Language and culture For Members

8 maps that explain France's north-south divide

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 27 Feb, 2023 Updated Mon 27 Feb 2023 11:15 CEST
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A climate protester in Toulouse holds up a sign reading, 'Save the only planet that has chocolatines' - chocolatines are also known as pain au choclat, depending on where you are in France. Photo by Charly TRIBALLEAU / AFP

If you’ve ever wondered why French people seem to love moaning about their northern/southern counterparts, these light-hearted maps will shed some light on the matter.


Criticising people from the opposite side of the country is a bit of a national sport in France. After all, their food, weather, character and accent are not the same. What’s not to hate?

READ ALSO French regional stereotypes - is half the country really always drunk?

As with most stereotypes there is some truth to France’s regional idiosyncrasies, but none are really quite serious enough for a wall to be built slap bang in the middle of the Loire Valley just yet.

These entertaining and largely tongue-in-cheek maps explain some of the prejudices and relative truths behind the north-south divide. 


There’s probably no bigger gripe for southerners in the north than le climat de merde (shitty weather). Turn the tables and it’ll be northerners talking about the insufferable summer heat of the south east.

This Metéo France map showing the number of rainy days per year over each area of France proves that it can be pretty wet and cloudy up north (especially in Brittany and Grand Est) but it’s not as if the whole bottom half of the country is always sunny either.



In France, the land of ‘haute-cuisine’, some regional rivalries over who has the best grub were bound to develop.

The snootiest food connoisseurs from either side of this fictional north-south border will happily mock the other one’s fixation on using either butter or olive oil for their cooking.

But although there is a preference for “huile d’olive” further south and “beurre” in the north, cooking with lard (saindoux) is actually popular across much of l’Héxagone.


Proportion of people who cook with butter (left) or oil (right) by French region
by u/holytriplem in MapPorn




That’s right, much the same as in every country with a bigger landmass than Luxembourg, France has different regional accents.

Southerners will whine about the incomprehensible ch'ti dialect of Nord-Pas-de-Calais whereas northerners will mock and pigeonhole every southern accent into one, while certain Parisians will claim to 'not have an accent'.

READ ALSO Why all the snobbery about regional accents in France?

There are of course many regional accents as this map depicts, but once again there’s not such an obvious north-south divide in the way people speak apart from with a handful of words.


Also, beware of too much mockery as glottophobie - discriminating against someone because of their accent - is illegal in France.



Here’s another map that disproves an idle cliché: ‘the industrial north together with Paris are rich whereas the drought-hit, lazy south is poor'.

Comically titled “If France was a pizza” given INSEE’s mouthwatering yellow and red colour choice, the map shows the 2015 median income of French communes across the country.

The wealth distribution is far from being a north vs south divide - the French Riviera and large swathes of the east are as rich as Paris, and the post-industrial “rust-belt” of France’s far north has seen better times - but the wealth prejudice somehow prevails.



French people from the north have a reputation for being unfriendly introverts whereas southerners are known to be fun-loving and happier.

And of course there's Parisians, who everybody hates.

It’s fair to say that bad weather can certainly dampen people’s mood, but in reality it’s really down to the individual.

Except if you’re from Paris, in which case you’re just a snobbish and rude narcissist (this map would have us believe).


Chocolate pastries

The pain au chocolat v chocolatine battle has been raging for centuries and essentially comes down to a geographical divide.

To be clear, we’re not talking about two different types of chocolate breakfast pastries, just the words used to refer to the same item.

In the south west of the country it's a chocolatine, in most of the rest of France it's a pain au chocolat - although there are some exceptions as this map reflects.

Why this raises pulses between French people we don’t know; maybe it’s the sugar rush.



France is a great sporting nation but rather than bask in their triumphs, some pigheaded supporters of the country’s two most popular sports - football and rugby - would rather have a go at each other.

You know the drill: “football is for hooligans”, “well at least I don’t have cauliflower ears”.

The stereotype says that rugby is only played in the south whereas football is just as big in the north, but as these oddly shaped maps of France suggest, it’s yet again not quite as simple as that. 

Rugby is most fervently supported in the southwest where to many it’s a religion (there’s even a chapel called ‘Notre Dame du Rugby’). Football is everywhere but definitely more prevalent in the north. And as the map showcases, there are other sports that are popular in France.


Stereotypes can be funny but are usually dumb

This rather unrefined map of French regional stereotypes is a great way to cap off this roundup of French clichés about northerners and southerners and their opinions about each other.

There are definitely nuanced differences between both sides, and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of friendly banter, as long as it doesn’t turn into bigotry.




The Local 2023/02/27 11:15

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me_60e85ad946352 2023/02/27 19:26
Can anyone give me the link to the source for the map of the sports. AT this scale I find it difficult to read, and it does not enlarge well
aj_andy 2023/02/27 13:44
The last map is the best! Good laugh on a Monday morning!
ukdave674 2022/01/29 13:26
The, 'North/South divide appears in almost every country. In Britain (as a Southerner myself) find Northerners on holiday boring by the way they continually tell all who listened, how much better things were 'up North'. Like France & Germany, industry is more prominent in the North, wages are higher, and there is much more 'club like social activity than in the largely agricultural South. In Germany, the southern folk of Bavaria have more in common with their neighbouring Austrians than with the peoples of Northern Germany. For example, Bavaria (like Austria) is mostly Catholic, whereas the North is predominantly Protestant. In the UK, Southern England (beyond the M25) is again more agricultural than the industrialised North.
hupkensconsult 2022/01/29 05:05
On my IPad, I see 8 images of maps, one of which is actually a collage of 4 maps. Perhaps it depends on which appareil you are reading this?
[email protected] 2019/10/23 20:53
So where are all the maps to which the article referrers?

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