43rd Edition: Starting September Strong 🍁
What the French can teach us with their signature summer move
Welcome to August: the hottest yet most chill month of the year—at least for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. Take Paris—my former home—for example.
August 2019 was my first summer in Paris. I’d been living there since October 2018 but I had to work remotely from Montreal the following July while my new work visa was being processed. And while it was incredible to spend the first part of the summer at home with friends and family, I couldn’t wait to experience my first summer in France.
Long before I made the trip back from Montreal, my Parisian friends had warned me that “everyone leaves Paris in August.” But I assumed they were exaggerating in the same vein many French people describe the slightest inconvenience as “horrible” or “disgusting”—a trait I find endearing—you have to admire their fire. But in this case, there was one hell of an exodus.
“It’s estimated that 40% of Parisians take time off during the summer months leaving the city to those who can’t take a break—and tourists. The majority of French people take their holiday in France—and why not, there’s a massive choice of destinations and you could spend a lifetime of holidays here and never see it all.”
During my first few days back in the office, there were but a handful of people working on my floor compared to the usual hundred or so. And the city as a whole seemed to be moving in slow motion, with mostly tourists wandering along the Seine or sat outside the bistros that surround it.
It seemed crazy to have “FOMO” when I was living in Paris but with nearly everyone I knew there posting Instagram stories galavanting around beach resorts, dining on mouth-watering seafood, and texting me updates, I was dying to join them in the South of France.
💺 Ticket to Montpellier
As luck would have it, one of the perks of my job at the time was doing site visits at châteaus-turned-venues for our team offsites. And it just so happened that I was asked to visit a potential new venue in Montpellier.
“Montpellier is a Mediterranean crossroads, a charming and exceptional destination. A medieval city where the town centre, Place de la Comédie, Faculté de Médecine and Place Royale du Peyrou attract visitors from around the world. Montpellier is also a modern metropolis, open to contemporary architecture, science, culture and recreation.”
I decided that since I had a return train fare to the South of France, I may as well make a “holiday” out of it. You have to seize opportunities, right?
Fast forward a couple of days, and I was settling into a window seat headed South.
🧘🏻♀️ Getting into alignment
A few hours later, I was being toured around “Montpellier’s very own Versailles”—also known as Château de Flaugergues.
“Construction began in 1696 […] and went on for 45 years. Outside the château, you can see endless, immaculate gardens, much like those of Versailles, and beyond them, a private vineyard. Château de Flaugergues was passed down from one wealthy family to another through the years. It was classified as a historical monument in 1986.”
Now, Château de Flaugergues is a popular venue for weddings and corporate events. The property boasts an orangery, a rose garden, a park, and—wait for it—a bamboo plantation. Needless to say, it’s pretty spectacular.
After touring the château, exploring Montpellier, and rounding out my trip by relaxing on the beach, I felt back in alignment with “Paris life.” And I learned that the signature summer move of heading to the South of France is so popular that there’s an expression for the monumental return of workers to the office in September.
“‘À la rentrée!’ is a French expression used to mean, ‘See you in September!’ or ‘See you this fall!’ When translated literally, the phrase means, ‘at the return’.”
If you’re working in Paris in August, you’re guaranteed to have your emails met with out-of-office messages saying, “see you in September.” And in most cases, it’s futile to try scheduling meetings or anticipating collaboration with other people. Parisians are unapologetically unavailable during their vacations—unlike North America, where there’s often pressure to “always be reachable.”
Even many restaurants board up their windows and post handwritten notes—the original out-of-office—saying “Enjoy your summer. We’ll see you in September.” It’s miraculous to me considering you would never see that in Montreal, or other cities in North America. Restaurants stay open at all costs—especially during the summer when tourist numbers skyrocket. Hell, that’s business 101 on this side of the Atlantic.
But then again, you have to seize opportunities, right? If a quieter local scene affords Parisian restaurant owners the chance to take a holiday of their own, why not be unapologetically unavailable in August and ride the momentum of “la rentrée” to put their best foot forward in September?
🌊 Planning for “la rentrée”
Maybe you’re taking time off in August, maybe not. But regardless, September is a month away and whether your country has a momentum-building expression for it or not, there’s a big wave of energy coming to mark the start of “a new work year.”
The question is, what are you doing for yourself in August to ensure you’re ready to sprint alongside the rest of the workforce come September? I mean this in terms of:
Planning time off
Leveraging evenings and weekends for downtime
Doing activities that relax or energize you
Spending time outside and cutting back on screen time
If you struggle with setting boundaries and being unapologetically unavailable, ask yourself why. Consider thought patterns that may prevent you from doing these things and how you can create new ones inspired by the French.
You owe it to yourself to start September feeling fresh and ready to rise to exciting new challenges.
That’s a wrap for today. Thanks for being one of my first 217 subscribers.
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Have a wonder-full August,
P.S. I’m taking my own advice and writing you from my family’s cottage on a lake in the Laurentians—a couple of hours outside of Montreal. Standby for photos next week.