The expression “faire le pont” probably happens in everywhere around the world, but the reason it is a notable expression is that it happens so often here in France. Or at least in the life of the average French office worker. The word-for-word translation to English is to “make a bridge”, but it actually means taking a vacation day to have an extra-long weekend.
To take a step back, I should explain that there are 11 public holidays in France. There are holidays like Ascension in May and Toussaint in November that are Catholic holidays that were instituted by Napoleon to give people the day off. There are also the remembrance days like Victory in Europe (WWII) and Remembrance day (WWI) that are remembrances in North America, but not a specific day off.
The combination of all these public holidays, which are all rather close together, and the fact that the average French adult has between 6-8 weeks of vacation, leading to the phenomenon of “faire le pont”.
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Usually, if a public holiday falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday, French people will usually take the Monday or Friday off and go for an extra-long weekend. And it is not just private citizens. Public institutions like libraries and other non-essential government services in small towns across France will also unofficially shut down certain services in order to let more of their own employees have a few days off.
Faire le Pont in Paris
Large cities like Paris will be quieter, the metro will be emptier, and classrooms mysteriously missing half their students. Even family-owned restaurants and bars will close in order to take advantage of the reduced clientele.
So faire le pont is more than just taking a long weekend. It is about the French mentality of maximizing every inch of holidays that they can without feeling guilty.
A little bit of rest and relaxation always does the body good, oui ?