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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.

And the final weekend of July is usually one of the busiest weekends of the year on the roads as juilletistes return and aoûtiens set out. It even has a special name – chassé-croisé.

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. 

‘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 was 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

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 in the French 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.

READ ALSO The 8 signs that August has arrived in France

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 return in September, the septembriste is not a category easily accessible to everyone, but mostly made up by the young, the child-free 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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STRIKES

French pension strikes: What to expect on January 31st

The final day of January marks the second - and almost certainly not the last - day of mass strike action in the ongoing battle between the French government and unions over pension reform. Here's what to expect on January 31st.

French pension strikes: What to expect on January 31st

Unions have promised the ‘mother of all battles’ against Emmanuel Macron’s plans to reform the French pension system, including raising the retirement age from 62 to 64.

5 minutes to understand French pension reform

However, the action for the moment is mostly concentrated into a series of one-day actions, with the first taking place on January 19th.

The next ‘mass mobilisation’ is scheduled for Tuesday, January 31st. It is supported by all eight French trades union federations, which means that support is likely to be high and disruption severe on certain services.

Workers in essential services such as transport must declare their intention to strike 48 hours in advance, allowing transport operators to produce strike timetables, which are usually released 24 hours in advance. We will update this story as new information is released.

Trains

Rail unions are strongly backing the action – on January 19th, 46 percent of all rail workers walked out, and unions say they expect a similar level of support on January 31st. This would likely lead to a similar level of disruption with around half of high-speed TGV trains cancelled and 9 out of 10 of local TER services. 

International services including Eurostar could also see cancellations or a revised timetable. 

Some unions have filed a provisional strike notice running from 7pm on January 25th to 8am on February 2nd, with the option of a renewable strike after that – however it is not yet known how well supported this action will be. 

City public transport

Workers on Paris’ RATP network also saw high levels of support for the previous strike – with most Metro lines running rush-hour-only services and some closed altogether, while buses ran a severely limited service. The full details of exactly what will be running will be revealed on Monday evening by RATP.

Other cities including Marseille, Nice, Lyon and Nantes will likely see a repeat of severely disrupted bus, tram and Metro services.

Ports

The CGT union representing port and dock workers are also set to walk out on January 31st, but have filed a strike notice running from January 26th. Full details of their action are yet to be clarified.

Schools

The major teaching unions have called for another 24-hour walkout, so some schools are likely to close. The January 19th action saw roughly half of teachers across France walk out.

Ski lifts

The two unions that represent more than 90 percent of workers in ski resorts have called an ‘unlimited’ strike beginning on January 31st. So far Tuesday is the only confirmed strike day, but others could be announced. Strikes in ski resorts generally mainly affect the operation of ski lifts.

Petrol stations

The hardline CGT union has announced extra strike dates for workers at oil refineries, and also threatened blockades. This can result in shortages at petrol stations as supplies of petrol and diesel are blocked from leaving the refineries and reaching filling stations.

Power cuts 

CGT members working in the state electricity sector have also threatened more ‘direct action’ including power cuts to selected towns. This is not a legitimate strike tactic – in fact France’s labour minister says it is “a criminal offence” and will be punished accordingly – but it could happen nevertheless.

On January 19th two towns – one in the greater Paris region and one in northern France – lost power for a couple of hours in what was described as a deliberate cut. The union says it intends to target towns that elected MPs who support the pension reform.

Mairies

The Communist leader Fabien Roussel has called on town halls to close on Tuesday in ‘solidarity’ with the strikes. The decision is down to each individual commune, but in Paris the mayor Anne Hidalgo has announced that the mairie will close for the day, so you won’t be able to keep administrative appointments, although city services like bin collection will run as normal.

Demos

January 31st will also see another day of marches and demonstrations in towns and cities around France. On January 19th more than 1 million people took to the streets and unions will be hoping for a similar turnout on January 31st. One striking feature of the demos on January 19th was the comparatively large turnout in smaller French towns that usually do not see large demos.

Other strike dates

The above information relates to January 31st only, and services before and after this date are expected to run as normal.

Some unions, however, have declared ‘unlimited’ strikes, so there could be disruptions on these services on other days – these include ski lift operators, truck drivers and oil refinery workers.

It is highly likely that further one-day or multi-day strikes will be announced for February and March, as the pension reform bill comes before parliament, you can keep up to date with out strike calendar HERE.

We will update this article as more information becomes available, and you can also keep up with the latest in our strike section HERE.

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