I have some file / folder names which are not 7-bit clean and they are not displayed correctly in my openSUSE system.

Example for the folder /music/Gabriel_Fauré:

# ls -1d /music/Gabriel_Faur?

Perhaps the locale for LC_CTYPE is not set to some UTF-8 value?

# locale
locale: Cannot set LC_ALL to default locale: No such file or directory

Well, that's a nice LC_CTYPE for Unicode, I think! What does the error message say?

Funnily enough, setting LC_ALL to the exact value of LC_CTYPE will work:

# setenv LC_ALL en_US.UTF-8
# ls -1d /music/Gabriel_Faur?

However, I do NOT want to set LC_ALL to en_US.UTF-8 (or anything, really) because it messes up some other settings! It would be no fix but only a bad workaround for me.

Also, why is LC_CTYPE ignored by /bin/ls and/or my shell when printing characters to the screen?

In Arch Linux I would check whether locales are generated but I found nothing on the subject in openSUSE. Also, the locale does seem to exist.


# ls -1d /music/Gabriel_Faur? | hexdump -C
00000000  2f 6d 75 73 69 63 2f 47  61 62 72 69 65 6c 5f 46  |/music/Gabriel_F|
00000010  61 75 72 c3 a9 0a                                 |aur...|

So it's correct UTF-8 (as far as I can tell).


# locale -a | grep en_US
# locale -a | wc -l

EDIT3 (after correct Answer):

# unsetenv LC_PAPER
# unsetenv LC_ALL
# ls -1d /*/Gabriel_Faur?

The LC_PAPER=a4 variable prevents UTF-8 encoded Unicode characters from being printed (no pun intended) on screen!

  • What does echo /music/Gabriel_Faur?|hexdump -C print? Aug 9, 2019 at 20:15

2 Answers 2


What that locale: Cannot set LC_ALL to default locale: No such file or directory message tells you is that one of the locales you're trying to use doesn't exist. It's not about the $LC_ALL environment variable, locale is just reporting an error when the setlocale(LC_ALL, "") call it does to initialise localisation based on environment variables returns NULL indicating a locale configured via one of the various LC_*/LANG variables cannot be found.

Here, since it works with LC_ALL=en_US.UTF-8 which overrides all the other ones, the problem must be with LC_PAPER=a4. a4 is not the name of a valid locale on your system and is causing setlocal(LC_ALL, "") to fail.

When setlocale() fails, the behaviour defaults to the C locale, where the character encoding is ASCII. In the C locale, every byte is a character but 0xc3 and 0xa9 are unknown ones as they are not in ASCII, so ls -q (and -q is enabled when the output goes to a terminal) renders them as ?.

You can see the list of available locales on your system with:

locale -a

You probably won't find a a4 in there. If you want the paper size to be A4, where locale -k LC_PAPER outputs:


You'll probably want to use a European locale for $LC_PAPER, something like en_GB.UTF-8.

  • Thanks! I edited the Question, please look at the output. Still: Why does LC_ALL setting work?
    – Ned64
    Aug 9, 2019 at 20:33
  • @Ned64. OK I had missed that. That's most probably caused by that LC_PAPER, see edit. Aug 9, 2019 at 20:45
  • You are right, it is the paper size - but why do the UTF-8 characters not appear when the printer's paper size is a4?
    – Ned64
    Aug 9, 2019 at 22:18
  • 1
    @Ned64, It's not about the printer paper size being a4, it's about one of the LC_* variables being set to an invalid (unknown) locale (here LC_PAPER set to a4). There is no locale on your system called a4. Locales are typically not named after paper types. locale -a | grep -x a4 will return nothing. As I said use LC_PAPER=en_GB.UTF-8 or any other locale where the paper size is that of A4, not LC_PAPER=a4. Aug 9, 2019 at 22:20
  • Thanks, now I get it. It did seem illogical but of course I know it wasn't as this is a computer, after all.
    – Ned64
    Aug 9, 2019 at 22:22

Missing locale can be fixed in OpenSuse with:

zypper in glibc-locale

I needed this to use a en_GB locale while building a MicroOs image with kiwi

  • Thanks, that's good to know but unfortunately not helpful in this case (see the accepted Answer).
    – Ned64
    Feb 19 at 18:08

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