Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Rien ne va plus.

"Now, when France goes on strike, nobody notices" Sarkozy said at some point after he was elected president of 'la grande nation'. I have lived in France for no more than 3 weeks, and my team assistant has already issued the second strike warning. Somewhat ill-advised bragging by my namesake right there - clearly there's pure chaos in Paris when public transport comes to a stand still. 'Rien ne va plus'...! 

Needless to say that in the 30 years I've spent living in Switzerland, there was not one single strike. Swiss trains, trams and buses have time trackers installed indicating seconds off timed schedule. Yes, seconds. The timer display turns red when the vehicle runs beyond one minute late. This is when folks waiting at train stations and bus stops start getting nervous. Not for being late. But something bad might have happened. It's called 'service public' and the Swiss take it seriously.   

The actual french working week has 36.9 hours - on average. Only the German and the Dutch work less. Yet, even after relaxing the (socialist) state-imposed 35-hour week in 2005, France still has the lowest legal maximum of working hours per week. Another statistic reveals the French to spend the least amount of time... actually working. Apparently, the proportion of weekly working time actually spent at work is around 75% in France. In Spain it's 79%. In Italy 83%. European average is 86%. In Poland it's 95%. 

It's how my former (French) finance manager predicted: Productivity in France generally means 'not a lot of actual work, but actually a lot of coffee breaks'. And then yesterday, during a coffee break, my touch down manager revealed to me that I will have around 38 days of vacation - excluding a number of national holidays. 

I am slightly concerned about how I will afford more vacationing with less actual work. But if the French labor system turns out to work for me, too... I can only say 'chapeau'! Well done. Savoir vivre! That is... unless France is on strike again when I want to go on vacation. 

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