I must stand up for the French, the people who have welcomed me with open arms and enough paper work to make my eyes bleed to tell Amercians and Canadians alike that the French are not lazy. I have heard this stereotype on a number of occasions, and I would just like to set the record straight.
So, why are we called lazy? Yes, that’s right, I said we.
The first reason, I assume, is because a legal work week is 35 hours. This may seem less than the standard 40 talked about in Canada, and much less than the 50 or 80 I hear my friends must invest to get ahead in the jobs, but in reality, its essentially equivalent to the standard 40. Has math failed us? Does 35=40? Of course not, but, it must be noted that this 35 does not include lunch breaks, whereas the Canadian 40 does. When you consider that 45 minutes of paid breaks are required for a standard 8 hour day in Canada, the actual time “worked” is 36 hours and 15 minutes per week (did I do that math right?).
The second reason is the traditional two hour long (unpaid) lunch break.
The third and final reason I can think of is the standard five weeks of paid holidays a year…minimum (I actually get seven) starting the very first year you work. None of this you-need-to-completely-burn-out-before-we-will-give-you-a-reasonable-amount-of-time-off crap.
So yes, we are in the office less (I am not totally convinced these fewer working hours equals less actual work though), but lazy is such a poor term for this. I prefer balanced, whole, rested, or family oriented.
There is no expectation that work should be your first priority, it is assumed your family will be, and therefore, the workplace is built around this assumption. You can take three consecutive weeks off each year and not miss out on career advancement, you can leave at 5 pm on the nose and people won’t consider you aren’t pulling your weight, and you can take the time at lunch to rest, go for a run, see your family, disconnect from the stress so that you have a fully productive and satisfying working day.
There is so much about living in France that drives me totally bonkers, but until Canada can offer me a promising career with reasonable working hours and where I can take seven weeks every year for everything else in my life, I think I will just stay here (sorry you had to find out like this Mom and Dad).