By Amber QalagariColumnist
Imagine a place where children work more hours than their parents, employers can almost never fire their employees, and Fridays are always half-days. That place is not as far from reality as you might think — welcome to France.
In spending a month overseas, I was culture shocked by the French political system. Conditioned by an extreme work ethic, my American mind couldn’t fathom the French laid-back approach to working and living.
France no doubt leans towards socialism; their current president François Hollande is a member of the socialist party. Many of their laws follow a collectivist system such as the 35 hour work week. This was instigated to decrease unemployment and allot citizens time to improve their lives. Besides the economic proof that this doesn’t work, considering France has a 10.1 unemployment rate, ideologically this system seems like a lazy approach to the problem. Although American unemployment is high, the reason partly comes from the fact that Americans work too much. Though the French may try and sell their idea off as having lofty intentions I can’t help but view the law as the French looking for another day to sleep in.
This is not the only area where French seem to avoid working their fullest. While I am lucky if I get holidays off from my job, the French enjoy five week vacations. Even during the regular work week the French don’t spend a full eight hours working. While I barely have time to scarf down my sandwich during my half hour lunch break, the French take a solid two hours consisting of a full meal and a short nap.
Another striking difference in the French labor force is employment. When a French company hires an employee they hire them for life. Unlike America where the employer/employee relationship is built on trust, the french build theirs on contract. Part of the reason I love working in the United States so much is that I know I am in my position because my boss truly likes me and my work.
In France I feel as if many employers refuse to create a bond with their employees or even to value their work. This is based on the fact that employers cannot fire employees they no longer see fitted for their positions. A system like this results in employees who do the minimum of what is required of them with no growth between them and their employer.
There is a reason France is known for their cheeses and wine and not their politics. While I completely oppose a socialist system there are parts to the French logic that America should consider. The french are conscience to make time for living and doing what they love. I know personally in America I find myself so preoccupied with working that I lose track of what is more important in life. I’m not exactly suggesting a 35 hour work week, but we as a country should make more time for life outside of the office.
The French are a very traditionalist society; their values make them less consumerist and materialistic. For instance, there are sales twice a year for an extended amount of time rather than the daily sales that appear in America. While Americans have a go-go non stop type of attitude many French are laid-back people that try to enjoy all areas of their life. This type of feeling is definitely apparent in their political system. France might know a few things about enjoying life, but it’s true that politics are just not it’s forte.