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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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ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Italian word of the day: ‘Inchiodare’

You'll nail this word in no time.

Italian word of the day: 'Inchiodare'

What do a carpenter, a detective, and a bank robber screeching to a halt in their getaway car all have in common?

In English, not much – but in Italian, they could all be said to inchiodare (eenk-ee-ohd-AHR-eh) in the course of their professional activities.

In its simplest form, inchiodare simply means ‘to nail’ (chiodo, ‘kee-OH-do’, is a nail) – a picture to a wall, or a leg to a table.

Ha trovato questo cartello inchiodato alla sua porta.
She found this notice nailed to her door.

Inchioderò la mensola al muro più tardi.
I’ll nail the shelf to the wall later.

But like ‘to nail’, inchiodare has more than one definition.

You can use it to describe someone or something being ‘pinned’ in place, without actually having been literally nailed there.

Mi ha inchiodato al muro.
He pinned me to the wall.

La mia gamba è inchiodata al terreno.
My leg is pinned to the ground.

You can be metaphorically inchiodato to a place in the sense of being stuck there, tied down, or trapped.

Dovrei essere in vacanza e invece sono inchiodata alla mia scrivenia.
I should be on holiday and instead I’m stuck at my desk.

Don'T Forger You'Re Here Forever GIF - The Simpsons Mr Burns Youre Here GIFs

Siamo inchiodati a questa scuola per altri tre anni.
We’re stuck at this school for another three years.

Sono stati inchiodati dal fuoco di armi.
They were trapped by gunfire.

Just like in English, you can inchiodare (‘nail’) someone in the sense of proving their guilt.

Chiunque sia stato, ha lasciato tracce di DNA che lo inchioderanno.
Whoever it was, they left traces of DNA that will take them down.

Ti inchioderò per questo omicidio.
I’m going to nail you for this murder.

Thomas Sadoski Tommy GIF by CBS

Senza la pistola non lo inchioderemo, perché non abbiamo altre prove.
Without the gun we’re not going to get him, because we have no other proof.

For reasons that are less clear, the word can also mean to slam on the brakes in a car.

Ha inchiodato e ha afferrato la pistola quando ha visto la volante bloccando la strada.
He slammed on the brakes and grabbed the gun when he saw the police car blocking the road.

Hanno inchiodato la macchina a pochi passi da noi.
They screeched to a halt in the car just a few feet away from us.

Those last two definitions mean that you’re very likely to encounter the word when watching mystery shows or listening to true crime podcasts. Look out for it the next time you watch a detective drama.

In the meantime, have a think about what (or who) you can inchiodare this week.

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

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