Juilletistes vs Aoûtiens: Do France’s two summer holiday tribes still exist?

For years France has had two tribes of holidaymakers - juilletistes and aoûtiens. But do these two traditional tribes still exist?

Juilletistes vs Aoûtiens: Do France's two summer holiday tribes still exist?
When do you prefer your beach time? Photo: Valery Hache/AFP
Summer holidays are a big deal in France, with cities emptying out in July and August as people head to the coast or the countryside and it’s common for people to take a month off work – but which month?
One of the most iconic forms of rivalry between French holidaymakers is the opposition between the juilletistes and the aoûtiens – those who go on holiday in July versus those who prefer August.
The terms date back to the summer of 1969 when a fourth week of paid leave was voted into French law. It was a milestone piece of legislation that laid the basis for one of France’s most important annual traditions, les grandes vacances (the “big” summer holidays).
Suddenly eight out of 10 French people were able to take a summer holiday. Some chose July, others preferred August – made possible by the fact schools in France close for pretty much the whole of July and August.
But traditionally, the month you took your holidays reflected more than a simple preference. 

The final weekend of August is usually very busy on the roads as the juilletistes return and the aoûtiens set out on their holidays. Photo: JEFF PACHOUD / AFP
‘Well-to-do’ vs. ‘working class’

Back in the 1960s the August holidaymakers were largely working class as this was the month factories closed across France. July on the other hand was reserved for executives and professionals. The idea of the ‘well-to-do’ July clan was contrasted with the ‘working class’ August clan.

The clichés grew into deep cultural stereotypes. The juilletistes were seen as lazy people who escaped to an exotic place while everyone else were still working hard, only to return to work in August when things are still calm. (Of course a juilletiste would say someone needed to keep the country running while the workers went away on holiday.)

The French would talk about a chassé-croisé (a crossover chase) the weekend between the months of July and August when one clan went on holiday and the other returned to work in the cities.

READ ALSO: How much holiday time do the French really get every year?

Does the divide still exist today?

Times have changed and people no longer have the same habits. Over the years, as the service sector expanded and changed, the divide between the two different casts slowly faded away as people began to pick their holiday month based much more on personal preferences and workplace demands.

It’s now safe to say that this rivalry is no longer accurate, although it remains firmly installed into the French’s psyche.

August still remains the emblematic summer month – even more so than July – with cities virtually emptying and everything seemingly closing down. It’s common for local shops, cafés and pharmacies to be closed for the month, with signs simply reading ‘back in September’ and you should probably forget about getting any administrative task done during August.

But for several years now, there has been a new tribe, the septembristes, who wait for September before packing up their things – probably to avoid the juilletistes and the aoûtiens.

As schools close in July and August, the septembriste is not a category easily accessible to everyone, but mostly made up by the young, the childfree and the elderly.

By Olivia Sorrel-Dejerine

Member comments

  1. As I am retired and very fortunate to have friends in Paris, I get to visit sometimes twice a year from America. I love visiting and staying for maybe 4 weeks each time. My favorite months to visit are June when the roses in the Parc de Bagatelle are blooming, and it is absolutely worth the visit. And the other month is September so I can enjoy the European Heritage Days or what some call Patrimony weekend. If I could afford to move to Paris I would in a heartbeat.

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Le Havre rules: How to talk about French towns beginning with Le, La or Les

If you're into car racing, French politics or visits to seaside resorts you are likely at some point to need to talk about French towns with a 'Le' in the title. But how you talk about these places involves a slightly unexpected French grammar rule. Here's how it works.

An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre.
An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre. It can be difficult to know what prepositions to use for places like this - so we have explained it for you. (Photo by AFP)

If you’re listening to French chat about any of those topics, at some point you’re likely to hear the names of Mans, Havre and Touquet bandied about.

And this is because French towns that have a ‘Le’ ‘La’ or ‘Les’ in the title lose them when you begin constructing sentences. 

