Each region of France has its specificities, so many small singularities that are the pride of its inhabitants. But in terms of specificities, Alsace-Moselle clearly stands out. Thanks to its long history shared between France and Germany, it wins hands down the trophy of the region-which-does-nothing-like-the-others. Alsace-Moselle is a bit like our own England.
1. In Alsace-Moselle, trains run on the right
And then you’re going to say to me: “Wait, what? Already I didn’t know that in France the trains run on the left…” So yes, in the rest of France, the trains run on the left. Indeed, the railway was born in England and when France developed its own railway network, it was inspired by the English model. Except that at that time, Alsace-Moselle was part of the German Empire, and unlike its neighbors, Germany had decided to run its trains on the right. Result: even today, Alsace-Moselle is the only region in France where trains run on the right.
2. War memorials are different
And when you think about it for two minutes, it makes sense. In the rest of France, war memorials generally display the inscription “Morts pour la France”. The problem is that during the First World War, Alsace-Moselle was German, and had been for several decades. As a result, during the war, its inhabitants did not at all “died for France” but…for Germany. To overcome this problem, Alsatian and Moselle monuments display neutral inscriptions such as “To our dead” or “The city of … to its children”.
3. There is no separation of Church and State
In the country of secularism, it stings a little. But the famous law of separation of Church and State having been adopted in 1905 when Alsace-Moselle was German, it did not apply to this territory. And since the laws are not retroactive and the region did not particularly want to lose the public funding system for worship, France decided to turn a blind eye when it joined in 1918. In concrete terms, this means, for example, that priests , pastors and other rabbis of these three departments are civil servants paid by the state. Similarly, the bishops of Metz and Strasbourg are appointed by the President of the Republic. A bit crazy when you think about how secularism is a fundamental principle in France.
4. At the same time, religious education is compulsory there
Yes, whoever says no separation between Church and State also says no separation between Church and school. In primary and middle school, religious education is theoretically compulsory, but this obligation is increasingly questioned. In fact, it is possible to escape it, but parents must sign a waiver to do so. This is why for many years, organizations have been campaigning for religious education in Alsace-Moselle to become truly optional.
5. And until 2017, there was even a blasphemy offense
Another consequence of the non-separation between Church and State, the three departments of Alsace-Moselle were the only ones where there was a crime of blasphemy, until its very recent repeal in January 2017. Until this date , it was theoretically possible to be sentenced to three years in prison if you publicly blasphemed against God or a religion. In reality, no one had been convicted of such an offense for decades, which explains the repeal of this law from another time.
6. Alsace-Moselle benefits from two additional public holidays
It’s still a legacy of the German era and, for once, it’s a nice scam for the rest of the French. The first public holiday is that of Saint-Étienne, December 26. Very useful for recuperating after being smashed at Christmas. As for the other public holiday, it is Good Friday, that is to say the last Friday before Easter Sunday. Which means that the Alsatians and the Mosellens benefit from a small family bridge of four days each year at Easter time when we, poor French people from the interior, have to make do with three unfortunate days.
7. Alsace-Moselle has its own Secu
You may have already noticed that on certain administrative documents where you are asked to fill in your Social Security scheme, there is an option “Alsace-Moselle scheme”. This is because the territory has its own social system, independent from the rest of France. The reason why these three departments wanted to keep the system inherited from the German Empire is simple: it is much more advantageous. Much higher reimbursement rates (such as blue sticker medicines reimbursed at 80% compared to 35% for the rest of France), salaries paid in full and without a waiting period in the event of illness or accident, retirement pensions paid from the beginning of the month… Another reason to move to sausage country.
8. Legislation on the manufacture of brandy is less strict
So there, we enter a technical but nevertheless essential field: booze. In Alsace-Moselle, the regulations around the distillation of alcohol are more flexible than in the rest of France. Thus, individuals can make their eau-de-vie at home, with their own equipment, tranquillou pilou, while in the rest of the country, distillation must be done by a professional or in a public workshop. Similarly, people who make their eau-de-vie in Alsace-Moselle benefit from a 50% discount on the taxes that apply to the first ten liters of alcohol produced. It’s worth going there to make your schnapps!