Juilletistes vs Aoûtiens: Do France’s two summer holiday 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
For years France has had two tribes of holidaymakers - juilletistes and aoûtiens. But do these two traditional tribes still exist?
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

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  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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