Doesn’t everyone want to live the French lifestyle?
Life is full of croissants, strolls by the river Seine, waking up leisurely at 10am, and two-hour lunches, right? While the clichés may be exaggerated, it is true that the French lifestyle is very relaxed and quite enjoyable.
I have been living in Paris for two years now and I spent time in western France as a teenager, so I have a good idea of what the French lifestyle really is.
As a foreigner, there is so much you notice about a culture that’s not your own. You pick up on extraordinary things that a native might miss or overlook.
Today I’m going to share with you some things that I’ve discerned while living in France and some tips on how to adopt the French lifestyle wherever you are in the world!
When compared to the Parisian lifestyle, the French lifestyle is definitely much more carefree and easy-going, even if the two share some similarities.
Take Pleasure in the Small Things
The first thing I noticed about the French way of living is that French people tend to take great pleasure in the small and ordinary parts of daily life. Everything from making coffee in the morning, to reading a book, to folding laundry should be done with pleasure.
That might mean adding a little bit of music to your daily routine or taking some time to open the windows and let the fresh air in first thing in the morning. Finding joy in the mundane aspects of life takes practice but everyone can find a way to liven up some of their daily chores!
The first step to appreciating the little things in life is to start living more slowly. This means to reject the rat race and quit rushing around to get everything done! The French understand that one person can only do so much and we shouldn’t pressure ourselves to accomplish daily tasks or life goals in a certain amount of time.
Living slowly is a lifestyle choice that can be implemented on a small or big scale. In terms of daily life, living slowly means not pushing ourselves to get every single task or chore done that we want. If we have time to get things done and that’s great, but if not there’s always tomorrow. The French don’t sacrifice the pleasures of daily life in order to accomplish a greater goal.
On a larger scale, living slowly means taking life as it comes, moving at your own pace, and not rushing things. In the US, I always felt like people, and especially women, had to have everything in life in order by the time they were 30. Otherwise, you are a sort of failure. This is not so in France. While the pressures to have the perfect life, husband, house, job, and kids exist, there is a certain acceptance for taking a non-traditional path in life in France, particularly in Paris.
Become a Flâneur
Flâneur is one of my favorite French words.
It doesn’t have an exact translation in English, but it means someone who strolls around aimlessly. One of the easiest ways to adopt the French lifestyle is to become a flâneur. Spend some time walking around your neighborhood without a particular path in mind. Go where you feel like going and discover places you might not have seen before.
As French photographer Garance Doré explains in her video about being a flâneur, it teaches you to leave things up to chance, to embrace getting lost, and take pleasure in the unknown!
Create a Capsule Wardrobe
To live the French lifestyle, you must have a great French capsule wardrobe. The French approach to dressing cannot be summed up in just one paragraph, but as you know, this blog has been devoted almost entirely to the topic.
If you want to create a French-inspired wardrobe that takes you through life seamlessly, I recommend starting with the 5-Piece French wardrobe which explains how to create a closet of practical basics and build it out from there according to your tastes.
Invest In Yourself
Whether it’s a feminine lingerie set that only you will see or a new luxury perfume, the French are not shy about investing in themselves. Far too often we buy things to impress other people, but why not buy something that is just for us? French women take the time to buy things that perhaps no one else will see or notice, but they do it because it makes them happy. What better reason is there?
Read my recommendations for the best French wardrobe investment pieces to learn where to start.
Shop at the Local Farmers’ Market
It’s no secret that French women love to shop for high-quality, whole foods that have been produced locally. There are dozens of local farmers’ markets in Paris where you can shop for food directly from the farmers themselves.
When I lived with my host family in Bretagne, we would take weekly trips to a farm nearby and buy fresh milk and cheese directly from the family who owned it.
If your town or city has a farmers’ market, consider supporting the local farmers who run it for the best quality fresh food!
Sit Down to Eat
One of the biggest differences between French and American culture is that French people almost always sit down to eat their meals. I have to admit I’m still guilty of running to the boulangerie and eating my croissant on the way back home – it’s just too good to resist! But I can assure you that I never see a French person doing this!
The French always sit down for their meals, even if it’s just a short and quick breakfast. They don’t go all out in setting the table three times a day, but mealtime is somewhat sacred in France!
This is definitely a French lifestyle tip that is easy to adopt into your own life. You could buy a new set of plate ware and glassware to make mealtime a fun experience. When I moved to a new apartment in Paris, some of the first things I bought were some vintage plates and pretty brass utensils. It’s about making your mealtime a beautiful experience.
Enjoy Long Dinners
…and lunches! Lunch and dinner can be very long affairs in France. They are a time for gathering around friends and family and discussing everything from politics to personal news.
In France, table reservations at restaurants often mean you have the table for the full night. No pesky waiter is pushing you to free up the table for another group. You can drink, eat and discuss as long as you want!
