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Nantes – Shopping for Non-Essentials

“So, what do we need?”

“A new can opener.”

“I’m sure I can find one at Carrefour even during lockdown, mom…”

“Oh, you have no idea! Half of the supermarket is blocked. During the last lockdown, you could buy mirrors for instance, but hairbrushes were under a plastic sheet, apparently off limits.”

“I need another pair of jeans. It’s gonna get colder again next week.”

“I wanted to buy chocolate for Easter… even if it’s just the two of us.”

“Anytime, chocolate shops stay open. They’re essential.”


The president has spoken at 8 pm on national TV, France is to close schools and non-essential businesses again. The third national lockdown will start on Saturday for four weeks of new, new, new, new restrictions and rules no one really understands anymore. The atmosphere was weird on Tuesday and Wednesday since no one knew what Macron what going to announce and many feared a tough stay-at-home order much like in March 2020. I was somewhat relieved to hear that we could still go out freely, although there’s a ban on travelling more than 10 km from home “without good reason” and the 7-to-9 p.m. curfew is still in effect.


“I’ll go during the lockdown. They are essential now, they will be open.”

The French touch to restrictions—there aren’t any travel restrictions for the Easter weekend as well.

“I’ll call later tonight,” Feng emailed me. “Mark needs a haircut and this is the last chance.”

Hair salons have not been deemed essential in Canada and Ontario is entering another four-week provincewide COVID-19 shutdown on Saturday. Feng, Mark and I are in the same boat on two different continents.

“I don’t know why Macron is complaining,” I told my mom when we met downtown after her workday. “Look, everybody is ‘working from home’ apparently.”

Streets were packed with people trying to buy “non-essentials” before the shutdown. Forget about toilet paper, this is so 2020—we were after 50% off clothing, accessory, anything you could need for the next four weeks.

Keep in mind that many French, like my mom, don’t get the chance to shop anymore because of the curfew. Good luck finding time to find a new pair of pants if you finish work at 5:30 p.m. just when shops are closing. Now the curfew is at 7 p.m., an hour later, but it’s only been a couple of weeks, it was at 6 p.m. from January to March. There are USSR-style lineups in front of retail stores on Saturdays and shops are closed on Sunday in France.

This is getting old—and ridiculous.

Wish me luck, I’m hoping to buy a sweater tomorrow.

Lineup in front of a store in Nantes, March 2021
Lineup in front of a store in Nantes, March 2021

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