, that is.

Drink of the gods

Wine has given a posh twist to drinking. Thanks to the advent of the booze cruise and the supermarket French wine sale, Ireland’s middle classes have become even better acquainted with the berries of Bordeaux and the grapes that go into a good Grenache.

Meanwhile, the French have surprised everyone by decreasing their wine consumption in recent years. But fear not, the average resident of the country’s wine heartland still drinks 1.2 bottles a week.

A lot drunk, a lot to drink, as someone once said.

Work-life balance and how we might learn from them

Labour laws in France protect some workers in the digital and consultancy sectors - including the French offices of Google, Facebook, Deloitte and PwC - from having to respond to work emails outside of working hours.

Oui, vraiment.

Companies must ensure that their employees come under no pressure to look at work-related emails or documents on their tablets or computers to ensure they receive the full minimum rest periods already mandated in employment regulations.

In 2013, Apple were fined for making staff in France work nights. French law forbids shifts between 9pm and 6am unless the work plays an important role in the economy or is socially useful.

The French have a 35-hour week.

Vive la difference.

La cuisine

And finally, forget the French reputation for sex (if you can) and gorge yourself on their great culinary contributions.

This is the country that launched a thousand new men with its infamous quiches. In France real men do eat them.

France gave us the éclair. Long, full of cream, naughty but nice.

The French can even make stew sound sultry (boeuf bourguignon anyone?).

Allez la France

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, France had 83.7 million visitors in 2014 making it the world’s favourite place to visit. That could be thanks enough. Happy Bastille Day France.

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