Tuesday, August 28, 2018

it's time for la rentrée...back to school and work

It's said the French have become Julietists or Aoûtiens which means they join the ranks and take vacation in either Juillet - July or Août - August evidenced by the exodus to the seaside and the country.

However in August, despite the Julietists, there is a sense of a collective vacation. A proper two week (or more) holiday in the first few weeks of August is completely normal and for the majority, it will be a genuine break. No scrolling through emails or joining conference calls from a beach café, trying to pretend you’re not on holiday. It’s ok to switch off. It’s expected. Just look at the restaurants and bakeries that are closed in Paris in August, a city populated mostly that month by tourists.

So you start to understand that if your summer was a real break, it’s not so hard to come back. You’ve re-charged your batteries and you’re refreshed.

In September there's a social buzz of the Rentrée - it's back to school and work, all tanned and relaxed or supposedly. La Rentrée is a social occasion. Parents hover much longer at the school gate, catching up with friends. Drinks are arranged. There is a sense that the kids are back at school, we are back to our normal routines and this means we also get our social life back too.

There's a celebratory approach as well.  Much is made of children's progression into the next school year.  Adults talk to them about the return to school as though it is fun, and a mark of their growing up that bit more. 

I've written about la Rentée before because I love the energy. It's like opening a book to a new page. I love people-watching in the few days leading up to the Rentrée. You can notice three types of people. The first is the harried, normal maman, frantically ransacking the stationary aisle of Monoprix to get that last cardboard folder with the elastic bit, as specified in the very precise school supplies list.
The second is the very cool and serene Parisian maman who of course handed her supplies list in at the local stationary store ages ago and has naturally had the man at the store go around and collect it all into a bag for her and all she needs to do is pop in and collect it.
And then the third type, the highly stressed expat mother who quite honestly does not have a clue what in the world a ‘porte-vues’ is. It’s one of those books with about 80 plastic display wallets to display the child’s worksheets in.
The children have a new backpack filled with sharp new pencils and fresh exercise books, ready for going back to school after 9 long weeks!
Cara - Tuesday


  1. Oh, Cara, you make me want to get on the next plane and see les mamans for myself. In Italy, Ferragosto still has its pull, but far fewer restauranteurs leave during the height of the tourist season. They are more likely to close in January, when business is slower. To my chagrin, since that’s typically when I am there and want them.

  2. Cara, in case you're wondering where (it seems) all those Julietists and Aoûtiens--as well as Romeoists--were in July and August, I can tell you. ON MYKONOS. It was enough to make me want to escape back to school...almost.

    Loved the article. Viva la Rentée.

    1. Thanks, Jeff...really a Romeoist in your 'ood??
      Me, I love new pencils and just got a back to school sharpener and notebook!

  3. It's a pity that in many countries, that sort of "switching off" is regarded as antisocial, almost betrayal. At the opposite end of the spectrum is Finland, I guess. A query about an urgent part failure in July can be met with 'we'll get back to you in September'!

  4. Michael, those Finns sound so French! I've heard if you don't seal any deals by May it's 'we'll get back to you in September'!

  5. Ha, ha, I remember those looooong stationery lists so well... Here in the UK, it is the school uniform rush!