Since before Thatcher the UK has had a special relationship with our American allies. Despite being described "as two nations divided by a common language"* Britain seems to have allied itself very strongly with the US, its ever increasing pace of life and its permanent homage to the great god, Consumerism.
Europe on the other hand, remains immune. Try putting pressure on French or German workers to work the insane unpaid hours US corporations now expect as standard in their ever raising bar of "high-performance" culture and just watch how quickly the trade unions react. Similarly the need for mega-malls seemingly offering 24 hour shopping 7 days a week just doesn't happen east of the channel.
Shops here in Switzerland are closed for at least an hour, often two every lunchtime. Saturday afternoon seems to be early closing for most, and even late Saturday opening at the large co-op in Buochs only extended as far as 6pm - the slightly smaller Migros had closed at 5. Of course, Sundays the whole continent closes - full-stop!
I can't help think we poor Brits made the wrong choice of cultural allies. Lunchtime should be for relaxing, and savouring. Lunch should be real food, eaten on real plates with metal cutlery not some burger bolted down off a disposable plate in the seconds snatched between meetings. Oh, and a glass of wine or even pint of beer at lunchtime does not constitute either major alcoholism or a total inabilty to perform meaningful work.
Sundays should be days spent with the family, long cycle rides, picnics on the beach or taking the dog for a walk through the woods, or perhaps a little gentle gardening, not rushing off in search of the latest ephemeral ultra-fashion brand sold for thousands of times what the poverty stricken factory worker in the Phillipines received for making it.
Today we drove north to Schaffhausen. Nothing much else to do, all the shops were closed.
*see http://everythingyouknowaboutenglishiswrong.com/blog1/category/churchill/ for suggestions that this quote was not Churchill, Wilde or anyone else you might think originated it.