Monday, June 13, 2011

Lundi de Pentecote (Pentecost Monday ) - it is complicated

Monday 13 Jun was a public holiday so the week starts on Tuesday. At work, I was chatting with an overseas coworker:
Coworker: Hey, you were on leave yesterday?
Me: No, yesterday was public holiday here.
Coworker: Oh really? How come B came to work? I was with him on the phone.
Me: Errr, for some people it was holiday and for some it was not.
Coworker: ???
Me: It is complicated. I don't know how to explain.

At this point, I remembered my superior once said:"Yeah, France is expert in making things complicated.

The Lundi de Pentecost (Pentecost Monday or Whit Monday) is a religious celebration 50 days after Easter. It was one of the 11 French public holidays but In 2004, the French government has named it as "Solidarity day", where employees were asked to come work for free on a public holiday and the employers would then pump money to fund supports for old people and the disabled. This came as a solution proposed by the government after the 2003 heat wave which resulted in high rate of dying among old people. Each year, this Solidarity day raises around 2.4 billion euros. In 2008, the government amended the law and decided to let employers decide on which day and which way they want to impose the Solidarity day. Employers can ask employees to work on any public holiday (except 1 May), work extra 7 hours during the year or deduct a day off from their leaves.

In my company, each year we receive a mail from the HR stating whether Pentecost Monday is a public holiday. If not mistaken, last two years everyone got the day off without cost. This year, it depends on the payment schemes. Employees who are with the scheme A (like me) didn't need to come to work, but people who are with scheme B (like B) needed to work or else they had to deduct one day from their leaves. Whereas for hubby, the company was closed and everyone was asked to take a mandatory day off.

This Solidarity Day has made me think about the "Pay it forward" model in the Western countries versus "Pay back" model in most of the Asian countries. As per my understanding, children in Eastern countries grow up learning that it is their responsibility to take care of their aging parents as a way to pay back the love given by their parents, whereas children in the Western world believe that their main responsible is to continue the good upbringing of their own children. As a result, there are less old folk's homes in Asian countries as old people living away from children are considered "being abandoned" by their children. Whereas in France, it is rare that children parents live under the same roof. A lot of old folks prefer to live independently and government agencies are well established to cater need to senior citizens.

I once asked hubby's grandma what would bring her pleasure. She told me whenever we visit her, she feels very happy. The other grandmother kept telling me how our trip together to Jura Mountain had given her an unforgeable moment, as due to her health issue she would not be able to do it anymore. Once I asked my coworker why in France it is rare to see 3 or 4 generations traveling together. She said that traveling with old people would mean limiting themselves to certain type of activities, it is simply not in the mentality to bring a grandma to ski for example. I feel sad to see old people left alone during summer vacation as they no longer capable of driving long distance. I'm petrified to think that one day, I will just die alone in my home and be discovered days after.


  1. It's exactly what asian people living currently in France dread most.
    ( I am in this case although I am only 55 )but as for you , you can come back to Malaysia where you still have all your sibblings and their children to take care of you when you feel old and lonely .


  2. what is scheme A and B, more specifically i mean..thks ;-)

  3. NL,

    I don't know if I will be able to travel at that time. Besides, I might be already gotten used to the life in France, adjusting back to your own country at old age might not be easy. Anyway, let's just think positive and hope you and me will have a bunch of friends here to go through the tough time with us. :-)


    These payment schemes are special and might only exist in my company, it doesn't apply to every French here. :-)