You’ve probably heard that the French take the time to enjoy life whenever they can. The French way of life is centered on how to live well rather than “kill yourself at work to make the most money” mentality. The French call it the “Art de Vivre” which beautifully translates “the art living”.
To make sure that the French living habits I am going to talk about are not just old clichés, I have asked my kids to each give me an example of what they thought was different in France from the USA. My kids are Franco-Americans. They live in Michigan with their dad and come to visit me in France in the summer. They are familiar with both cultures. I was curious to know their thoughts about this subject and what they would come up with.
My oldest daughter told me about getting the baguette and fresh bread at the local bakery; my son mentioned the quality over quantity of the food and my youngest daughter talked about the cheese and the different courses of a meal. Their French lifestyle tips are indeed all on my list!
For this reason, Holidays and weekend breaks are sacred! A lot of shops are closed on Mondays simply because it is important for the French to have proper days off from working and rest.
Here are 10 French Lifestyle Tips for a merrier life!
Enjoy life killing time, sipping a “Café en terrasse“!
When I moved to the USA for the 1st time back in 1994, I noticed that there weren’t many cafés with tables and chairs set outside and I missed that very much. I don’t know about big towns like Chicago at that time, but in my little town, it wasn’t common at all.
I simply missed sipping my coffee outside in a cosy environment, especially in the summer. As a French Italian girl, I was used to savor my coffee and observe the world around, read my magazine, a book or the newspaper.
In the USA, I saw more people walking around while holding a to-go coffee cup than taking the time to sit down and chill.
However today, outside coffee shops’ terraces are flourishing everywhere in the USA. Look at Starbucks! The company had this smart idea to copy the European model and import the Italian café style to the USA. Bingo! The concept is now so trendy. When I come for a visit, I see my small city downtowns’ so much more alive, with people sitting outside a café, killing some time as we do it in France.
Don’t feel guilty to take the time for yourself to sit down and relax outside a café! Practice this mind-set: the art of doing nothing!
Enjoy life going to the opera!
The French embrace the Arts and are fond of cultural errands such as going to the opera, seeing a play at the theater, exhibitions, art galleries, going to the movies, visiting historical sites (castles and gardens). It is well known that France offers a very rich array of cultural activities that attract millions of people from all around the globe.
Moreover, the French government makes sure that the cultural and arts institutions are accessible and affordable to anyone. For instance, it is cheaper or free for you to visit if you are on unemployment.
Summer festivals are also a great way to learn about the French style of living and friendliness.
Enjoy life visiting your local bookstore!
Bookstores and reading are not dead! At least not in France… Far from it. Just on the news the other day, they mentioned how bookstores made more sales in 2020 after the confinement than in 2019! The French, while in quarantine, got back into reading much more and they continued doing so even after.
Reading and being well-educated is very important to the French. There are local libraries and charming looking bookstores everywhere. If you’ve been to Paris, you must have noticed those books and newspaper kiosks that are still very popular in the streets.
Cultivate your intellect by supporting your local bookstore and by subscribing to a newspaper or a magazine.
Enjoy life taking a mindful walk!
As a kid, I remember how my dad used to say: “let’s go on a walk, it helps digest!” Very true. The French love taking walks, not only because it is healthy for you, but also because they love to wander in the streets, gaze at the beauty of the buildings around them, socialize with their neighbors. They enjoy getting some fresh air in the parks.
In Paris, in addition to the cafés and libraries, there are so many parks and little squares as well. They are historical hidden gems. There are lots of fountains too for you to quench your thirst while surrounding yourself with nature.
For health purposes, it is now highly recommended that you get to walk 10000 steps daily. Why not adopt this old-fashioned French habit then? Why not decide to slow down just for the sake of it?
Enjoy life shopping at your local outdoor market!
