Juilletiste ou Aoûtien?

Juilletiste ou Aoutien?If one thing is sacrosanct in France, it’s vacation time. And when the schools close in July and August, it’s more than just the summer holidays: these are les grandes vacances.

Ain’t life grand? Everyone, but everyone – goes away. It’s not enough to simply take time off from work. Il faut partir. The question on everybody’s lips is – “Vous partez? Où?”

A question of only slightly lesser importance than ‘où’ is: ‘Quand?’ When you are leaving is almost as vital as where you are going. And as with any question of faith, there are different schools of belief. The two main camps are those who go away in July – les Juilletistes – and those who wait until August – les Aoûtiens.

Les Juilletistes – These are people who just can’t wait to get away. They long to be first and to come back tanned and relaxed while everyone else is still stressed. And they look forward to a second break when they return during the dead weeks of August. No traffic. No line-ups at the lunch counter. Hardly anyone haunting the office. Not surprisingly, Juilletistes are viewed with suspicion and perhaps a hint of envy.

Les Aoûtiens – They are the traditionalists, the moral majority. Also the self-employed (moi). They are the worker bees. They cannot afford to take off before the half-year financial results have been put to bed, the president has spoken to the nation on the 14th of July, and it is safe to assume that France has rolled up its sidewalks for a long summer’s sièste.

I’m normally an Aoûtienne. Not just for the reasons above, but because I’ve always found it unbearable to be coming back to work when everybody else is on their way to the beach. But this summer is different…this year we have decided to stay put.

We’ve been intending to do this for years. Ever since we entered that enviable bracket of those whose kids have flown the nest and are no longer required to stick to le calendrier des vacances scolaires. When prices often double in France.

For once, we decided to be smart and enjoy the summer in our own backyard. Then take a break in the lower season when most people are back at work.

I didn’t think this would be a problem. I’m a real homebird and looked forward to enjoying the season in our parts for once. We’re lucky enough to live in a beautiful region that attracts a lot of people on holiday. We have a lake nearby and a pool. And this year, this idyllic location has attracted quite a few of our own family as visitors. So we’ve been busy.

But I have to say it feels wrong somehow not to be going anywhere. Last year it was Corsica and the year before, Dubrovnik. Both of which were beautiful. Now, without a trip in the offing, I’m feeling a little antsy.

There’s an expression for this in French: ‘Il faut se dépayser.’ You need to get away, discover something new, have a change of scene.

Don’t you love the fact that the French have specific words to describe the need for a holiday? And for different summer vacationers?

What about you? Juilletiste, Aoûtien or not at all?

For those who read French, this article from Le Figaro drolly explains the entire philosophical debate around the choice.



  1. jetgirlcos · August 7, 2014

    Très intéressant ! Aux Etats-Unis, we don’t have the same philosophy about vacations. As a culture we find it hard to leave work behind, even when we “go away” — there is always the cell phone, the email, etc, keeping up with work. For me, this is not a problem, though. If I am not working, I don’t have to think about work. It’s a gift of my profession. My husband and I generally take our vacations in September, when it is “hors saison.” We don’t have kids, we don’t like crowds or extreme heat, and we prefer to avoid tourist attractions for the most part. C’est parfait! Thanks for the interesting post! I love discovering all the cultural differences between France and USA, and I’m looking forward to experiencing them when we go there…but not in August! 🙂

    • MELewis · August 7, 2014

      You’ve got the right idea – avoid August, tourists and the heat! ‘Hors saison’ is best, and that reminds me of a very pretty song by that name by French folksinger Françis Cabrel you may enjoy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5t2V3w2gyHI. Glad you enjoyed the post.

      • jetgirlcos · August 7, 2014

        Thanks! I like that one very much! I love listening to French music 🙂

  2. davidprosser · August 7, 2014

    I’m a ‘Not at all’ but living in Wales why would I need too? Anyway,I daren’t move away from the computer and let the emails build up. I tried it for three days once ( I didn’t have a choice in hospital) and never again.
    I ope the weather is great wherever and whenever you decide to go away.
    xxx Mammoth Hugs xxx

    • MELewis · August 7, 2014

      Oh, dear, a trip to the hospital is not my kind of vacation either! The weather is being finicky and uncooperative this year. But that’s only to be expected the summer we decide to stay put! Thanks for the morning sunshine from Wales. Cheers, David! xx

  3. Suzanne et Pierre · August 7, 2014

    I would normally be neither. When we lived in Canada (not having kids), we would always take our vacations off seasons (in the Fall or in the Spring – sometimes both!). However, in Paris, it is difficult not to take any holidays during July & August because it is expected at work that it is when you will take your vacation and it is so deadly quiet. So we have decided not to take any camps and took 10 days in early July and will take 10 days at the end of August/early September. That way we avoid most of the crowds and can enjoy Paris at its most relaxing when everything is closed and traffic is at a minimum. (Suzanne)

    • MELewis · August 7, 2014

      Sounds like a plan, Suzanne. If you’re like me, you may find you quickly get used to the summer hiatus. It’s a lovely breather from the usual hustle and bustle of French life. Enjoy your holidays!

