Mon dieu.

Student sit-ins. Marches and protests. Strikes. A few torched cars and broken windows. Over 1400 people arrested or detained, 62 cops injured.

Such political unrest could only be in the name of some grand social injustice, right? Racism, the right to vote, democracy maybe. I mean, if you plan on snarling air traffic, slowing down the train systems and surreptitiously blaring the national anthem over the metro loudspeaker, it better be for a really good reason.

When you take it to the streets like that, when you invoke liberté! and egalité! like it’s going out of style, someone better be seriously trampling on your civil rights. You should be feeling mighty oppressed. I’m talking my children are starving, it’s time for radical change, “do you hear the people sing!” kind of oppressed, right? Right!?

Wrong. All it takes here apparently is the suggestion that the retirement age be raised from 60 to 62.

It’s a little bit like crying wolf, no? But the real kicker is that the majority of the people out there staging sit-ins and marching are high-schoolers. Kids that have probably never worked a day in their lives, b*tching about the retirement age because that’s more fun than sitting in class. It’s absolutely insane.

But just to reassure you: The strikes going on right now really aren’t a big deal. The media across the pond is making it seem like the end of the world, but if you didn’t read the papers or watch the news, there’s a very good chance you could walk through the streets of Paris without the slightest clue that anything was amiss.

Strikes are normal here. It’s just a part of the cultural identity. I think French people might actually start freaking out if there wasn’t a strike going on. But then they’d remember it’s August or Fall break or Sunday, and nobody strikes on a Sunday! That’s when the union workers get to sleep in and rest up for the strike they planned on Thursday! Because Friday is a holiday and they’re really looking forward to the extra long weekend.

(PS: is it just me, or does that guy singing in the Les Mis video really look a lot like The Hoff?)


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  1. Connie Gabrielli

    Ah, the joys of life in France. Thanks for confirming what I’ve been saying here to Ed that most of the “riot” squad will be kids, more precisely Algerian kids with nothing better to do. School is an unnecessary inconvenience when you will be taken care of cradle to grave. Jen’s right. strikes are part of the DNA of the French and only really inconvenient to the tourists. In typical French fashion they not only announce the beginning of a strike but usually the end date too. You just add a note in your agenda and get on with selecting your cheese du jour. I was doing just that years ago in the basement of Monoprix on the Champ d’Elysees when a bomb blew up the fast food hamburger joint next door. I surfaced seconds later calming clutching my bottle of wine and cheese looking only to the left before crossing and missed the whole scene. Arriving back in the hotel was literally smothered by my husband who, watching the news was sure I was dead. Fat chance! We returned to the scene and it was a mess but very organized in under two minutes. The next year we were tear gassed while taking a post dinner stroll also on the Champ d’E while watching break dancers. Moral of the story I’m still here, Jen still there and life goes on just a stay clear of burgers and breakers. So sit back pop the bubbly and try to figure out which cheese you want.

    • jfwillson

      omg and we’re nowhere near the tear gas and bomb stage, even with strikes and heightened terror alerts!!! they keep showing video of the guards at the eiffel with their machine guns on CNN, and I just want to scream THOSE GUYS ARE ALWAYS THERE!

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