La Rentrée

You can tell it’s September – it now takes me twice as long to drive to work.
“La Rentrée” means “return” or “re-entry”, meaning that everyone is back from their summer holidays and work can recommence. This is a slightly odd concept for the English (no, not the work part). When I first moved abroad I found it hard to believe that in many European countries EVERYONE went on holiday at the same time (e.g. the whole of August). Apparently it used to be the same in England at the start of the last century, but booming British seaside resorts were so swamped with holidaymakers that the government launched a campaign to persuade people to spread their holidays out over a longer period, to make sure that everyone could get a spot on the beach. Holidays are organised along much more traditional lines here: everyone has a few weeks or a month off in either July or August (many businesses close up for the summer), and most people, including schoolchildren, have a “white week” (a skiing trip) in the first few months of the year. Personally I prefer a large number of short trips to one big chunk out of the middle of the year, especially if you spend it all in one place. And especially if you stay in Belgium. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a lovely country, but I imagine that I’d have exhausted Blankenberge”s entertainment options after one week, let alone four.
France has a peculiar spin on this return, which is the literary rentrée. After the publishers have spent August at Biarritz or wherever, they all come back in September and publish literally hundreds of novels within a few weeks. And in Italy, until recently, cinemas were closed for the whole summer, which I find particularly bizarre as all the big movies come out over the summer. There was then a bottleneck as all the blockbusters were released together in one go in September. Recently cinemas have started staying open (apparently they’ve just discovered air conditioning).
It gives this time of year a peculiar “back to school” feel, with everyone now faced with four long months stretching out between them and Xmas.