The prime summer vacation months in France are July and August, when school is out and the weather is beautiful. Which raises a question: when should a French person go on vacation? The french even have nicknames for those who take a holiday in the summer!
Traditionally, most people went in August, when factories closed and the country pretty much shut down. But as the French economy has evolved and manufacturing has declined, people can now choose which month to go on vacation. And they usually go at the same time every year, which has divided the country into two groups. They even have special names: the juilletistes, who vacation in July (July is juillet in French) and the aoûtiens (for août, or August.)
These two tribes have different characteristics and each views the other with a kind of suspicion, bordering on disdain. Some sociologists claim that the most important social division in France isn’t based on race, gender, religion, or even political affiliation, but by when you take your summer vacation!
Let’s take a look at each tribe.
The juilletistes consider themselves the smarter ones. A majority of people still vacation in August so those who choose July find lower prices and smaller crowds. “Why go in August when you have to pay more and fight for a spot on the beach?” they ask. The juilletistes enjoy sipping their wine in uncrowded cafés. And they especially love to flaunt their tans when they get back to the office, showing off to aoûtien colleagues who they tease as being “as white as aspirin.”
As a bonus, the juilletistes get a kind of double vacation because they return in August when the country slows down and there’s not much work to do. Clever!
How do the juilletistes view the aoûtiens? As conformist, profligate (or rich, which is even worse in France), and not very clever. A bunch of grinds.
This tribe considers itself the responsible one. There is work to be done and they are not leaving until it’s finished! The aoûtiens think of themselves as the backbone of France, the upholders of civic duty. Why, even the president of France waits until August to take vacation!
Yes, prices may be a bit higher in August but the weather is guaranteed to be hot (not always true in July.) And aoûtien kids go back to school with glowing fresh tans, not faded July ones.
How do the aoûtiens view the juilletistes? As lazy, the kind who slink out of the office before the work is done, and vaguely unpatriotic. A bunch of shirkers.
So, which are you, a clever juilletiste or a responsible aoûtien? Smart with money or upholder of tradition? The choice is yours!
Keith Van Sickle splits his time between Silicon Valley and Provence. He is the author of One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence and Are We French Yet? Keith & Val’s Adventures in Provence. Read more at Life in Provence.