This New Year’s, let’s resolve to be more French. That’s probably not what you were expecting to hear. But I think it can be said that the French know how to live well and there are a few things that we Americans can learn from them. Here are the French habits you should pick up right now.
Disclaimer: the following “habits” are generalizations based on things that I saw and/or experienced during my semester in Paris and by no means speak for all of the French culture.
The “Less is More” Approach to Beauty and Fashion
You’ll be hard pressed to find a French woman with a face full of makeup. The French have an appreciation for natural beauty that I’ve never seen in the States. If you like makeup, go for it, but don’t discount what a fresh face can do either. Add some neutrals to your wardrobe and take off one accessory before leaving the house. French wardrobes have so much variety because they are mostly comprised of simple, timeless basics and a few statement pieces. It makes it easier to find something to wear when most of your clothes aren’t trendy pieces that will go out of season.
Putting Effort Into the Way You Dress
I never once saw a sweatshirt in public in Paris. Putting a little effort into your outfit doesn’t mean you have to be dressed in head-to-toe designer wear. Use basics to your advantage and create simple, effortless ensembles. I promise they’ll look better than the leggings/oversized sorority t-shirt combo and still be comfortable. Throw out your yoga pants and sweatshirts if you dare.
Taking Time to Enjoy
This can be seen in many different facets of the French lifestyle, whether it’s taking the time to enjoy good food, loved ones, or life in general. It’s not uncommon to have a two-hour lunch break during the workday in France. Some attribute this to the French culture’s laissez-faire attitude, but it can be hard to get used to coming from the fast-paced, task-focused American culture. Take time to appreciate the beauty around you. Go on a walk just because. Visit an art museum. Put your phone away and have an actual conversation with your parents or friends at dinner.
One of my favorite French habits revolves around food and friendship. It’s not unusual to sit at a cafe for hours, drinking coffee or wine, sitting alone or with friends. Skip Starbucks: grab your friends and head to a local cafe or restaurant instead.
Being Aware of the People Around You
Maybe this is just a big city thing. And maybe I only noticed this because my biggest pet peeves are when people walk slow or stop in the middle of the sidewalk. But I found the French to be so aware of other people in public places. Look around you, notice people and try not to get in their way. Rant over.
Actually Living, Instead of Watching Other People’s Lives on TV
After coming home from Paris, I was immediately bored by the lack of constant excitement. It seemed that all anyone in my Midwest suburb did was go to work or school, come home and binge watch Netflix. How had I lived like this for so long?! But this is a normal part of American culture. We work so hard and tire ourselves out doing so that we’re too tired to actually go out and really live at the end of the work day. But it shouldn’t be like this. My entire semester in Paris, I watched a total of three movies and zero TV shows. The streets in France are constantly packed, cafes are alive and bustling on weekday nights. This is the norm. People don’t stop living because they have to work in the morning. They go out, they see their friends, they do things. There’s nothing wrong with an occasional Netflix or Hulu binge, but there’s so much more to life. Go forth and live.