Expat interview: Lockdown in France

April 1, 2020 Hanny No Comments

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of people are now under lockdown. Countries all over the world have taken steps to keep the virus from spreading and in an effort to keep it under control, many countries have been placed under lockdown.

The United States is yet to go under complete lockdown. So far many of the states have a stay at home law in place, but other states are yet to experience a lockdown. However, countries such as France have been under lockdown for weeks now.

Even though I have been reading the news about the situation in other countries, the impact of the lockdown doesn’t really register as much as when you hear it from someone living it.

Thus, I made it a point to seek out my dear friend, Barbara, who is an expat in France and has been living there for the past decade. Barbara was kind enough to share her experience and some photos of the current situation in France.

Expat Interview: Lockdown

Where do you live and why did you choose the city you are in? I live in Angers, which is the capital of Maine-et-Loire (one of the départements in the Loire Valley region). I suppose fate eventually brought me to live in this city but I moved to be here primarily to pursue my education by doing a Masters program.

How has COVID-19 affected the way you live? Funny story: I actually work as a language assistant in two primary schools, which means that I have not been able to go to work since Monday. I try to help my colleagues online by sending them links to videos and songs. Nevertheless, in the days leading up to the eventual lockdown, we kept instructing our students to wash their hands. It certainly has made me more self-aware of how much I tend to lean in to greet people with a “bise” (the French air-kisses that the government is telling people not to do).

The main plaza practically empty. Photo by Barbara T.

What is it like being under lockdown? What do you hate and/or love about it? Honestly, as an introvert, I welcome the opportunity to stay at home. I sleep in late, I am able to concentrate on my second-year Masters thesis, and I have a genuine excuse to just stay put. The downside is that the weather is tantalizing gorgeous these days, and if I have to go outside for whatever reason, I must have a signed “attestation” to show to police officers.

What regulations are currently set in place? If you go outside, you must have a signed “attestation.” This applies to grocery shopping, going to work, exercising. You mustn’t be in groups of over 100 people, and you must keep a distance of 1 meter (three feet) away from others.

Waiting in line to mail a letter before the 12PM quarantine curfew. Photo by Barbara T.

Since people need to have a signed “attestation” have you seen lines at the grocery store? I haven’t gone to one yet in the past ten days, but I can say that the open businesses are taking precautions when working with the public: employees wear gloves and masks.

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Empty shelves at the grocery store. Photo by Barbara T.

What are some items that are currently hard to find in France? The basics, oddly enough. Eggs, toilet paper, hand soap, flour, pasta, butter.

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Sign stating closure of the museum. Photo by Barbara T.

Since the lockdown, museums, and restaurants have been closed down. Have they offered any alternatives? Any virtual museums? Apparently Canal + (which you normally have to pay for) is being offered for free, but I don’t watch TV anyway.

How is France enforcing the lockdown? Are they using drones, cops? There is said to be more police on the streets, and a few cities have even started to have a curfew (not Angers, though). I had a few friends repatriate themselves recently due to the uncertainty of border closings and flight cancelations. They were interrogated by the police and asked to show proof of their need to travel as well as the needed documentation.

There are also fines in place. Anyone caught without the “attestation dérogatoire de déplacement” or not respecting the rules can be subjected to a fine of 135€. As it is, one couple was actually fined for deciding to take their pet rabbit on a walk.

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The Pandemic has also caused the closure of hotels. Photo by Barbara T.

What has France done about the homeless during the lockdown? Have you heard or read anything about this? I honestly don’t know what the situation is. That being said, I have the impression that the homeless remain outside: I had one man walk by to ask me what time it was.

what do you recommend people do during their quarantine? Read, listen to music, dance, chat with friends online, cook your meals, watch a movie at home, Netflix, catch up on university work…

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Lockdown

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