CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to France Magazines today CLICK HERE

Why do shops in France shut on Sunday?

PUBLISHED: 16:14 26 July 2016 | UPDATED: 16:14 26 July 2016

With the shops shut, Sundays are a day for family outings

With the shops shut, Sundays are a day for family outings


Being prepared for the shops to be shut on public holidays in France has taken some getting used to for mum-of-five Gillian Harvey, who now happily embraces family time over convenience shopping

“Oh what lovely flowers,” I say to Ray as we stand in the supermarket queue. Lily of the valley are abundant in France at this time of year, with everyone from market sellers to independent retailers shoving sprigs of this delicate, white blossom at shoppers as they pass.

As usual, Ray doesn’t take the hint, and I remain flowerless, despite the fact that May Day – on which traditionally, husbands, mothers-in-law, friends and lovers in France buy their nearest and dearest a bunch – is just around the corner.

Seven years into our French adventure it’s still hard to adjust to the traditions of different public holidays en France. In the UK, such holidays are synonymous with (a) Mondays and (b) large-scale sofa sales. Here, not only are the majority of public holidays on fixed dates rather than days, but you’ll be lucky to buy much more than a baguette (boulangeries are considered an essential service) on the day itself.

In France, heaven forbid you run out of essentials such as nappies on the eve of a public holiday or – come to think of it – a Sunday afternoon. This may seem like a petty concern but when, like us, you’ve had four in nappies at one time, the thought of running out of such an essential item is enough to make you shudder.

Gillian Harvey has learnt to embrace the slower pace of French lifeGillian Harvey has learnt to embrace the slower pace of French life

When we first arrived in France, the different retail opening hours took a while to get used to. Accustomed to grabbing a treat from the local garage whenever a craving struck, and having developed the kind of laissez-faire attitude to the shopping list that only comes with an excess of convenience, we found ourselves sometimes forced to forego our Sunday night nibbles, or (horror!), realising we’d run out of builder’s tea.

From about midday on Sundays when even our local supermarket closes its doors, our town becomes as quiet and empty as, well, a British village circa 1990. Worse, many stores neglect to open their doors on a Monday morning, meaning shopping addicts can be left without a retail fix for over 24 hours.

However, what seemed an inconvenience on arrival, now seems (nappies permitting) a blessing in disguise. Our Sunday afternoons and public holidays are spent with family, relaxing; walking or running in the park or preparing for the week ahead. I plan our supermarket shop more carefully, meaning I save money on meals by knowing exactly what I need.

So unless a chocolate craving strikes, during times of retail shortage I tend to reflect on how reliant I used to be on the culture of convenience in the UK, and how nice it is to keep calm and stop carrying on.

And perhaps I’m getting plus âgée but I like the idea of nesting down with my nearest and dearest rather than signing a 0% credit deal or nipping to Tesco’s for forgotten essentials.

Moreover, rather than celebrate their May Day by leaping around a ribboned pole with bells attached to their ankles, the French place precedence on ‘Labour Day’ or the Fête du Travail – a day that celebrates workers’ rights. (As anyone who has been held up on the ferries or the roads during a strike will testify, these are extremely important this side of the Channel).

Which, as a hardworking mum of five, I fully support. In fact, perhaps I should adopt a more continental attitude when it comes to my own rights.

No flowers? Then this mum’s on strike.

Don’t miss Gillian’s other reflections on life in France:

The highs and lows of raising British children in France

You might also enjoy:

Ian Moore: How many times should you kiss in France?

The perils of the French language

The differences between French and British comedy

More from Living in France

Yesterday, 13:44

French cheese doesn’t just have to be saved for the cheeseboard, why not experiment with canapés too?

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

How does a jewellery designer, filmmaker and restaurateur who was born in Israel and grew up in New York come to turn a French château into an artists’ retreat? Ziggy Attias shares his life in Champagne-Ardenne

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

France has helped launch a satellite to study the effects of global warming; but how do French attitudes towards climate change compare to those of other Europeans?

Read more
Thursday, November 15, 2018

France has historically been on the leading edge of eco-friendly projects and regulations. While many argue that much more needs to be done to meet environmental goals in France and globally, here are 11 ways that French government, companies and people are striving to be green.

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Seen a French property that would make fabulous food business but unsure of the paperwork and process? Read Tracy Leonetti’s at-a-glance guide to opening a restaurant or cafe in France

Read more
Running a business
Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Thinking of setting up a campsite in France? Here’s what you’ll need to consider when it comes to planning permission.

Read more
Tuesday, June 26, 2018

With its unbeatable wine and cheese and laissez-faire attitude, there’s nowhere better to retire than France. But which cities are best for growing old in? Here’s the top 10

Read more
Pays de la Loire
Thursday, January 25, 2018

If you are buying in or moving to France you will need a French bank account but before you open one make sure you read these 11 things you need to know to avoid making a costly mistake

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

France might be experiencing a shortage of general practitioners but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find a GP willing to take on new patients. Here’s what you need to know about finding and registering with a doctor when you move to France

Read more
Expats in France
Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The French pharmacy is so much more tham a place to pick up your prescriptions. Here are 11 things you might not know about pharmacies in France.

Read more
Healthcare in France
Subscribe for

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

France Forum

Questions about France? Visit our free France forum to get help and advice from thousands of other Francophiles and expats. Topics include: property, tax, law, travelling, pets, education, healthcare and much more.

Join the forum

Most Read

Join us on social media

France magazine
Living France magazine
French Property News magazine

Enter our competitions

Win books, DVDs, travel and even holidays in France in our great competitions! Take a look at our latest competitions…

Enter now