The France Etats-Unis guide to ‘la rentrée’

September. Photo by rosemary

April Buchanan explains the concept of la rentrée for the uninitiated, and tells us all about France Etats-Unis Grenoble‘s activities coming up from September.

Bonjour Grenoble! It’s April here, back again with more news about what’s happening at France Etats-Unis Grenoble, your local chapter of the national franco-american association in France! And now that’s it’s officially the “rentrée,” it’s time to start marking your calendars, because we’ve got lots of great stuff coming up very soon — parties, music, brunch, apéros, and more! I’ll give you all the details in a minute, but first, I thought you might like to know … what exactly IS this “rentrée” everyone keeps mentioning?

Well, whether you’ve been in Grenoble for years, or are just getting your bearings, you have surely noticed people saying, “C’est la rentrée!” This phrase, loosely translated to “It’s the return,” is getting its fair share of use right now, and especially in the first two weeks of September — it’s almost as popular as “Bonne Année” during the month of January! That’s because, more so than just any old back-to-school time, here in France it means new beginnings in many things in our lives, and a fresh look or change to the old daily routine. Okay, you say … but why is it such a big deal?

I remember when I was a kid, I asked my parents if they got the summer off work like I got the summer off of school. They of course looked at me like I was crazy, and painfully informed me that no, adults must work all summer long! I remember feeling a little sad for them, and dreaded the day when I too would have no more summer vacation. So, needless to say, I am very grateful to be living and working in France, where most people take all or part of their 5-7 weeks of vacation during the months of July and August!

This means that some regions of France literally shut down, pack their bags, and go! If you were in Grenoble during the month of August, you may have felt like you were in a ghost town! That’s because a large part of the population left town for other, more touristy regions (like the Southern and Western coasts, as well as Paris) which host the masses of holiday-goers every year and enjoy the profits they bring in. And when it’s all over, everyone heads back home well-rested and gets ready for La Rentrée! And this entails much more than just back-to-school time for children and university students — it also means that everyone gets back to work after a much appreciated long break. It’s a time to get back together with co-workers and friends and compare holiday photos, tan lines, and catch up on each other’s news. It’s a time to re-evaluate personal and professional goals, or breathe fresh life into an ongoing project. It’s amazing how a little vacation time can really energize and motivate a person, which means they do a better job at work! But the implications of La Rentrée don’t stop there…

La Rentrée also means that the government gets back to business, and politicians start making appearances on talk shows, putting the wheels in motion for new campaigns or policies they are pushing. It’s also the time when new television programming starts, with new seasons of series: new movies also come out at the cinema. September is also the start of the much-anticipated literary season, or La Rentrée Littéraire, with thousands of new book titles released during the Autumn months, and book fairs popping up all over the place, in anticipation of the literary awards to be announced at the end of the season. Clothing shops put the new collections in the shop windows, and all the restaurants, bars, cafés and other shops that were closed for August (while the owners took their holiday, to the great annoyance of those who did not!) finally reopen their doors, often with a new item on the menu or a fresh coat of paint.

And while everyone is making a fresh start and buzzing with motivation, La Rentrée is also the prime time to start a new hobby, sign up for a sport, or (DRUMROLL PLEASE……) join a club or association!

Here in Grenoble, there are all kinds of activities for people with all kinds of interests, everything from African dancing to Manga drawing. And for us anglophones, there are more than a couple of English-speaking groups that meet up regularly and organize a variety of fun events all year long, including ours — France Etats-Unis! Clubs and associations like ours are a great way to meet lots of interesting people and discover a wide variety of fun things to do around Grenoble. What kinds of things? Well I’m glad you asked!

To start off, the first Wednesday of every month (except August, of course!), France Etats-Unis has a little get-together we call the ‘Hotspot.’ This is a casual come-as-you-are social event, to have a drink if you wish, and have a laugh with new and old friends. This is a great after-work, pre-dinner break that takes the edge off of mid-week stress. But in addition to the monthly Hotspot, we organize all kinds of events, all year long!

Here’s what we’ve got coming up this Fall:

  • Our next Hotspot, kicking off the “rentrée” of course, will be: Wednesday, September 7th, 6:30 p.m. at the Maison de l’Internationale. It is located in the Jardin de Ville, just in front of the grassy lawn of the old L’Hôtel de Lesdiguières.
  • The first of many France Etats-Unis events this year is a Jazz Brunch on September 25th in Montbonnot. Come have a traditional Sunday morning brunch while grooving on some excellent music from local favorites, The Harlem Rhythm Band!
  • Then of course in October we’re looking forward to everyone’s favorite party excuse: Halloween! October 29th at La Ferme Heurard in Seyssins. It just wouldn’t be right to miss out on the crazy costumes and goofy shenanigans that a Halloween party is known for, something that is starting to become more mainstream in France.
  • In November, a traditional Autumnal Thanksgiving dinner will make you feel right at home in Grenoble, whether you’re American or not!

These fun happenings are just the beginning of a great year of fantastic things to do, including nature outings and cultural events for a start. And of course, since our goal is to promote friendship and understanding between cultures, you don’t have to be strictly American or French to enjoy these events or to become a member of France Etats-Unis! Everyone is welcome!

To sign up for our email newsletter and receive reminders of upcoming events, just click the link on our website (under construction): You can also find us on Facebook as ‘France Etats-Unis Grenoble,’ and stay up to date with all the details for upcoming events, Hotspots, and even share photos of an event that you’ve participated in! For more details or any other questions, please email me at:

So now you’re all set for La Rentrée in Grenoble: back to school, back to work, and back to a busy social life and event calendar! Bon courage à tous et “Bonne Rentrée!”

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