One of the hardest parts about being a Francophile but not living in France full-time is missing out on all the cultural practices and nuances that the French lifestyle encourages. I find myself dreaming of 4 pm espressos and trips to the boulangerie more often than you can probably imagine.
French Lifestyle Tips
The truth is, however, that living in France doesn’t have to be the only way that you experience the French lifestyle and culture. The Parisian lifestyle, in particular, is something that can be copied in metropolitan areas, while overall French living can be adopted anywhere you live.
French living is more than tossing a baguette into your basket and popping open a bottle of wine, although that doesn’t hurt either. Instead, embracing the French lifestyle and culture is more about adopting some simple practices into your everyday life.
1. Embrace meal times
For the French, meal time is sacred. Dedicating time each day to sit down and savor your meal is something the French have embraced and practiced in their society since forever. While it may not be realistic to spend an hour over every meal or always have loved ones around to sit down and eat a meal with, the least we can do is simply sit down and eat our meal with some relaxing music rather than scarfing down a meal in front of the tv or in a rush at the kitchen counter.
Embracing meal times is about taking pleasure in what you’re eating and mindfully savoring each bite. You can’t do that if your attention is elsewhere. Creating a relaxing ambiance for your meals and carving out time in your day to enjoy your food can help you feel just a little bit closer to life in France.
2. Incorporate more walks into your day
For the French, walking isn’t just a way to get your healthy 10,000 steps in each day. Walking is a part of normal everyday life. It’s a way to get fresh air, possibly surround yourself with nature, and socialize with your community.
Whether it’s a walk in the morning or a stroll after dinner, embrace old-fashioned things like a walk around the neighborhood or local park instead of heading straight to the sofa or staying cooped up indoors. Walking is an integral part of daily French life, and adopting this habit is one of the simplest ways we can start incorporating the French lifestyle into our daily routines.
3. Practice less is more
Perhaps one of my favorite aspects of French living is the ability to effortlessly practice the concept of less is more. This practice particularly shines when it comes to French shopping habits. When you’re comparing the French lifestyle vs. the American lifestyle, it’s easy to see that Americans tend to be a victim of consumerism and believe in the idea that bigger is better.
The French are often forced to practice a less is more mentality because of space limitations. French homes and apartments tend to be smaller than those found in America. The closets, in particular, are tiny and limit the French’s ability to amass tons of clothing.
Instead, the French create capsule wardrobes, where a set of basic, high-quality pieces are curated into a closet that the person can practically and fashionably wear on a routine basis. Creating such a wardrobe will not only clear up physical space in your home, but will free up your mind and wallet for better use.
4. Visit the Farmers Market
Going to the farmers market goes hand-in-hand with the French habit of eating mindfully and getting outside for fresh air. Just like everything else in their life, the French favor quality over quantity, whether that’s quality food or quality time.
I particularly love the French routine of shopping at the farmers market because it inspires seasonal cooking, which is a core component of the French lifestyle. You won’t find the French eating strawberries in winter, but you will find some fantastic pears that will inspire you to make a clafoutis or cake with.
Furthermore, in France, it’s not uncommon for the French to become friends with the farmers and vendors at their local outdoor markets. They typically know each other well and the French shoppers rely on their preferred farmers/vendors to give them the best of the best when it comes to their groceries.
Because of this, the farmers market tends to be a convenient way to incorporate more community involvement and socialization into your daily life, a big part of the French lifestyle.
5. Dress Your Best
Dressing your best doesn’t mean you have to dress like a movie star every single day. Rather, dressing your best is simply making sure that you’re representing yourself in the best possible way that you can each day. It means that you’re taking the time to make sure you look polished and refined before you walk out of the door.
The French aren’t flashy people, so you’ll often find them wearing minimalist styles in neutral colors. A crisp button down, fitted jeans, kitten heels, and a lightweight scarf strung around the neck, i.e. nothing fancy, but something you wouldn’t feel embarrassed about wearing on the off chance that you run into an old friend.
I think that being well-dressed is one of the reasons French people look and feel so good and carry such confidence throughout their day. It’s also a reflection of the French affinity for elevating simple everyday routines in favor of a more elegant and beautiful life.
6. Pamper yourself
This tip goes hand-in-hand with dressing your best. French women have a long tradition of taking beauty tips from their grandmothers vs. magazines or the internet. They also love their local pharmacies for skincare and other beauty products.
This need to prioritize beauty needs doesn’t come so much from a place of being vain as it does from the need to pamper oneself. Whether it’s getting a facial, taking a long bath, or receiving a massage, the French know that it’s important to pamper yourself for lasting wellness and self-care.
Just as the French value pleasure in eating and food, they value pleasure and comfort in their self-care routines. I can tell you that nothing makes me feel more French than taking a scented bubble bath while enjoying a glass of wine!
7. Pick up a book or read the paper
One of the most notable differences between the American lifestyle vs. the French lifestyle is how much reading is still very much a part of daily French life. In a day and age where most people tend to get their news or information from digital sources, it’s quaint and refreshing to see the French still reading the paper or supporting their local bookstore.
I think the idea of picking up a physical piece of paper or book means that you can’t really absorb the information on-the-go, the way you might be able to do with your phone. The act of reading the paper or a novel encourages you to sit and slow down during your day.
Taking a newspaper, book, or magazine with me to my local breakfast spot has become one of my favorite ways to replicate living in France even when I’m miles away here in the States.
8. Visit the theater or a gallery
The French are very much into the arts. Just take a quick stroll somewhere in Paris and you’ll find artistic influences everywhere. Visiting the theater for any kind of production, be it a play or concert, is a very normal thing to do in France.
The same goes for art galleries or antique stores. While the act of collecting art and antiques definitely occurs, the French truly enjoy the cultural experience of viewing and learning the story behind the art and antiques too.
Embracing cultural activities like this is a wonderful way of getting more involved in the community and raising your awareness about the arts. It can give your soul more depth, more passion, and an artistic flair that can make you quite French!
9. Take it slow and steady
Somewhat similar to the concept of eating mindfully and devoting proper time for meals is the idea of just taking it slow and steady on a daily basis in your overall routine.
It’s very easy to find yourself planning a list of errands to run and things that need to be done when you’re off work, often leading to lots of running around here and there and packing in as much as you can into the free time that you have.
For me, learning to slow down and not pack my schedule with errands is one of the more challenging French lifestyle tips to follow. In America, it feels like multi-tasking and getting things done quickly is encouraged and rewarded. The French, however, will often take their time and prioritize a relaxed attitude over cramming their schedule with things to do.
This slow and steady attitude is vital to really embracing the French lifestyle and all the simple pleasures that come with it. You can’t embrace mindful eating, socialization, art, wellness, or any of the other French priorities if you’re running around with no time to stop, think, savor, and enjoy.
10. Practice a little joie de vivre
As cliché as it sounds, practicing the “joy of living” is one of the most fundamental components of French life. Now, this doesn’t mean dancing around town and singing about how great life is (although you can if you want!).
The way I’ve always perceived joie de vivre and how the French practice this concept is in the way they savor the simple pleasures in life. For instance, it’s very common to find the French sitting at the park in those classic green, Parisian park chairs as soon as the sun peeks out from behind the clouds. They’ll soak up every inkling of sunshine by simply sitting in the chairs and excelling at the art of doing nothing.
Finding beauty and joy in the stillness and in the things that are already here on earth for us to appreciate and be grateful for can be one of the most life-changing French habits that you adopt and practice, regardless of where you live.