There are two things you should know about me before reading this article: my heritage and my living situation. I am Canadian. However, I have lived in Lyon, France for the past three months and will continue to do so for the next four. For anyone who reads my blogs, these two themes have been recurring ones, and have each contributed to how I view liberty. Living in France, a country well-known for its current (and long-standing) socialist tendencies, and experiencing everyday life here in comparison to a much more conservative/liberty-minded Canada, has really messed with my view on liberty and how this term can mean something so different in various countries. When I think of liberty in France, is it really liberty? Is there a right and wrong definition of liberty? Are there actually cases where certain types of liberties don’t make sense in a libertarian context? The following may just be a philosophical rambling on my part, but I would like to share my thoughts on how different the meaning of liberty can be when subjected to differing conventions, cultures, and countries.
One of the first things an expat learns about France is that French people don’t really like to work. Allow me to elaborate: during every work day of the week, there is a 1-2 hour lunch break from around 12:30-2:30, in which time nothing remains open. Or at least, nothing on the business end of things. Need to go to the library at 1:30
to take out a book for the literature test you forgot you had this afternoon? Nope, library’s closed. Need to print off an assignment due at 2:00? Nope, all of the printing centres are closed. Need to visit a government office to update your visa that will expire in a week? Make sure you go at 9:00 a.m., before the lines get too long, because otherwise you’re screwed. The café and restaurant owners are thrilled, naturally, because this is when they get all of their business, but the rest of the commerce shuts down. And then, of course, nothing remains open on Sundays, and only select places on Saturdays. Oh, and after having hardly worked all week, the French like to strike as much as possible for higher wages or fewer work week hours. (more…)