As a general rule, French town, commune and city names do not carry a gender. 

So if you wanted to describe Paris as beautiful, you could write: Paris est belle or Paris est beau. It doesn’t matter what adjectival agreement you use. 

For most towns and cities, you would use à to evoke movement to the place or explain that you are already there, and de to explain that you come from/are coming from that location:

Je vais à Marseille – I am going to Marseille

Je suis à Marseille – I am in Marseille 

Je viens de Marseille – I come from Marseille 

But a select few settlements in France do carry a ‘Le’, a ‘La’ or a ‘Les’ as part of their name. 

In this case the preposition disappears when you begin formulating most sentences, and you structure the sentence as you would any other phrase with a ‘le’, ‘la’ or ‘les’ in it.


Le is the most common preposition for two names (probably something to do with the patriarchy) with Le Havre, La Mans, Le Touquet and the town of Le Tampon on the French overseas territory of La Réunion (more on that later)

A good example of this is Le Havre, a city in northern France where former Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, who is tipped to one day run for the French presidency, serves as mayor. 

Edouard Philippe’s twitter profile describes him as the ‘Maire du Havre’, using a masculine preposition

Here we can see that his location is Le Havre, and his Twitter handle is Philippe_LH (for Le Havre) but when he comes to describe his job the Le disappears.

Because Le Havre is masculine, he describes himself as the Maire du Havre rather than the Maire de Havre (Anne Hidalgo, for example would describe herself as the Maire de Paris). 

For place names with ‘Le’ in front of them, you should use prepositions like this:

Ja vais au Touquet – I am going to Le Touquet

Je suis au Touquet – I am in Le Touquet 

Je viens du Touquet – I am from Le Touquet 

Je parle du Touquet – I am talking about Le Touquet

Le Traité du Touquet – the Le Touquet Treaty


Some towns carry ‘La’ as part of their name. La Rochelle, the scenic town on the west coast of France known for its great seafood and rugby team, is one such example.

In French ‘à la‘ or ‘de la‘ is allowed, while ‘à le‘ becomes au and ‘de le’ becomes du. So for ‘feminine’ towns such as this, you should use the following prepositions:

Je vais à La Rochelle – I am going to La Rochelle

Je viens de La Rochelle – I am coming from La Rochelle 


And some places have ‘Les’ in front of their name, like Les Lilas, a commune in the suburbs of Paris. The name of this commune literally translates as ‘The Lilacs’ and was made famous by Serge Gainsbourg’s song Le Poinçonneur des Lilas, about a ticket puncher at the Metro station there. 

When talking about a place with ‘Les’ as part of the name, you must use a plural preposition like so:

Je suis le poinçonneur des Lilas – I am the ticket puncher of Lilas 

Je vais aux Lilas – I am going to Les Lilas

Il est né aux Lilas – He was born in Les Lilas  


Islands follow more complicated rules. 

If you are talking about going to one island in particular, you would use à or en. This has nothing to do with gender and is entirely randomised. For example:

Je vais à La Réunion – I am going to La Réunion 

Je vais en Corse – I am going to Corsica 

Generally speaking, when talking about one of the en islands, you would use the following structure to suggest movement from the place: 

Je viens de Corse – I am coming from Corsica 

For the à Islands, you would say:

Je viens de La Réunion – I am coming from La Réunion 

When talking about territories composed of multiple islands, you should use aux.

Je vais aux Maldives – I am going to the Maldives. 

No preposition needed 

There are some phrases in French which don’t require any a preposition at all. This doesn’t change when dealing with ‘Le’ places, such as Le Mans – which is famous for its car-racing track and Motorcycle Grand Prix. Phrases that don’t need a preposition include: 

Je visite Le Mans – I am visiting Le Mans

J’aime Le Mans – I like Le Mans

But for a preposition phrase, the town becomes simply Mans, as in Je vais au Mans.