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I've written a web application for which the user interface is in Dutch. I use the system's date and time routines to format date strings in the application. However, the date strings that the system formats are in English but I want them in Dutch, so I need to set the system's locale. How do I do that on Debian? I tried setting LC_ALL=nl_NL but it doesn't seem to have any effect:

$ date
Sat Aug 15 14:31:31 UTC 2009
$ LC_ALL=nl_NL date
Sat Aug 15 14:31:36 UTC 2009

I remember that setting LC_ALL on my Ubuntu desktop system works fine. Do I need to install extra packages to make this work, or am I doing it entirely wrong?

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is there a way to do this automatically based on the assigned ip address of the server? – Scoop Oct 5 '12 at 3:49
up vote 37 down vote accepted

Edit /etc/default/locale and set the contents to:


You can check which locales you currently have generated using:

# locale -a

You can generate more by editing /etc/locale.gen and uncommenting the lines for the locales that you want to enable. Then you can generate them by running:

# locale-gen

You can find a list of supported locales in /usr/share/i18n/SUPPORTED

There is more information available on the Debian wiki.

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/var/lib/belocs/list doesn't exist. You need to edit /etc/locale.gen or run dpkg-reconfigure locales instead. – pgs Aug 16 '09 at 2:44
+1 this answer for describing locale-gen, but as per the previous comment, there's no such file as /var/lib/belocs/list on my system – telent Jul 12 '11 at 19:52

You may need to install the locales package. This will ask you which locales to generate. If it's already installed, then dpkg-reconfigure locales will let you generate more locales.

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That only generates locales, not set the system default. – David Pashley Aug 15 '09 at 15:54
NO, the final question of dpkg-reconfigure locales is to select the default locale. – pgs Aug 16 '09 at 2:42

For a web application, it might be better to use setlocale() inside the program, rather than requiring that the system default locale be set appropriately outside. Less loose ends that way.

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None of these answers worked for me, on an LXC container installed with:

lxc-create -n sse-master -t download -n sse-master -- \
    -d debian -r jessie --arch i386

I always got the following output from locale-gen, i.e. not generating any locales (none listed):

$ sudo locale-gen
Generating locales (this might take a while)...
Generation complete.

Running dpkg-reconfigure locales and selecting some locales did not update /etc/locale.gen as I expected it to.

However, when I modified that file manually and uncommented the locales that I wanted, then locale-gen started working properly:

$ sudo locale-gen
Generating locales (this might take a while)...
  en_GB.UTF-8... done
  en_US.UTF-8... done
Generation complete.

I was also able to generate locales manually like this:

sudo localedef -i en_US -f UTF-8 en_US.UTF-8
sudo localedef -i en_GB -f UTF-8 en_GB.UTF-8

But this was not a permanent solution: I found that running locale-gen without the --keep-existing option will delete all such manually-generated locales, i.e. every locale not listed (and uncommented) in /etc/locale.gen.

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But first you need to have needed language pack installed. On my German based VPS there was no english language pack pre-installed. So first you check that you have it installed:

aptitude install language-pack-en
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