Thursday, December 18, 2008

Old Habits Die Hard

We're only at Thursday, and already this is shaping up to be a big news week for France. Everything from the sad - Paris Department store, Printemps, evacuated due to bomb scare - to the glad - French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, named runner-up in Time Magazine's Person of the Year issue - to the slightly bizarre - Carla Bruni sues over fashion bag bearing an image of her posing nude - has emerged from the headlines. Can you imagine a United States First Lady having nude pictures of herself from her years as a model floating around the public domain? Whether right or wrong, I'm pretty sure the First Family would promptly be shamed out of Washington. But I digress.

One of this week's quieter France-related headlines came out yesterday and deals with a much lighter subject matter: shopping. More specifically, shopping on Sundays. Despite Nicolas Sarkozy's wish to allow all shops in France to open for business on Sunday, his liberalization bill, fiercely opposed by family groups, religious groups, members of the French Socialist party and even some members of his own center-right party, has been forcibly pared down. Instead of the sweeping reform he sought, Sarkozy will have to settle for a slight increase (from 5 to 10) in the number of "exceptional Sundays" on which stores are already permitted to do business. No shopping on Sundays dates back to a 1906 law, and has been disdained by resident North American ex-pats ever since.

Call me a sentamentalist, but maybe it's ok for the French to keep to their day-of-rest tradition. Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly no fan of shopless Sundays and the multitude of problems I believe they create, but if the French think they've got a good thing going with this whole early-twentieth century economic mindset, more power to 'em. And considering they also don't use credit cards, don't give out mortgages to people who can't afford them, and don't go bankrupt because of medical bills, we might actually stand to learn a few things from the French and their "out-dated" economic way of life. But I digress.

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