As the hot, humid days of August draw to a close we witness an annual phenomenon in France that is unlike anything I’ve experienced in the UK – the Rentrée. In July and August the whole of France seems to close down and everyone heads south, some to the beaches of the Mediterranean and others to more pastoral regions, like here in the Limousin, where they enjoy the peasant lifestyle for a couple of months before heading, tanned and relaxed, back to their desks in the cities. Les vacances is an important part of French life, and with a starting holiday allocation of six weeks most employees take off for either the whole of July or August.
In the final weeks of August the pressure starts to mount and the word on everyone’s lips is La Rentrée. This is the official date that all French students return to their schools and lyceés, and this year it’s Thursday 1 September. In the preceding weeks, parents and children can be seen in the supermarkets and stationery shops accumulating a vast array of pens, books, folders and paper. It’s a good time to stock up on office stationery as most of the big supermarkets have special offers as they compete with each other to capture the buyers. The schools issue huge lists of so-called necessities, as the parents have to buy all the exercise books, pens, pencils, glue, geometry sets – just about every type of school equipment you can imagine. I’ve witnessed numerous children rushing around the aisles of Carrefour, list in hand, throwing sticks of glue and reams of that weird French squared paper into their frazzled parent’s trolley. I was amazed at the selection of items, given that most students seem to work on laptops and tablets these days.
Five tips for a happy return to your routine
It can be difficult to get back into the swing of things after a long or relaxing break. I’ve put together a few tips to consider if you’re heading back to work, college or university after your summer break.
- Establish a morning routine – as boring as it may seem, preparing ahead for the next day can help you start the day in a relaxed frame of mind and avoid any last minute panic. Also, get a good night’s sleep and don’t forget to have a healthy breakfast
- Don’t forget to take some exercise every day – even if it’s just a half hour walk in your lunch hour, try to get outside into nature for some fresh air
- Plan your day, your week, or even your term – make good use of lists, either written lists or on your phone. Prioritise urgent tasks, make a list of important dates, and break big tasks down into smaller, manageable steps (and don’t forget to book your proofreading or editing in advance)
- Create incentives and rewards for yourself – this helps to maintain motivation, perhaps a nice treat at the end of the week if all the items on your to-do list are ticked off
- Finally, don’t forget to take some time off for yourself, to relax and unwind
Perhaps you like to relax with a good book, I certainly do. Another French phenomenon is la rentrée littéraire, the literary rentrée. Publishers use this opportunity to publish many new books from top authors at the end of August. At this time last year 589 new novels were published! I’ll have to keep out of the bookshops to avoid temptation.