The French also love to host dinners at home, probably much more often than eating at a restaurant. They invite friends over and swap stories over a bottle of wine and a great cheese plate!
In France, you know you’ve really made friends with someone when they invite you to one of the dinner parties they hold with their other friends. French people love entertaining and you can absolutely adopt this aspect of the lifestyle by becoming the go-to host in your friend circle!
A quick tip: never show up to a French dinner party on time. It’s proper etiquette to arrive about 15 minutes late in case the host is running behind!
The Art of Conversation
The French highly value education and knowledge. This is evident through their appreciation of the art of conversation. Take the time to read the news, brush up on your history, and know about key cultural figures if you want to impress a French person. All of this studying will help you master the French art of conversation.
We saw a hint of this in season 1 of Emily in Paris when Sylvie called out Emily for “having no references.” The next time you get the chance, bring up a topic that interests you instead of having a boring chat about the weather or something else trivial! It may come in handy one day, as I wrote about in my encounter with the Parisian cultural elite.
Celebrate Your Natural Beauty
The French embrace their natural beauty and accept the aging process with grace. If you have a long-winded makeup routine, it’s time to let go.
The French lifestyle means celebrating one’s unique beauty and only using makeup that enhances your natural features. Swap out your heavy foundation for a light tinted moisturizer, skip the eye shadow, and find a signature lip color.
Don’t overdo it on the botox, and instead find a skincare routine that suits your skin type while preventing wrinkles. France has some amazing local pharmacies where you can get advice on some of the best French anti-aging products. Don’t be shy, ask your pharmacist or dermatologist what’s best for your skin type!
Make Time for Self-Care
Read, Read, Read
With a long history of internationally known novelists like Albert Camus and Simone de Beauvoir, it’s no surprise that the French love to read.
Setting aside time each night before bed to read is very common in the French lifestyle. If you can’t spare the time, at least devote your Sunday afternoon to expanding your literary breadth of knowledge.
Start with these classic French books and novels:
- The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
- The Stranger by Albert Camus
- Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan
Reading is truly an essential part of the French way of life!
Support the Arts
Along with being an avid reader, you should support the arts as much as possible.
During the lockdown, so many of my friends were mourning the loss of their regular museum visits! Going to the museum to a Parisian is like grabbing a coffee or taking a yoga class to an American. It’s a completely normal thing to do on a regular basis among friends!
You can support the arts in many ways such as making regular trips to your local art museum, joining the acquisition committee, and purchasing art from local artists.
Some of my favorite art museums to visit in Paris include:
- Musée Rodin
- Musée Jacquemart-André
- Musée Montmartre
- Musée des Archives Nationales
- Musée Picasso
Living like the French means being discreet. Don’t show all your cards too early in a relationship. Don’t wear flashing clothing, screaming for attention. The French value discretion and showing your wealth is never attractive. Similarly, be mindful of the noise you make as you eat. It’s all about remaining mysterious, yet charming!
If there’s one cliché about the French that I find to be true, it’s that they love saying non. It took me a while to learn that this is because they have a deep respect for personal boundaries.
Your boss wants you to work extra this weekend? No, it’s not possible. Your friend is pressuring you to do something you don’t want to? No, thanks. A guy you barely know is professing his love? No, not interested!
Don’t be afraid to set boundaries in every part of your life. It’s yours to live after all!
Take a Long Vacation
A big part of the French lifestyle is vacation time of course! Practically the entire country takes the month of August off for some much-needed rest and relaxation.
It was no surprise to me when President Macron waited until the end of August before reinstating measures to weaken the spread of the virus during the pandemic. French people take their vacations very seriously and reject any sort of infringement upon this time!
I’m sure this is one lifestyle aspect we can all agree is necessary to living a healthy life, French or not.
While I’m still working on this one, in the future, I’d like to take vacations at least once a quarter for a week like the French do, just to make sure I have time to reset my mind and body and simply take care of myself.
Disconnect from Work
On Sundays in France, many shops and restaurants shut down for the day. Everybody either relaxes at home or visits their family. It’s the perfect opportunity to disconnect from work and just enjoy life.
Growing up, I never had much of a difference between Saturday and Sunday (except for when I was really young and we might attend Sunday church service). We might run errands or get things done on either day.
In France, there really is not much to do on Sundays, although this is changing in Paris. Nevertheless, my busy central neighborhood is still very noticeably calm on Sundays, unlike any other day of the week.
I’ve started to appreciate Sundays so much for the huge drop in crowds, and the clean air thanks to the lack of cars everywhere.
Sundays are just one example of when the French disconnect from work, of course. They also won’t work late nights or during their lunch break. Disconnecting from work actually helps us stay focused when working, so it’s considered a good thing.
I think we can all learn from this work-life balance and it’s something I’ve been happy to adopt into my own lifestyle!
What do you think of these French lifestyle tips? Do you have your own experience with living like the French?