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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

8 maps that explain France’s north-south divide

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.

8 maps that explain France's north-south divide
Pastry wars are just the beginning of France's north/south divide. Photo by Mink Mingle on Unsplash

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. 

Weather

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 le Grand Est) but it’s not as if the whole bottom half of the country is always sunny either.

Cooking

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 as this gastro-map shows, it’s not as a simple as “huile d’olive” in the south and “beurre” in the north. Cooking with lard (saindoux) is actually popular across much of l’Héxagone.

Accent

 

That’s right, much the same as in every country with a bigger landmass than Luxemburg, 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. Parisians will just be repulsed by all of them.

The truth is that many French people, regardless of where they’re from, speak with a fairly neutral accent.

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.

Money

 

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 actually shows the 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.

Character

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.

Sport

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, as expected, is everywhere. 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.

Member comments

  1. 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?

  2. 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.

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LIVING IN FRANCE

What changes in France in July 2022

Summer's here and the time is right for national celebrations, traffic jams, strikes, Paris beaches, and ... changing the rules for new boilers.

What changes in France in July 2022

Summer holidays

The holiday season in France officially begins on Thursday, July 7th, as this is the date when school’s out for the summer. The weekend immediately after the end of the school year is expected to be a busy one on the roads and the railways as families start heading off on vacation.

READ ALSO 8 things to know about driving in France this summer

Strikes

But it wouldn’t really be summer in France without a few strikes – airport employees at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports will walk out on July 1st, while SNCF rail staff will strike on July 6th. Meanwhile Ryanair employees at Paris, Marseille and Toulouse airports will strike on yet-to-be-confirmed dates in July.

READ ALSO How strikes and staff shortages will affect summer in France

Parliamentary fireworks?

Prime minister Elisabeth Borne will present the government’s new programme in parliament on July 5th – this is expected to be a tricky day for the Macron government, not only does it not have the parliamentary majority that it needs to pass legislation like the new package of financial aid to help householders deal with the cost-of-living crisis, but opposition parties have indicated that they will table a motion of no confidence against Borne.

Parliament usually breaks for the summer at the end of July, but a special extended session to allow legislation to be passed means that MPs won’t get to go on holiday until at least August 9th. 

Fête nationale

July 14th is a public holiday in France, commemorating the storming of the Bastille which was the symbolic start of the French Revolution. As usual, towns and cities will host parades and fireworks – with the biggest military parade taking place on the Champs-Elysées in Paris – and many stores will remain closed.

As the national holiday falls on a Thursday this year, many French workers will take the opportunity to faire le pont.

Festival season really kicks in

You know summer’s here when France gets festival fever, with events in towns and cities across the country. You can find our pick of the summer celebrations here.

Paris Plages

The capital’s popular urban beaches return on July 9th on the banks of the Seine and beside the Bassin de la Villette in northern Paris, bringing taste of the seaside to the capital with swimming spots, desk chairs, beach games and entertainment.  

Summer sales end 

Summer sales across most of the country end on July 19th – unless you live in Alpes-Maritimes, when they run from July 6th to August 2nd, or the island of Corsica (July 13th to August 9th).

Tour de France

The Tour de France cycle race sets off on July 1st from Copenhagen and finishes up on the Champs-Elysée in Paris on July 24th.

New boilers

From July 1st, 2022, new equipment installed for heating or hot water in residential or professional buildings, must comply with a greenhouse gas emissions ceiling of 300 gCO2eq/KWh PCI. 

That’s a technical way of saying oil or coal-fired boilers can no longer be installed. Nor can any other type of boiler that exceeds the ceiling.

As per a decree published in the Journal Officiel in January, existing appliances can continue to be used, maintained and repaired, but financial aid of up to €11,000 is planned to encourage their replacement. 

Bike helmets

New standards for motorbike helmets come into effect from July 1st. Riders do not need to change their current helmets, but the “ECE 22.05” standard can no longer be issued – and all helmets sold must adhere to a new, more stringent “ECE 22.06” standards from July 2024

New cars

From July 6th new car models must be equipped with a black box that record driving parameters such as speed, acceleration or braking phases, wearing (or not) of a seat belt, indicator use, the force of the collision or engine speed, in case of accidents.

New cars II

From July 1st, the ecological bonus for anyone who buys an electric vehicle drops by €1,000, while rechargeable hybrids will be excluded from the aid system, “which will be reserved for electric vehicles whose CO2 emission rate is less than or equal to 20g/km”.

What’s in a name?

Historically, the French have been quite restrictive on the use of family names – remember the concern over the use of birth names on Covid vaccine documents? – but it becomes easier for an adult to choose to bear the name of his mother, his father, or both by a simple declaration to the civil status. All you have to do is declare your choice by form at the town hall of your home or place of birth.

Eco loans

In concert with the new boiler rules, a zero-interest loan of up to €30,000 to finance energy-saving renovations can be combined with MaPrimeRénov’, a subsidy for financing the same work, under certain conditions, from July 1st.

Rent rules

Non-professional private landlords advertising properties for rent must, from July 1st, include specific information about the property on the ad, including the size of the property in square metres, the area of town in which the property is in, the monthly rent and any supplements, whether the property is in a rent-control area, and the security deposit required. Further information, including the full list of requirements for any ad, is available here.

Perfume ban

More perfumes are to be added to a banned list for products used by children, such as soap-making kits, cosmetic sets, shampoos, or sweet-making games, or toys that have an aroma.

Atranol, chloroatranol (extracts of oak moss containing tannins), and methyl carbonate heptin, which smells like violets, will be banned from July 5th, because of their possible allergenic effects.

Furthermore, 71 new allergenic fragrances – including camphor, menthol, vanilin, eucalyptus spp. leaf oil, rose flower oil, lavendula officinalis, turpentine – will be added to the list of ingredients that must be clearly indicated on a toy or on an attached label.

Ticket resto limits

The increased ticket resto limit ended on June 30th, so from July 1st employees who receive the restaurant vouchers will once again be limited to spending €19 per day in restaurants, cafés and bars. The limit was increased to €38 during the pandemic, when workers were working from home.

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