A complete lockdown the French way

Andréa Bouilly

This is it. We are on complete lockdown. After our Italian neighbour, this is France’s turn to go into isolation to limit the spread of the current pandemic. When our president Emmanuel Macron announced on the evening TV news, in a speech, that France was going on full lockdown for two weeks, the French didn’t imagine what life would be like during this period of time. It is not just about confinement or self-isolation in this case. This a matter of not having a legal right to go out, except with a good reason to do so and an official form to fill in -with limited options. And France has a way of reacting to issues that is very different from the rest of Europe. 

The thing is that people imagined they could still go out, thinking they just had to fill in the form and check the box “walking the dog” or “shopping for first necessities”. It’s true this could actually work. One would merely have to show the “magic” paper if they are controlled in the streets by the police patrolling and then go wherever they want. 

That is actually what I thought I could do. Having been in Denmark for the past two months before coming back to France, I hadn’t realised how bad the situation was here. When I was told all of the new strict rules I would have to go by, I admit I was a bit frustrated. I genuinely thought I would just find some loophole and still be able to see my friends and live as normally as possible. How could I be away from my closest friends for such a long time while in my home country? Sure, I could Facetime them more. But that’s very different than having actual physical contact.

As per usual we, the French, have a hard time with rules. It’s well known that French people don’t like being told what to do. And yet, now is the time to comply and understand that this for our own safety and the rest of the world’s. We are currently in a unique situation that is hard to accept and take seriously at first. It becomes more real when you are out in the streets and get stopped by the police. The amount of the fine you might incur if you don’t respect the lockdown, is big enough to make you stop taking all this lightly. 135 euros. Personally, I would think twice before trying to do what I want. 

We are currently in a unique situation that is hard to accept and take seriously at first. It becomes more real when you are out in the streets and get stopped by the police. The amount of the fine you might incur if you don’t respect the lockdown, is big enough to make you stop taking all this lightly. 135 euros. Personally, I would think twice before trying to do what I want. 

When I think about it, it has to come to a high fine for citizens to comply in France. This is what we need to protect ourselves in this country where people forget they don’t just have rights, they also have duties. Yet, this doesn’t prevent some from trying to defy the authorities. Any excuse is good to get some fresh air outside the borders of the home. My own cousin, a policeman, witnessed a man walking his cat. A cat. At this point, I wonder what is the most likely reason for doing these sorts of things. Is it to defy the authorities to show that “I will do what I want; no one can tell me what to do” -very French- or to have a good laugh doing unusual things? 

At least, on a more positive point of view, this confinement is showing a colourful side in people. This is in that kind of situations that we see how creative humans can be when they are forced to stay away from their loved ones and usual activities. Between the Facetime aperitifs with friends, the board games -finally off the dusty shelf- with family and the crazy dance choreographies; this is the time to be your unique and weird self. The good thing is, no one will judge you. 

I wonder in what state we will get out of this pandemic. The most likely outcomes are with alcohol problems or some extra weight or even a new style -mainly composed of sweatpants. But for now, we all have to mind the lockdown, accept that we are confined for a while, and take this opportunity to do all these activities or chores that we’ve been putting aside for so long.

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