France, the country where going on strike is considered a national sport, is naturally a very politically involved nation. While living in Rennes and visiting other cities in France, I have taken notice of the various protests, strikes, and political artwork on the streets. Additionally, I have had many conversations with my host family about politics in France and the US. It’s been especially interesting because this year is a presidential election in France, which only happens every 5 years.
Compared to the US, France is much more accepting of protests and strikes. There is also a big contrast between the political orientation of France and the US because what the US considers “left” is seen as more “centrist” in France. There are also many different parties in the French political system, and many have chances to get a candidate elected to office, whereas in the US it’s mostly limited to the Democratic and Republican parties. Both countries, however, have been seeing a greater political divide or “clivage droite-gauche” where the left and right sides of the political spectrum are being pushed further to the extremes.
Many of the other students I’ve met at Rennes 2 are interested in and passionate about politics. It’s a very liberal/leftist university, so it’s not uncommon to see posters and artwork supporting candidates and policies that are anti-capitalist, environmentally focused, and more collectivist than individualist. While in Rennes, I had the chance to see and briefly participate in a protest for more government action against climate change and pollution.
I went on a small trip to Nantes, which is a city just south of Rennes in the Pays-de-la-Loire region. While there, I saw a protest led by the Mouvement Jeunes Communistes de France (Young Communists Movement of France) or just JC. They were specifically motivated against housing prices and gentrification in Nantes, and I also found some signs and stickers that conveyed this same message.
The war in Ukraine sparked a new flurry of activism and political involvement in France, with some people coming down harder against the extreme right in France, which has some members that had previously shown great support for Russian president Vladimir Putin. I have seen many other international issues become relevant while in France, such as the installation of dictators and fascism in certain parts of Syria and Iran.
What I can say for certain is that while in France, you will definitely be immersed in a culture that is passionate about politics and their freedom to protest. You will encounter strikes, protests, and all sorts of political demonstrations, but don’t worry; the French also love to debate and discuss politics, so don’t feel pressured to only think one way or conform to the political opinions of others around you. As long as you remember to stay considerate and open-minded, you will find that France is a wonderful place to get involved in causes you’re passionate about and seeing things from another culture’s point-of-view.
Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA