Question: How do you configure locale settings for a PostgreSQL cluster?


Locale settings in PostgreSQL determine the rules and conventions for handling text, numbers, and dates in different languages and regional variations. These settings influence sorting behavior, character classification, and formatted output, such as currency.

Configuring Locale During Initialization

When you create a new PostgreSQL database cluster using initdb, you can specify the locale settings. The primary locale categories that can be set include:

  • LC_COLLATE: Controls how strings are sorted.
  • LC_CTYPE: Controls character classification (e.g., what is considered a letter).
  • LC_NUMERIC: Determines the formatting of numbers.
  • LC_TIME: Influences the format of time and date.

For example, if you want to initialize a PostgreSQL cluster with German settings in Germany, you could use:

initdb -D /path/to/data/directory --locale=de_DE.UTF-8

Alternatively, you can set different values for specific locale categories:

initdb -D /var/lib/postgresql/data --lc-collate=de_DE.UTF-8 --lc-ctype=en_US.UTF-8

This configuration sets sorting rules according to German standards but character classification according to U.S. English.

Checking Current Locale Settings

To check the current locale settings of your PostgreSQL cluster, you can query the pg_settings view:

SELECT name, setting FROM pg_settings WHERE name LIKE 'lc_%';

This SQL query returns all locale-related settings currently configured in your PostgreSQL server.

Changing Locale Settings Post Initialization

Changing locale settings after the database cluster has been created is not straightforward because these settings are deeply integrated into the database system catalog. If you need to change the locale settings, the safest approach is to create a new cluster with the desired settings and migrate the data from the old cluster to the new one using tools like pg_dump and pg_restore.


  • Choosing the right locale settings is crucial during the initial setup as it affects how data is sorted and presented.
  • Mixing different locale settings for various categories can sometimes be beneficial, depending on specific needs, but it might lead to confusion or unexpected results in applications.

By properly configuring the locale settings, you ensure that your PostgreSQL database handles data in ways appropriate for the intended audience and application context.

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