In time honoured French tradition, the firemen and public service providers may soon be knocking at your door to offer you their Christmas calendar. Christmas tipping for the postman, (facteur) rubbish collectors ( éboueurs) and firemen ( sapeurs-pompiers) in exchange for a Christmas calendar, is always advisable to ensure smooth post delivery, rubbish collection or house-fire help. A contribution of €5 to €15 euros is much appreciated, and probably a worthwhile investment on your part – but it is not an obligation!
How much should I give?
This is a goodwill donation – not an obligation – and is simply a way to provide you with the possibility of showing your local services that you appreciate them. Give according to your means. Five euros is a handsome donation indeed, but a couple of euros from several hundred residents in a village also works out to a splendid sum in the end. Some may give ten euros to the local fire service – you never know when you may need them, and many of them are volunteers. (see article below).
What if I don’t buy their calendar?
Personally, I have never had anything but smiles, goodwill and a friendly handshake, whether I’ve given one euro or ten euros……or nothing at all very occasionally when I already have a stack building up on my desk. However, photos of hunky fireman (and women) in uniform staring down at me as I drink my breakfast cuppa have got to be worth a euro or two, don’t you think so ladies?
Do remember also that your local bank, insurance, butcher, baker and candlestick maker will probably have a free calendar to give you to remind you that you are a valued customer. Often they will propose a very useful wall or desk agenda – particularly nice if you have already been visited by the local services, and are a bit ‘calendar-bound’. A different format can make a refreshing change. If they don’t ‘propose’ it to you, do ask for one – they might just have forgotten to suggest it – and remember, you have probably already paid for it ten times over in your bank charges!!!
The French Fire Brigade
DID YOU KNOW – LES SAPEURS-POMPIERS
The word ‘pompier’ comes from the verb ‘pomper’ (to pump), referring to the manual fire pumps that were originally used at fires. ‘Sapeur’ probably comes from ‘saper’ meaning to undermine or destroy, as early firefighters often had little choice but to knock down whole buildings to stop a fire advancing.
The French fire brigade, les sapeurs pompiers, are not just called out for fires. Trained and equipped to deal with medical emergencies, they are very often the first responders to be called for both road and domestic emergency medical situations.
With approximately 250 thousand fire fighters throughout France, only 30 to 40 thousand are ‘professionals’ (SPP) on a regular salary – the rest are volunteers, (SPV) paid peanuts to risk their lives when fires break out! This is worth remembering next time you reach into your pocket to make a donation to a fire fighter event, or for the yearly Christmas calendar.
In smaller communes, the emergency sirens of the ‘réseau national d’alerte’ ( RNA) blast out in short sequences to alert volunteer firemen to man their posts for fire or accident. However, most towns now use the more modern and somewhat quieter system of the beeper on the belt!
Don’t panic though if you still hear the regular air raid sounding racket, as this national network of 4,500 sirens is tested out for one minute on the first Wednesday of each month at midday. DO panic if you hear the siren sound in three sequences of 1 minute each, separated by a silence of five seconds. This warns of imminent and major catastrophe
|Some useful vocabulary
Help – Au secours! It’s an emergency – C’est un cas d’urgence
I need an ambulance – J’ai besoin d’une ambulance
I‘ve had an accident – J’ai eu un accident
The house/car is on fire – La maison/voiture a pris feu
My husband has had a heart attack/stroke – Mon mari fait une crise cardiaque/a souffert un AVC (accident vasculaire cérébral – pronounced ai vai cai)
My child is choking – Mon enfant s’étouffe.
I’m bleeding – Je saigne beaucoup.
I’m diabetic, I need insulin – Je suis diabétique, j’ai besoin d’insuline.
My wife is having the baby, her water has broken – Ma femme accouche, le bébé arrive, la poche des eaux a percé.