Is there any truth behind France's regional stereotypes?

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Is there any truth behind France's regional stereotypes?
Figurines on a French map. (Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN / AFP)

How much do you know about France's distinct regional identities and the stereotypes that go along with them?


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.

Brittany, northwestern France

Almost any stereotype about the Bretons begins with them being alcoholics. When googling 'les bretons sont ...' words that cropped up were 'stubborn' and 'scheming'.

Other Google suggestions indicated that people 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? The Local spoke with Fabien, a Frenchman who was born and raised in Brittany, in a previous interview.

"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.

READ MORE: 'Ch'tis' to 'Parigots': What are the locals called in different parts of France?

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 commentator on entertainment site Reddit once 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. 

READ MORE: Snobs, beaches and drunks - 5 things this joke map teaches us about France

Normandy, northern France

The Normans are reputed for being indecisive, and their inability to give a straight answer has resulted in the term “a Norman's Answer" to refer to non-committal 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 has historically called itself the "Venice of the West". 

Alsace, Champagne-Ardenne et Lorraine, northeastern France

A few years ago, there was a joke map of stereotypes in France circulating online and it 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. To be fair, parts of eastern France were considered Germany for many years prior to World War I.


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

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 in a previous interview 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.

READ MORE: 15 reasons Clermont-Ferrand is the best place in France

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!"

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 in a previous interview. “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.

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 often accused of being violent criminals and people from Nice are apparently not nice at all.  

READ MORE: Does the French city of Marseille deserve its 'dangerous' reputation?

In fact, Cannes, Nice and Marseille all made the list in Travel & Leisure's ranking of the unfriendliest cities in the world. (Lyon was also featured.)

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”. 

That being said, Provence is also known for having a high quality of life, lots of sunshine, seaside and beautiful natural landscapes.

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 in a previous interview 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.”


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 Reddit users also pointed to the stereotypes about crime and mafia connections, which may or may not be confirmed by the 2009 film 'A Prophet'.


Do you disagree with some of these stereotypes, or are they spot-on? Tell us in the comments section.

An original version of this article was first published in 2016.


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