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What truth behind French regional stereotypes?

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Image: AFP
17:45 CET+01:00
From January 1st, France's national map has been 'streamlined', fusing two or three regions together in some places to help administration run more smoothly. But how much do you know about the regional identities that could be lost with this change?

We've all heard about the moody, good-looking, fine-dining, well-dressed Parisians... but what about the rest of the country? 

With the help of a few French people (who better to recognize their own stereotypes than the locals?), the Internet, and Google's auto-fill search function, we've whittled down some of the more interesting stereotypes about the different French regions.

But is there any truth to them? We'll let you decide.

Photo: Daniel Dalet/d-maps.com

To find out where the locals are said to be fond of a tipple, too lazy to work, and where they aren't even considered to be French at all, read on.

Brittany, northwestern France

Almost any stereotype about the Bretons begins with them being alcoholics. Other words that cropped up online were 'stubborn' and 'scheming'.

Google users (see below) also wonder why they drink, why they are all brothers, why they limp, and why they have crossed eyes.

The brothers bit is based on a joke - Why are people from Brittany all brothers? Because they have Quimper (the name of one of the main cities, but also sounds like "qu'un père" which means "only one father".) 

So why the drinking stereotype? And is it true? We asked Fabien, a Frenchman who was born and raised in Brittany. 

"The reason we have a reputation for drinking is because we do. A lot," he told The Local.

"But it's not the worst reputation you could have. Have you heard the way they speak in the north?”

Which brings us to...

Nord-Pas-de-Calais et Picardie, northern France

One regional stereotype that's done the rounds online describes these northerners as "welcoming, alcoholic, incestuous, unemployed people who speak really fast in a weird language." That would be the regional patois called ch’ti or picard.

Although Belgium's French Community officially acknowledges ch'ti as a regional language, the French government has not given it any such recognition. Ch'ti uses more hard sounds than Standard French, so the word cheval is pronounced keval, for example.

Perhaps it's this language barrier that has led those from other regions to think so negatively of the northerners. An online commentor on entertainment site Reddit called people from the region “alcoholics that insist you get drunk with them, usually to forget the rain”.

The constant gloomy weather is said to contribute to a general sadness and depression. 

Photo: Daniel Dalet

Normandy, northern France

According to another Reddit commenter, ”P’têt ben qu’oui, p’têt ben qu’non" (maybe yes, maybe no) is a common saying attributed to the indecisive Normans. Their inability to give a straight answer resulted in the term “a Norman's Answer" to refer to non-commital responses.

They are also apparently addicted to apples, as evidenced by their love of apple cider, apple brandy, apple tart and so on. 

The popular French comic series Asterix and Obelisk only added to the the cliché of the Normans being wishy-washy.

 

Pays-de-la-Loire, northwestern France

Stereotypes from this region tend to focus on the people of Nantes, who are described as cold and possibly actually Bretons. Many Nantais consider the city to be in Brittany even though it's technically part of the Pays de la Loire, but it's a highly disputed topic.  Because of its location on the confluence of two rivers, Nantes calls itself the "Venice of the West". 



Alsace, Champagne-Ardenne et Lorraine, northeastern France

One map of stereotypes in France marked those from the east of the country as "cold, uncommunicative people with ridiculous accents". Many questioned whether they could even be considered French at all - the regional traditions of saukerkraut, beer, and Christmas markets are certainly more Germanic than French. 

The Champagne-Ardenne region is, of course, famous for a certain bubbly drink.

Photo: Keep Calm and Curry On

Auvergne et Rhône-Alpes, central and southeastern France

The cliché of Auvergne is that there’s a whole lot of nothing going on. Oh, and some volcanoes.

One resident, Juliet Shrine, told The Local that the people are known for being stingy, outdoorsy peasants with good cheese. 

Further east in the Rhône-Alpes, the population’s reputation improves slightly thanks to Lyon’s reputation as the nation’s gastronomic capital. (Tartiflette! Raclette! Fondue!) The Lyonnais are said to be snobbish like Parisians, but better cooks.

Centre Val-de-Loire

These folks boast of having the purest French accent. According to France 3, writers such as Rabelais, Ronsard, and Alfred de Vigny have claimed in the past that "it's here in the area between Tours and Orléans that the best French is spoken!"

Photo: Agusti Amoros/Flickr

Burgundy and Franche-Comté

The clichés of this region all tend to be gastronomy-oriented, such as the wine, escargots à la Bourguignonne (snails in garlic-herb butter), and mustard from Dijon, although in reality most mustard called "Dijon" is now made elsewhere. 

Aquitaine, Limousin, and Poitou-Charentes

With Bordeaux as the capital, it’s no surprise that the people of this area, set to merge into one region, are seen as snobby wine-lovers. 

But Clément Daubrenet, a native of the region, says the snobbishness is justified.

“Hey, it’s good wine,” he told The Local. “No joke here.” 

The city of Bordeaux has the reputation of being a bit snobby in general (just ask the folks from Toulouse) with the town long being seen as a home of bourgeois.  

As for Poitou-Charentes, there’s not much to say, and Limousin is even emptier and more boring than Auvergne.

Photo: CCFoodTravel/Flickr

Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, southeastern France

The general far from kind stereotype is that people from this region are seen as liars, cheaters, and racists and weird  speakers of French, given the strong accent. The Marseillais are accused of being violent criminals and people from Nice are apparently not nice at all.  

In fact, Nice was ranked by Time Magazine’s readers as one of the unfriendliest cities in the world. (Lyon also made the list.)

The people of Provence are said to be quite lazy, as demonstrated in their expression: “If you get the urge to do some work, sit down until it passes”. 

Maité Monchal is the director of Vanderbilt-in-France, a school for American university students in Aix-en-Provence.  She says this proverb is a caricature, "But it's true that in Provence we like to take our time in life. We take advantage of the sun, the sea, and our sidewalk cafés," she tells The Local.  

Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées, southern France

Those in the Midi-Pyrénées have the reputation of being hard-working, thanks to the local aeronautics industry. 

Those on the Languedoc-Roussillon side, however, apparently take a lot of naps. “Lazy” was a recurring adjective we heard. This could cause cultural clashes with the two regions set to join together under the new reform.

Frenchman Bertrand Marcou told The Local that southerners aren’t necessarily lazy, but that in many countries the northerners are considered hard workers while the southerners seem to just take advantage of the sun. 

“It comes from a difference in resources,” he told The Local.

“The south of Portugal, Spain, Italy, and France are more arid, with tougher climates, and therefore difficult for agriculture or industry or regional planning.”

Photo: Metronews Toulouse/Flickr

Corsica

According to the Google auto-fill search feature, Corsicans are not considered to be very French, but somehow simultaneously Italians and Arabs. "Dangerous" and "good-looking" are also commonly associated words.

And many point to the stereotypes about crime and mafia connections. One Reddit user says: “You can get shot by an AK-47 here if you do deals with the wrong people."

 

Do you disagree with some of these stereotypes, or are they spot-on?

Tell us in the comments section.

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