“Are you kidding me?” I ask MB as I look up from my grocery list. It is a beautiful Sunday morning; I didn’t have a drop of alcohol the night before and I’m ready to go out and run errands to get ready for the week.
“You know this already.” He responds nonchalantly while putting away breakfast dishes.
“Even the grocery stores?”
“It has been 3 months.” He turns and looks at me, dish towel on his hip, “You know that the grocery stores aren’t open on Sundays.”
“Fine,” I retort. “I know it, but I forget and every time I remember I get angry all over again.” I let out an enormous sigh of irritation. “So, what are we supposed to do? We can’t go to the store or run any errands.”
I look at him incredulously. “You know I’m American, right?”
Forced relaxation. This is what Sunday’s in France have come to mean to me. The food markets will be open in the mornings but at 1pm the entire city will be shut down. Forget about buying a shirt, going to the gym, or doing the grocery shopping; the movie theaters are open, most restaurants are open, but if you want to do anything at all productive, that option is not available. This means that everyone has to do all their shopping on Saturdays. As a result, I won’t even walk into a clothing store on a Saturday afternoon. The grocery store, which can’t always be avoided, is like New Orleans during Mardi Gras…with less order.
Business hours have been difficult for me to deal with in all the different countries that I have lived in. In the United States, we love convenience, we love shopping, and we love competition. This means that at any time, day or night, you can probably find a store somewhere that will be open and selling what you want (okay, maybe you won’t find a gardening shop open at 3 am but, really, you never know). Now, I am living in France. On business days (stupid Sunday), the shops tend to close from about 12-2pm and some might not even open again until 4pm. This means you must shop strategically, often I have left the house to buy a baguette only to reach the bakery and find it closed for lunch. Businesses like these could never survive in the United States; they would be wheedled out by the guy next door who would stay open through lunch (!!!!!!) and lower his prices. In France, however, the business culture is different. They do not share our obsession with work; they look at it as an addendum to life as opposed to the other way around, and Sunday, is a day to be spent on your life.
So, mid-afternoon excursions are rarely worth it and the grocery shopping is always going to have to be done during the mad rush of Saturday but, on the other hand, Sunday’s can only be spent at the morning market, on a picnic, hiking through the mountains, or just sitting on my balcony with a good book. Maybe a little forced relaxation isn’t so bad after all.