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.)
France traditionally has two holiday tribes – les juilletistes and les aoûtiens – but which do you think is the best holiday month?
— The Local France (@TheLocalFrance) July 1, 2021
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.
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