What is it about that French lifestyle that we crave so much? Is there a way that we can live more like the French without actually living in France? These were the types of questions I set out to answer as I was learning and falling in love with the French lifestyle. Understanding the allure of the French lifestyle took many hours of reading and researching the little nuances that created l’art de vivre French style.
Living life for them is an art where no detail is too small and no occasion is too unimportant to not create the most of the experience. There are many tips and tricks that one can incorporate into their life to live more like the French, but I have found that starting with these seven things lays a good foundation.
Be Selective, Choose Quality
This tip should be a part of your life no matter if you have any interest in the French lifestyle or not. We are literally bombarded with cheap, low quality items to be bought everyday. The French do not buy things “just because” and when they do buy something they do not just choose “whatever”. Whatever for them is lazy, thoughtless and simply will not do. They are very selective about the things that they bring into their life and when they want or need something they take their time to do research to find the best quality that they can afford. They expect an item to last many years if not for life and they are willing to save and spend more money on that one item than to purchase the cheap item that will most likely fall apart or not look good. Whether you are purchasing clothing, home furniture/decor, electronics, beauty items, food, cookware, travel, basically anything, make sure that you are being very selective and choosing the best quality that you can afford. Once you start living this way you will wonder how you ever let subpar things into your life to begin with.
Keep It Simple
We Americans have a real talent for complicating things. We fill our lives with banal obligations, clutter in the form of mindless purchases, having no routine and rushing around first thing in the morning and again at night when we get home, being in a hurry to get to the next thing in life (summer, a new job, a new house, on vacation, etc.) We are literally missing a life of joie de vivre in complicating our lives with all of this superfluous stuff. The French understand that in order to have a good life, they need to keep it simple. They practice things such as having a small wardrobe of quality pieces that all work together (goodbye endless loads of laundry and nothing to wear mindset). They have a simple morning routine of breakfast, coffee and maybe reading a book and newspaper (goodbye rushing around and eating a sugar-filled breakfast bar in the car on the way to work). They have a beautiful uncluttered home with just a few décor pieces and furniture to make it cozy and stylish and functional for the family (goodbye endless weekends of cleaning, decluttering and mental distraction). The French innately understand that in order to create time to enjoy life, that they must first do the work upfront in the form of organizing, having less stuff and less obligations that weigh them down. Their time and space is far too important to them to give it away so nonchalantly to anything that does not give them joy. That is not to say that they do not have obligations and work to tend to, of course they do! They are just very discerning as to what they let into their life in the first place and they are ruthless about cutting things out that do not serve them.
Cultivate Savoir Faire
The literal definition of savoir faire is the ability to act or speak appropriately in social situations. However, the French use this term as basically a foundation of “know how”. They are meticulous in understanding things in life such as decorum, etiquette (work and personal), how to cook, how to handle finances, how to cultivate personal style, how to take care of their bodies, where to buy the best things, how to be a good conversationalist, how to entertain, what wine goes best with each food pairing, what glass to pour the wine in, etc. The French pride themselves on knowing “how to do things correctly”. The find pleasure in learning, the process, the correct form and the execution. Learning is a lifelong process for the French and they derive such joy from their savoir faire in life and use this skill to their advantage everyday. They understand that we all do the same things, but it is in how we go about doing them that makes all the difference.
Have A Signature Style
The French understand and cultivate style innately. Style and beauty has been a big part of their culture for many centuries and it is something that has been passed along for generations. They do not think that a person can just wear anything as long as they are dressed. They believe that it is a civic duty, a form of respect to dress well everyday. They have a deep love for personal style and each has created their own signature style that is uniquely for them. They have spent time trying different cuts, colors and accessories over the years and therefore have created a style that not only suits their lifestyle, but creates a form of beauty in it. This is part of their joie de vivre, we must all get dressed everyday, so why not enjoy the process and create beauty?
Indulge In Life’s Little Pleasures
What is life without a petit plaisir? We Americans assume that pleasure needs to be something big and grand in order to enjoy it. We need a big dinner out, a shopping spree, a long vacation or to buy a big purchase item. We rush around trying to eat too quickly, get from place to place quickly and everything needs a purpose or function, otherwise we are disinterested. The French however believe in enjoying small pleasures everyday. They sit down to sip a coffee slowly and really enjoy it. They will take a long bath with some salts or oils to relax. They take a long time to dine and enjoy every morsel of food. They will enjoy a small macaroon or two on a Sunday just because it’s Sunday. They will take a walk with no where to be just to see and be seen. There are so many little pleasures that can be had each and everyday and the French seek them out with gusto. They expect things to bring them pleasure and if it does not then they do not indulge it.
Be Interesting and Cultured
Conversation is an art form in France. The French are not small talkers, but they love a good deep conversations about life, love, religion and even politics. They are interesting to talk to because they seem to know a little about everything and have a strong opinion about everything. They are well-read and well-traveled and love to tell a good story. They also indulge constantly in the arts. Everything from books, museums, music, film, live shows, artisan goods and fashion – they are interested in it all. They love going to gallery exhibits, a theater, a concert, etc. to enjoy and appreciate the artistry. They hold themselves to a high standard of being an interesting, charming and dynamic person to be around. They understand that looks alone are not enough to make you an interesting person to know, you must be able to carry on a conversation and have some knowledge of the world.
Invest In Living Well
Living well everyday in very important to the French. They do not want to live a mediocre life filled with mediocre things. They invest in what they love as well as invest in the things that they use everyday. Things such as linens, clothes, cookware and beauty products are used everyday, therefore they will purchase the best quality that they can afford. But beyond that, they will invest in the little things that help them personally live well everyday. They may invest in things such as decadent candles, luxury chocolates, a beautiful perfume, a fresh bouquet of flowers for the home, beautiful quality stationary and pen, a quality designer handbag and other small things that they use daily but are not essential. They know that living well beyond their needs (food, clothing and shelter) is an investment into these non essential things. While they may not be essential, they are the things that bring them pleasure everyday in living well.