Our French Life, Our School Life

What Is The Rentrée?


You might ask? It can’t escape your notice when you move to France and it’s not just the literal translation or the meaning of the word. What is it really all about?

If you were to google this it will tell you “the start of the school year” or some translations have it down as “see you in September”. I always took it to be “the return”. Dah dah dah… I’ve never said that out loud and with good reason.  I can actually see my French teacher with a painful smile, saying “But that would be the verb ‘revenir’ Natasha” desperately trying to contain a face similar to that of Jack Nicholson in the film “One Flew Over The Cuckoo Nest”. With or without fist in mouth whilst simultaneously screaming “How do you not know this?!”

one flew over.jpg
This looks nothing like my French teacher but I’m sure she can appreciate the sentiment! This does, however, represent my mental state trying to express myself during various appointments

The French verb to return is, of course, revenir which sounds and looks nothing like rentree (it’s too late for accents sorry. Not sorry). But hey, I like to think of the French language as a word association game, which I lose at, regularly.

Okay so we’re done with the science bit – in reality, it’s like Christmas. Seriously. Actually  it’s better than Christmas and at a better time of year. It’s a feeling of new beginnings but not in the dismal month of January and still reeling from the excesses of food and drink. Of course, people do put weight on in their summer holidays (not me this year – takes a bow – lost 7lbs I know right?! A dip in the ocean..) but you can carry that off with a tan can’t you?

Everyone is in high spirits, it really is time to send those kids back to school. You’ve had 8 weeks of filling the days, of working, juggling, holidaying etc etc. It’s time for some god damn routine and order.

Last year I was super organised and a bit up tight about getting all the stationery the kids would need. See this post on the subject. I worked my way through 3 huge lists and promptly ordered it all on-line to be delivered. This year I went all free style and relaxed about the whole thing. Not like me at all. I decided I would get all the school supplies in the supermarket after the holiday and with all 3 kids in tow, as this sounded like a fun thing to do. Said NO PERSON EVER.

What I was thinking? I don’t know.  We went to Spain (which I shall write about very soon) and maybe the Spanish sun went to my head. By the way..here comes the digressing bit…for the first week in Spain I said “pardon” whilst squeezing past people in supermarkets, merci, bonjour and much more. It was quite bizarre and if someone didn’t understand English I would revert back to French.  It felt quite weird to say “Thank you” and “Can I have” etc in Spain but there you go. That is the downside, after all, of being fully bi-lingual! Cue Jack Nicholson laughter.

So yes, decided we’d all trot down to Eleclerc and it’ll be fun – the older two could have their lists and enjoy the whole process of picking out their folders, agenda’s etc. Yes, if fun is a fully fledged melt down by myself and my daughter, who at one point tossed her folder onto the floor, flung her crossing off the list pen at my feet and proclaimed that how an earth did she know what to get. She had a fully translated list and has been to school using these supplies for a year which, of course, was pointed out in a less than sympathetic tone.

“You’ve been doing this for years” she said. Cue argument on my knees, on the floor in E-leclerc, going through her basket whilst totally losing my shit and saying “what the years of being here for like 15 months!? I’ve even translated it how an earth don’t you know what this is….” To be fair, whoever came up with these different types of stationery needs locking up in a mental institution worse than the one in the film above. No one needs a folder that has elastic at the end – you just need a wallet. Job done. No one needs a flimsy piece of paper that acts as a sleeve for test results. Again a frigging wallet will do.

Not only that, a pre pep talk on how to get the stationery (think of the scene with Monica in Friends, picking out her wedding dress in the sale) they were all instructed to take into consideration the price of things. Cue daughter popping in the most expensive pritt sticks into her basket. Cue me losing my shit again.  The only person that was calm in this whole tortuous affair, was the little fella, who was happily crossing off stuff from his list. A lot smaller I might add and feeling a lot less anxious about his return to school having not spoken French for 8 weeks.

Mr Normandy had taken the best course of action and waited outside on a bench. Although he got it with a bit of seething unspoken jealously on the way home.

The supplies aside – rentree really is a happy time! Honest. You’ll see news footage, interviews on the radio and adverts lots of adverts for getting into shape. Much the same way you’d see them in January. It’s a new start. A fresh start. It’s time to join the gym, join a class and get into shape.  Whilst there is a sad resignation the holidays are over, there is also a positive feeling in the air.

January is such a bleak time to embark on a diet and resolutions. The weather is normally crap and most people just want to hibernate in a permanent state of depression and not look at their Christmas credit card bill.

I would go so far as to say it is the French version of a UK Christmas. In France, Christmas starts in December (what when it’s meant to start?) not August and is a humble affair compared to the UK.

So I for one am loving the spirit of the rentree – what do you think of the rentree? What do you like to do once the kids have gone back to school – apart from having a large gin?

You have been reading…. Our Normandy Life!

2 thoughts on “What Is The Rentrée?”

  1. La rentrée is such a big deal in France! I used to love getting new stationery , new clothes, new shoes and a new school bag. Apparently parents get a ‘prime de rentrée’ to help with the cost. You are right to say that it was a bit like Christmas.


    1. I never realised this until we lived here. I have got right into it too. Yes they do get that it can be approx 1,000 euros for 3 children per year. I think it’s better than Xmas!


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