Wednesday, 9 April 2014

H is for Horaires d'Ouverture

Opening hours in France take a little getting used to.

In the UK these days, there are twenty four hour supermarkets, corner shops that are open all hours, a whole culture of being able to buy what you want whenever the mood takes you, whatever the hour or day.

This is a relatively recent status quo. I remember as a child, Sundays that were sacrosanct and early closing on Wednesdays. The drive home from Mass on Sundays was past empty streets and shuttered shops.

So life in France makes me quite nostalgic. Most small shops will shut on Wednesday afternoons. The Post Office too. Banks and offices are closed at lunchtime, and on Mondays, to make up for the exertion of opening on a Saturday morning. Only the supermarkets, big and bold and employing plenty of staff, venture to stay open all day.

Small shops adjust their opening hours for their own benefit. Our local bakery for instance is actually closed on Mondays and every lunchtime, in spite of the fact those may well be exactly the times people might be thinking to buy bread and croissants.

Public offices have miniscule opening hours, usually something like 10am - 12pm and 2pm - 4pm. And just for good measure, they will often have one day in the week when they are not open to the public and at least one afternoon. But which one is the 64 million dollar question, and can mean several trips before finding the place open.

Before we came here, we were warned about the frustrations. A friend who was a DIYer complained that almost every time he ran out of something crucial (paint, polyfilla, a certain type of screw) he would look at his watch and realise it was ten minutes to lunchtime so no hope of replenishing materials for another two and a half hours.

Personally, I find it quaint. I am untroubled that I must plan to do my shopping on a Saturday or that I shall have to set off early to be able to pounce on the local office of CPAM before their doors slam shut for lunch.

It leads to a calmer pace of life. We accept that we cannot do what we want whenever we want. Instead, sometimes we are forced to do nothing, sit in the garden and listen to the birds, walk the dogs around the bay, find a gentler occupation to fill the hours. And you know, those urgent errands become less pressing when you realise the country is currently shut.


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  2. I think this is the thing I find most frustrating about France and I don't feel in the least bit nostalgic for dead Sundays and early closing in England. I think the fact that 7-Eleven is called 8-a-Huit here says everything.