French move south to live in the sun

As French roads and railways move into the busiest season of the year, hope has emerged that the seasonal migration south might slacken in years to come - if only because more people will be living there already.

A new survey suggests that the French population is moving south to the sunbelt, despite the ingrained attachment of French people to their native regions. The study, published by the official statistics office, shows southern urban areas occupying the top five places in terms of growth by migration between 1982 and 1990, and the city of Montpellier topping the list, if migration and natural growth - births over deaths - are added together.

With a population of 210,000, Montpellier is the ninth largest city in France, but it is small in terms of conurbations because, unlike Paris, Lyons or Marseilles, it has swallowed up fewer of its neighbouring towns and villages. If the trend to growth continues, however, this may be just a matter of time.

Topping the list of urban areas whose population has increased over the period include Grasse, Cannes, Antibes and Toulouse in the south-west, and Nice and Toulon, both on the Riviera. One explanation for the growth of Montpellier and Toulouse is their orientation toward new-technology industries - Toulouse in aerospace and Montpellier in telecommunications.

This would not, however, explain the increase in and around Cannes, or in Nice, where jobs in traditional areas such as hotels and catering or the perfume industry have remained static. The explanation, at least in part, is likely to be quality of life - a conclusion supported by the fact that the people are moving away from Paris, Lyons, Rheims and from the biggest southern conurbation, Marseilles. All "top five" urban areas enjoy not just a mild climate, but easy access to attractive countryside, and winter and summer sports.

One jaded commentator from one of the less favoured areas of the country had no doubt about the region's chief attraction. "We would love it if all those people leaving Paris or Lyons decided to settle in Nevers or Cosne [in central France] rather than in Cannes or Toulouse ... But can we really offer them any good reason to prefer the countryside of Nevers to the beaches of the Mediterranean or the banks of the Garonne? That would take rather an effort."

Not all the moves are southward, however. The net population increase in the more desirable southern cities masks the fact that some make the move only to return north a few months, or years, later. The reason they give most often is "cultural difference": France's northerners can find the south infuriatingly slow and casual, dislike the pervasive clientelism of the Mediterranean and find themselves longing for a little more "Anglo- Saxon order".

They are in a minority, however. The rest find that the sun and the sea more than compensate for the irritations, and they will doubtless be sitting over their pastis at this very moment, complaining about the annual invasion of the tourists.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine