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August 27, 2001
French Shake Their Heads At Our Vacations
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n it comes to summer vacations, especially in August, no does it better than the French, according to the Baltimore Sun.

While Americans try to come to grips with President Bush's monthlong August retreat in Crawford, Texas, French people of all political stripes and social classes are content to hide away during the summer heat, the Sun reports.

A politician taking a month off isn't so much demanded as it is expected.

The Vasseur family, interviewed as they spent three weeks at a campground midway between Paris and Marseilles, couldn't fathom how some Americans make do with two weeks' vacation a year.

"Ooh, that's not much," said Michel Vasseur, whose sunburned belly inflated a bit as he let out a soft whistle to make it clear he is incredulous at such a thing.

"How many hours a week do Americans work?" asked Vasseur, 55, a construction foreman who oversees public-housing renovations.

When he heard that Americans work 40 hours or more a week, he shook his head and said, "Two weeks' vacation. That's not much."

Martine Vasseur, 46, a social-services worker, scarcely can imagine such a short holiday.
"Two weeks is just barely enough time to relax," she said.

The Vasseurs, the Sun notes, live in the land of the 35-hour workweek and the statutory minimum of five weeks' vacation for workers. And like many civil servants, accrue added time - in their case, 33 days, or about 6½ weeks of annual vacation.

France slows to a near stop through August, when factories close, offices empty, and politics cease; much of Paris is left to foreign tourists, while Parisians head to the countryside.

Adding insult to injury for Americans, vacation time in France is actually growing with the rolling implementation of the mandatory, 35-hour workweek, introduced three years ago to large companies and to be imposed next year on companies with up to 20 employees.

The shorter week "with no reduction in salaries" was designed to boost employment. But it also has increased leisure time, with middle-management workers averaging about two extra weeks of vacation a year.

With vacation time mounting, the French are beginning to spread their holidays around, taking two weeks here and there, according to the Sun.

Yet, the annual summer exodus from the cities to the provinces marks summers in France.
The hordes head to the Alps, flock to family-oriented towns on the Atlantic and hit the hot spot of sun, sand, sex and excess: the Riviera, where the beaches are packed, the bathing suits skimpy and the yachts gaudy as ever.

To view the Baltimore Sun story, click here.
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