Such a great French tradition to shop at the outdoor local farmers’market! Another way to take a mindful walk and get to know your local stores. Where I live, the farmers’ market takes place on the main square 3 times a week, all year long. You can find clothes, seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables, fish and meat, cheese and delicatessen but also hand-made arts and crafts. The French shop there at least once a week.
It is the opportunity to shop for fresh local produce and respect the seasons. It is a pleasant experience to meet the community and try new foods. The French love to start the day at the café and then walk around and shop.
And yes buying your fresh baguette at your local bakery every day is still a very French thing to do! On market days, there are lines of people in bakery stores waiting to get their daily fresh bread.
Enjoy life cooking fresh food!
80% of products in supermarkets are processed foods. Though cheaper and convenient, they are loaded with sugar, salt and preservatives that are bad for your heart and overall health. Luckily for them, the French have this healthy living habit to shop at their local farmers’ markets and cook fresh seasonal foods. They prefer quality over quantity. They enjoy cooking and having some quality time, socializing with the family or friends around the diner table.
At the market, you also find caterers offering already prepared fresh French and international recipes. So if you don’t have time to cook, at least you can still buy and eat fresh quality cooked food.
I myself grew up in a family where my parents cooked fresh meals daily and prepared vegetables according to each season.
Enjoy life eating your meals with intent! No rush…
Mealtimes are so revered in France, that even at work, companies give their employees up to one hour for their lunch breaks! It is also true for schools. The kids have a 1h30 lunch break.
The other day, it really struck me, all those restaurants and cafés concentrated in just one place, while I was visiting the Latin quarters in Paris. I wondered how they all made business? Well, they were packed with people. It is not just on Friday nights or during the weekends that it is packed. It is at lunchtime too! It is a serious business! That’s because it is the tradition: the French love to sit down and take the time to savor their meals or coffee or tea or beer…
Of course, it may not be possible for you to sit down for an hour during mealtimes every day. But what I suggest you do is to take pleasure in what you eat, sitting in a relaxing environment, TV, and smartphones off. It is realistic to thoughtfully enjoy each bite and simply slow down.
Enjoy life coursing out your diners!
One other favorite of the French lifestyle is a big family or friends’ diner that usually happens on weekends. Time doesn’t exist anymore. Mealtime can last for hours and that’s because there are several different courses spaced out and served on separate plates. Right, you don’t serve the salad in a dirty spaghetti sauce plate?!
This is what a French coursed out dinner looks like:
- Aperitif ( They are drinks usually alcoholic that are served before dinner and they are served with some finger foods)
- Main course
- Digestif (Like the appéritif, they are strong alcoholic beverages served for digestion) Much needed!!!
As you can imagine, those gatherings are special and allow for great conversations! Gotta tell you though: the “digestif” is indeed very much welcomed!!! I try to eat smaller portions and chew very slowly.
Read more if you want to discover why the French stay thin even though they eat fatty foods. Click here to read the article.
Enjoy life wearing your favorite perfume!
Perfume is a big deal in France! French women don’t leave the house without wearing their signature fragrance. They develop a unique personal scent. I have a colleague that sprays herself constantly throughout the day… I even know she was around when I enter our employees’ room.
I have several ones myself. One for special occasions (the most expensive), one for every day. I personally love to have different ones and try new ones but my mother, for example, wears Chanel 5. I am always reminded of her when I smell that perfume. My brother too wears only one perfume. Can’t buy him another one because he wouldn’t use it…
Enjoy life mastering the art of conversation!
Sipping a coffee, having a glass of wine, or dining with your family, colleagues or friends go hand in hand with mastering meaningful conversations. The French love to talk but it has to be interesting and not just superficial. They talk about a book they are reading, about the news, politics, and even religion but not so much about money. In general, they are more discreet about money, simply because they don’t like to show off too much.
I hope these French cultural practices have inspired you to try them for yourself!
Should you have any questions or an experience of yours to share, please do not hesitate to leave a comment below. I will be glad to read your thoughts! Let me ask you: what is your favorite tip? Which one has inspired you the most?
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