France’s National Pass-Time

Ask most people what the French are good at and they’ll say:

  1. Wine-making
  2. Being rude to their customers
  3. Going on strike

Today my focus will be on that last one in the list. Yes, the stereotype is true, the French love a good strike.

Within my first couple of months here in Toulouse I’d had a rather sh*ty awakening to this national pass-time … in the most literal sense of the word. It involved irate farmers from the surrounding region driving into Toulouse and strewing the whole city with manure. Yes, there was poo everywhere. Traffic couldn’t move, the metro stopped running (yes, they poured liquid poops into the metro), and the hot summer air was thick with the stench of animal waste.

Then, a little while later, all the air traffic controllers decided to go on strike. Meaning that friends of mine flying out to Canada had to postpone their trip by almost a week and others weren’t able to get back home.

Another time the pharmacies went on strike meaning no one was able to buy any sort of medication (even pain relief is banned from being sold in super markets).

And then the buses went on strike for over a month, leaving the elderly either house-bound or hobbling about like they might collapse at any given moment.

Right now it’s the universities, more specifically my university… all the others seem fine. Which is great in the sense that I get lots of days off. Hooray! Not so good when you get up at 6:30am so you’ll get to class on time only to turn up and find every entrance to the campus barred. Someone owes me a sleep-in!

These strikes have been continuing on and off for quite some time now. Today we turned up to sit an exam only to find out we couldn’t get into the building. Other classes have also been cancelled, resulting in none of us feeling very confident about the up coming final exams. One class we haven’t been able to attend for three weeks!

I get the importance of striking, of coming together and being heard. But really, can we just chill for a bit? Or at least buy me some war-paint and I’ll get out on the streets with you!


*The cover photo was taken by a friend and reads: On strike until retirement.


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