We are coming to the end of week six of "Le Confinement" in France and the government is focused on how to release the strictures we are currently subject to. It seems highly likely that some sort of schooling will re-start on or around May 11th, with the possibility of reduced class sizes and selective groups returning to the class room. We are also likely to have to wear masks on public transport and remain restricted as to where we can go. Hotels and cafes are likely to remain off limits until mid July. This all takes place against a backdrop of potential insurrection in the poorer suburbs of big cities, while rural France and country towns are slowly moving towards a much less eventful, but very welcome, progression to "the new normal".
Goodbye to "le bise" and all that
One victim of the fall out is likely to be the habit of kissing one another as a form of greeting. Where I live, people gave very short shrift to the elbow nudge and foot bump as replacement greeting and two (or three or four - depending on local habits) kisses on the cheek or a hand shake did remain common currency until lockdown started. However, as we come out of it it appears very unlikely that le bise will be widely re-adoped. a demise which will be encouraged by the need to go around wearing a face mask in many pubic places. It would make the habit a little too inelegant. I had not realised that until the 1960s the habit of a peck on each cheek as a general greeting to anyone you knew reasonably well was unusual. Before that it tended to be confined to family members and that, I suspect, is what we will return to.
This will probably be a welcome revolution in the world of work. When I used to manage the branch of an estate agency in south west France starting work in the morning was a serious business. The arrival of every new member of the team meant that everyone in the office had to stop what they were doing, get up from their desk and give the new arrival the obligatory peck on both cheeks. I could visualise our British employer sitting upstairs and drumming his fingers on his desk in irritation!
On the plus side - we may lose le bise, but the idea of shopping locally and putting a break on the proliferation of out of town supermarkets (les grandes surfaces) is starting to take hold - especially amongst the Gilet Jaune community. This would help save the many little epiceries, boulangeries and boutiques which add so much individuality to this wonderful country.