I’ve already wrote about daily life and holiday in the French Foreign Legion in my stories, but I’d like to add a bit more to this topic. It’s important to know how a Legionnaire can pass his time after working hours. This article is destined to future or young legionnaires, and I hope that it will help you to live better your free time or holidays while you’re in the FFL. It will also give you a better understanding of the French Foreign Legion.
As a Legionnaire, you are probably never going to hear about non-working hours (called heures non ouvrables or HNO in French) but in a normal case you shouldn’t have to work after 6pm. If you don’t have any additional activity in your unit, you are free to do whatever you want. Most of the guys do sport somewhere in the regiment, watch a film or just play something on their laptop. You can even leave the base and go out to the city if you’d like to do so, however most of the legionnaires only go out during the weekend.
In my old regiment (2°REG), it doesn’t worth to leave because there’s nothing around, not even a correct bar or restaurant, so I passed most of my free time doing some sport. During the week, caporals and legionnaires have the first assembly at 6am when everyone must be present for the “appel”.
Do note that you can’t rent an apartment and live outside of your regiment during your first 5 years until you get promoted to sergeant (or caporal-chef, but I’ve never seen anyone becoming a CCH during their first contract). The good news is that since 2020, caporals having more than 3 years of service can buy a car. It makes life a lot easier.
45 days off a year
As a French soldier, you’ll have 45 days off from your second year. It’s one of the biggest privileges I had because as a civilian you’ll get a bit more than 20 days off a year and it’s not too much. You won’t always be able to take all the 45 days off, but in my case I never had more than 15 days left in. I was also very lucky because almost each year I had a long vacation in the second part of summer. It depends on your unit’s program, but we usually got 3 to 4 weeks off in summer and it’s something that other people can’t afford. It allows you to get some rest both physically and mentally. During these periods I mostly went to somewhere in Europe for a week with my girlfriend and the rest of my free time I spent back home.
If you want to go abroad during your holiday, you must obtain an authorization from your hierarchy. The first time you have to launch your demand 6 weeks before leaving and 2 weeks before from your second demand. I didn’t always ask for an official authorization for each country I visited during my time in the Legion, but after my RSM I always tried to follow the rules. I advise you to do the same, but if no, make sure that you don’t have anything compromising in your bags. Some young legionnaires come back from their holiday with the boarding pass in their pocket or the luggage tag on their stuff. Not a good idea because sometimes the OPSR controls the bags when they know that legionnaires are coming back from a long holiday.
Holiday possibilities in France
As a legionnaire, it’s quite hard to integrate the French society since you don’t have friends in civilian life. It makes hard to learn the language and live like normal people. I felt for a long time that even if I was living in France, it was like being in a conclave. Even after years in France, I didn’t know any French people only those I met in work making me feel a foreigner even after I obtained the French nationality. So, I need to admit that I regret that I didn’t discover the following possibilities earlier.
Because even as a legionnaire, you have hundreds of possibilities in France allowing you to become a real French citizen.
The Union nationale des centres sportifs de plein air, shortened to UCPA, is a non-profit French organization that makes outdoor sports holidays available for people of ages 18-45. You don’t have to be French to participate and the prices are affordable. There are so many different activities that everyone will find its pleasure. You’ll have the choice between excursions, equitation, surf, climbing, diving, paragliding and almost everything you can imagine. It allows you to pass your free time with native French people and make some friends in real life… Read more about UCPA
For those who are already having a family life, IGESA offers quality but low-cost travelling possibilities. IGESA is only opened for soldiers of the French army (Legionnaires included), so you will meet soldiers during your vacation, but it’s not the same atmosphere at all. It also allows you to get in touch with different people that will pull you out of your routine… Read more about IGESA
My life before the Legion
I visited several countries with my family before I joined the Legion, so I’ve already had the curiosity to see other places. During my time as a legionnaire and even since I kept this traveler mindset and continued to discover as many places in France and in Europe as I could. The good part of having served in 2°REG is that I passed almost a year in the mountains during my 8 years and saw places I’ve never could have as a civilian. I’ve even done a 4000+ summit during a mountain course, so this traveling everywhere in the country thing was something I loved as a soldier. If your actual life is like the one, we live in the FFL, don’t hesitate to mention during your interview, it only will help you cause.
Here is the article about my First holiday in the French Foreign Legion!