  4. Dana · August 7, 2014

    I had never heard of the terms, “jullietiste” and “”aoûtien” how funny!

    Definitely true that vacation doesn’t exist in the same way in the US, but I fee like I see most vacations taking place in April (spring break), December (Christmas break), and July, depending on if you have kids. 🙂

    I’ll be in France for the summer next year and I’m curious to see where I’ll stand on the issue 🙂

    • MELewis · August 7, 2014

      Did I forget to mention ‘les petites vacances’? The French also take holidays in October-November (Toussaint), at Christmas and Spring Break! I’m sure you’ll love it when you get here next summer – looking forward to hearing all about it!

  5. Food,Photography & France · August 7, 2014

    I like the fact that so many French choose France for their holidays..which I think is a smart move. Up to now I’ve only heard Aoutiste as the description of August holiday makers …I should keep my ears open:)

    • MELewis · August 7, 2014

      Guess the Juilletistes like to fly under the radar…. Cheers!

  6. 365thingsiloveaboutfrance.com · August 7, 2014

    Leave it to the French to come up with words for the type of holidayer that you choose to be: “jullietiste” or “”aoûtien”. I love this. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I am definitely an “aoûtien(ne)” — best though to leave the last few days of July before the real crush begins.

    • MELewis · August 7, 2014

      You’ve got that right – anything to avoid the ‘black’ days of traveling in early August. Back in the days when the kids were small, my favorite time was the last week of July and the first two of August. Glad you learned something new!

  7. Osyth · August 7, 2014

    Like you, my children are grown and flown and this summer has seen two of them visit here in June and July and another due this month. In terms of our own vacation – we’d better start planning 😉 Meanwhile here in the village we are over-run – like you, we are lucky to be in a beautiful place that people visit so we are thronging … in fact it feels like a carnival in my backyard 🙂

    • MELewis · August 7, 2014

      I sympathize, Osyth. We now have to fight through long lines of cars heading for the lake just to go and get the bread! I suppose it’s a small price to pay to live in such a beautiful area…

      • Osyth · August 7, 2014

        You are right, of course though i must admit I’m not always entirely gracious (internally at least) … And smile and breathe and smile and breathe 🙂

  8. BigLizzy · August 7, 2014

    My dear, Mel,
    I love this post. I dream of vacations. The French would likely drum me out of their country. I’ve taken just one (yes, one) formal vacation in my life. I’m now 48. And, on that vacation to Oaxaca, Mexico, I took my laptop so I could work the entire time and work I did. I have worked 80 to 90-hour weeks for the last 25 years. But, this post reminds me that there are people, an entire culture, devoted to well-deserved vacation season and relaxation. The French know how to live. And, so do you! Much love to you, my friend. ❤

    • MELewis · August 7, 2014

      Chère Lizzy, you do sound like someone who needs a vacation! I get that our American friends have trouble disconnecting from work (especially in this wired world we now live in) but I do believe it is so important to tune out from time to time! The world will not stop, and in fact, it may even be better when you return. Of course we all have to make a living… but now I understand and appreciate your last post even more. Wishing you lots of vacay in your future, and perhaps a few moments of ’emptiness’ in between. Big bises from your Frenchie friend!

  9. wanderingcows · August 7, 2014

    Gosh, that’s a bit of insight into the French summer holiday psyche ! I’m going to have to quiz my French friends on this. I’m usually a May and September girl, but the way things have turned out this year – its July AND August. But after that NOTHING till Christmas.

    • MELewis · August 7, 2014

      Oh dear! You had better get a good dose of holiday time while the going’s good. Still, September to December is my favorite part of the year in many ways – there’s that back to school buzz and the knowledge that good things are in the offing with Christmas and New Year’s on the horizon. Hope you enjoy a nice summer break!

  10. jackiemallon · August 9, 2014

    I would love to be calling myself the charming title of Aoûtienne but this summer has forced me to stay put. Is there an equivalent name for winter vacationers, I wonder..?

    • MELewis · August 9, 2014

      Not to my knowledge – unless it’s ‘retraité’ (retired). The French tend to go away at the same times and to the same places – rather traditionally, the beach in summer and the mountains in winter. Hope you make it through whatever has you grounded this summer and enjoy some holidays soon!

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