Anyone in France been living under a rock recently? It would have been the only way to avoid the tidal wave that is la rentrée.
For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, picture this: it’s the last week in August and suddenly, all the sun cream, flip flops and beach towels disappear from advertising and in their place, a single expression monopolises billboards, shop windows and media outlets: la rentrée. Supermarkets, pharmacies, car dealerships, electrical stores…there isn’t a business that can’t exploit this major event for marketing purposes. Even the banks and insurance companies are at it.
Now, I know what you’re thinking – major event?! Isn’t it just kids going back to school? Well that’s the thing – no it isn’t. As explained on french.about.com, “in August, major sectors of France slow down or close up shop completely. School is out, the government is more or less AWOL, and many restaurants and other businesses are closed as well. Therefore, many French people are on vacation for all or part of the month, which means that la rentrée, in September, is more than just students and teachers going back to school; it’s also everyone else returning home and going back to work, returning to normalcy.”
An article on frenchentree rightly points out that “the Anglo-Saxon world doesn’t have anything quite like it”, explaining that the worlds of literature and broadcasting also have their own rentrée. Did you know, for example, that a wave of new books hits the shelves every September – last year, no fewer than 589 novels were published à la rentrée. Meanwhile, TV and radio presenters who have been gone for so long that rentrée novices might wonder whether they’re ever coming back at all suddenly burst back onto the map in September.
Tune into the news on the first of September and you can be sure that la rentrée will figure among the top stories. It happens every year, is that even a story?! Yes, it’s September. Yes, people are back at work and school. Yes, our favourite bakeries, cafes and restaurants are open again. Can we just get on with it now?