If you’ve been watching the news you may be wondering whether it’s safe to visit France right now. With the tensions rising between yellow jacket protesters and the police here in France the news has been awash with fear and worry – some people even believe that France is on the brink of civil war!
Why are the Yellow Vests Protesting?
The yellow vests, or as they’re called here the Gilet Jaune, are protesting against the ever rising living costs and taxes. Originally started as a one day protest, on November 17th, against new fuel taxes the Gilet Jaune have now been going for around 13 weeks (as of writing).
The yellow vest movement shows no sign of calming down or ending anytime soon and they’re even calling for president Macron to resign. However President Macron see’s these rising taxes as a way to start combating climate change.
Do I Support the Gilet Jaune?
The costs here are ridiculous. When I lived here in 2012 and 2014 I remember being amazed by how cheap food, fuel and many other commodities were, but now I’m horrified.
We know that change has happened before through social action like this and change can happen again.
However, what I don’t agree with is the senseless violence, the burning of cars and the destruction of peoples business.
Many people have lost their jobs, vehicles, business and a police officer has even lost his eye!
The point can be made and listened to without the need for violence.
But, as with all protests – many people jump on the bandwagon just to watch the world burn. Do you remember the London riots, when people set fire to businesses and looted shops because a teenager got shot. What started off as a peaceful protest got infiltrated by people who wanted to cause violence, mayhem and get a hold of the newest trainers and TV’s with their 5 finger discounts. This is what I believe is happening here in France.
The People of France are angry
People want change.
And it’s not just the Gilets Jaunes who have been getting violent – many of the police offers have also taken a violent stance against the protests!
Is Protesting in France Normal?
100% it is. Last year, living in Montpellier we witnessed weekly protests. It was great. There was very rarely violence, just marches. People were out in all weathers standing up for what they believe in.
However, there were some manifestations last year that caused more trouble than good. In fact, many schools and universities had to close after students blockaded the entrances in a protest against the education reform. Not only was there disruption to classes but many students missed important exams.
And of course, we all know that strikes are common practice in France. Last year we saw bin strikes, public transport strikes, supermarket strikes and of course the air traffic control strikes.
Protesting is part and parcel of French life. Usually it’s safe, responsible and not violent.
The reason the French (mostly) stand together with these strikes and manifestations is likely down to their moto: libertie egalitie fraternity = liberty equality Fraternity.
But Is It Safe to Visit France Today?
I can quite honestly say that I haven’t witnessed any violence since living here. Yes, I’ve been stuck in traffic for an extra 3 hours thanks to the yellow vests blocking a roundabout in Poitiers on their first weekend – but that was it. It was a peaceful protest. The Gilets Jaunes were out in some of the coldest temperatures of 2018, standing up for what they believe in and as far as I am aware, here in Poitiers, they caused no problems.
However, Poitiers is just one small city.
The news coming from Paris, Toulouse and other larger cities is a different story and whilst I personally believe Paris to be safe, especially during the weekdays, it’s completely your prerogative as to whether to visit or not.
My main piece of advice would be:
Visit during the week if you’re worried. The demonstrations normally take place on a Saturday.
I’d say that most other cities are perfectly fine to visit – and if you do happen to find yourself in a place or situation you feel uncomfortable in, then get out of the city.
There are so many lovely places in France which are outside of Paris and other city centres that haven’t seen any problems at all.
So yes, I think it’s definitely safe to visit France in 2019.