Despite change to French labour laws, many of the bars, restaurants, and shops in France don't open on Mondays

Tell Me Why I Don’t Like Mondays (In France)

Random Ramblings

To say I don’t like Mondays in France would be somewhat overstating the fact. I gave this blog post its “Tell Me Why” title because it amuses me. I love that song by the Boomtown Rats.

However, Mondays in France are a little unusual for me. Where I’m living, it’s the quietest day of the week. I went out for a short stroll today and it was like walking through a ghost town. All the shops were closed and I passed nobody on the streets. It was quiet too. So quiet it was spooky. I couldn’t hear any music or other signs of life coming from any of the houses at all.

I’m living in a small town though. It’s in the middle of the French countryside. The big cities are probably livelier on Mondays. That’s something I will need to find out at a later date.

A little over 30 years ago, I bought a book about France. I was planning on coming here, maybe even living here full time, and wanted to know what to expect. The book mentioned the fact many shops in France are closed on Mondays.

That’s something I later experienced first-hand, when I was in my mid-twenties and quit my job with a desire to travel the world. I arrived in France with a large backpack strapped to my back and a small two-man tent. It was Monday. I was hiking in the countryside near Calais and needed to buy a few things. All the villages I passed through had a shop and every one of them bore a sign that stated, “Fermé Le Lundi” (Closed on Mondays). No biggie.  I survived.

Street in Neuvic, France on a Monday Afternoon
Today, While I Was Walking I Felt like the Last Man on Earth

Now, a quarter of a century later, I’m renting a room above a bar and the bar is fermé le Lundi. So is the supermarket next door. Fortunately, the town has another supermarket that’s larger. That one does open on Mondays.

Although I spent my early years living in a small town in North Yorkshire, I’ve spent most of my adult years living in big cities. In the main, I’m a city boy at heart. Yet, I still enjoy escaping to the country every now and again. I like the town I’m living in and I like France.

Although Mondays in France are a little different from what I’m used to, it’s still interesting. It’s great to have the opportunity to experience different cultures. Every country presents its own lessons.

If you visit Spain or Italy you may be surprised when you discover many shops close for a few hours every afternoon. Here in France, the shops, restaurants, and bars may be closed on Mondays— vive la difference!

However, walking through the ghost town today made me curious to find out why Mondays in France are so different from Mondays in the other countries I’ve been to. So I did some research. Read on if you’d like to know what I found out.


Why are Shops Closed on Mondays in France?

Why are the shops closed on Mondays? A lot of people are asking that question online. Others are wondering the same about French restaurants and bars and there are a lot of opinions about it. For instance, one Reddit user states it’s because Monday is traditionally the baker’s day off.

Shops Shut Monday in France? Don't Blame it on the Baker!
Nope! Don’t Blame It on the Bakers.

However, the real reason so many shops don’t open on what is traditionally seen as the first day of the week is actually a little more complicated than that and has nothing to do with bad-boy bakers making a stance.

The present situation stems from changes made to the French Labour Law (Code du Travail) back in 1910. The changes made it illegal for people to work more than six days per week and ensured employees always got 35 consecutive hours of rest. At one point the Code du Travail also made it illegal to work on Sundays in France.

Due to the various legalities, people who worked on Saturdays had to take Sunday off and remain off work for most of the following day as well. If they didn’t they wouldn’t be getting their 35 hours of rest.

However, the Code du Travail has been amended again several times. It’s now permissible for workers in certain industries to work on Sundays and there is no longer the requirement for 35 hours of rest.

Apparently, the changes to the Code du Travail were made in response to the needs of big supermarket chains and other large businesses but, in some areas, old habits die hard. Especially in smaller towns like the one where I am presently living.

The thing is, the communities in small French towns and villages are obviously very comfortable with this way of life. Why should things change? When foreigners arrive in France, it may seem unusual to find the shops, restaurants, and bars closed on Mondays but it’s not the end of the world. However, if you are planning to visit France and your ultimate destination is not one of the larger cities, Monday may not be the best day to arrive.

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