Welcome to your French guide: the French Art of Living
Paris, the city of light and the city of love, the Champs Elysées, Haute Couture and its designers, skincare brands, perfumes, cuisine, good cuisine and even excellent cuisine, without forgetting the wine and the famous and real champagne!
France is the country of excellence and “savoir-faire”. Everything is refined and all the senses are awakened.
But what about the French? How do they live, what are their habits?
What is the French lifestyle?
You can easily recognize a French person by the strong English accent but may be even more easily by the way of life, the way of being, the attitude in general…
Sometimes loved, sometimes hated, French people are unique and here are some tips if you want to embrace the French way of life!
15 Tips on how to adopt the French lifestyle or “l’Art de vivre à la Française”
1/ Be a “Flâneur”
“Flâner” which could be almost translated as “to stroll”, is such a French concept that the word has no real English equivalent. The “flaneur” is someone who, anchored in the present, walks around a city with no destination in mind but with the objective to observe the world in a philosophical way. Spend some time walking around your neighbourhood, go where you feel like going and discover places you may have never seen before. Today, Paris remains the ideal city to flâner. Walk, sit on a café terrace, and take the time to look around you. Paris is full of details and surprises, don’t miss them!
2/ Master The Art of Discretion
French people live and breath discretion; they don’t smile too much, don’t talk too loudly, and don’t often show their excitement or enthusiasm. “Pour vivre heureux, vivons cachés” by French poet Jean-Pierre Claris de Florian —literally in English: “To live happily, live hidden”. This means that happiness consists in living humbly and being modest even in times of great success. Living like the French means being discreet. Don’t show all your cards too early in a relationship. Don’t attract attention, don’t show off your wealth, don’t laugh too loudly… it’s all about staying mysterious but charming!
3/ Don’t talk about Money
In France, the only thing we don’t talk about is money. According to a study, 78% of French people think that being rich is frowned upon in their society —this belief is shared by all categories of the population, regardless of their income level — whereas 72% think it’s a good thing to want to be rich. In fact, in France, it’s more taboo to talk about money than to talk about sex…
4/ Visit Museums
French museums are among the most important and famous in the world. The Louvre Museum is even the most visited in the world, with around 10 million visitors per year. French people really like Arts and visiting a museum is a very common activity to do during the weekend. Access to culture is easy and not expensive, you can spend the day in one of the big and famous museums but Paris and most of the French cities are full of smaller museums or Art galleries, less known but just as interesting and less visited by tourists!
5/ Get into Philosophy
Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Diderot… these French philosophers have played a major role in French history and culture and in inspiring the French Revolution in 1789. They wanted new models of society based on Freedom and Equality. This movement is called “la philosophie des Lumières” (the philosophy of enlightenment), because the philosophers proposed to “enlighten” the greatest number of people on how to live happily and found a just society. The French approach to education emphasises reflection and developing a critical mind. Freedom of expression allows each of us to offer our opinion without constraint.
6/ Master the Art of Conversation
Whether at a dinner party or in a café, French people would prefer a long deep conversation about certain things than a short and quick talk about nothing and it doesn’t matter if it leads to great controversy! The French like to debate on all types of subjects: societal, political or religious themes rather than having polite conversations on unimportant topics which, let’s be honest, can be boring. The French attach great importance to education and knowledge. Take the time to read the news, refresh your history, and get to know the key cultural figures if you want to impress a French person and master the Art of French conversation.
7/ Say “Non” more often
No one else knows how to say ‘No’ quite like the French do. The French are a people of protest, to strike is a right and they are often in the street to protest. From a social claim to a wage claim, the reasons for strikes are diverse and varied. But that does not mean that the French are fundamentally negative. The French are definitely more comfortable saying “no” than in other countries and this makes the French cold and arrogant. But learning to say no can be an effective skill to help you gain respect, prioritize your needs, and determine appropriate boundaries. Saying no is actually a healthy part of life and helps avoid being taken advantage of. So ask the French people around you for advice and don’t hesitate to say no when you disagree or when you don’t feel like.
8/ Learn the Art of “Râler“
French people love to complain. But in reality, they are not complainers, they are just “râleurs”. The French are much more comfortable with confrontation or criticism than in other countries. And “râler” is more like a tic and a cultural habit. It can be a way to open a conversation: one’s can complain about the weather, the government, transport… It’s a way to invite other people’s opinions, but above all, it’s a means to connect, build intimacy, and bond with others. In France, someone who is too optimistic about things can be seen as naïve and insincere and on the contrary, sharing good and bad things in life is seen as a sign of authenticity.
9/ Be Authentic
One can blame French people for being rude or mean but can never blame them for being authentic and honest. Authenticity is a quality dear to the French.
10/ Shop from the Farmers Markets
Food, but especially good food, is sacred in France. In any city in France you will find local farmers’ markets where you can buy seasonal fruits and vegetables. In addition to local markets, the French buy meat from the butcher, bread from the boulangerie, sweets from the patisserie… Everything is so incredibly fresh and tastes so much better this way.
11/ Learn French Cuisine and Host Dinners
French cuisine is considered by many to be the most prestigious and respectable cuisine in the world. The French love to host dinners at home, probably much more often than eating out. They invite friends and exchange stories over a bottle of wine and a good plate of cheese! In France, you know you’ve really made friends with someone when they invite you to one of the dinner parties they host with their other friends. French people love to receive and it is part of the “art de vivre”. Advice: never show up on time for a French dinner but arrive about 15 minutes late in case the host is running behind!
12/ Enjoy a French “Apéritif”
In France, the traditional apéritif is a cultural ritual and a French custom that you can adopt everywhere. The French apéritif is a pre-dinner drink, a moment of sharing —with family or friends, and preparing your palate for the meal to follow. The apéritif, also called an “apéro” for short in France, is not just about the food and drink (though those are certainly important) but it’s about taking a moment to reset and appreciate life. It isn’t traditional to have this with every meal but more when sharing with friends and family —either at home or at a restaurant.
13/ Take long Lunch Breaks
Lunch time breaks in France are a sacred thing. Between 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m., the whole country sits down to eat. French people don’t snack all day and having a proper lunch means eating seated, at fixed hours and with friends or colleagues.
14/ Spend your Sundays à la Française
Sunday in France is sacred. The French Sunday is a dedicated day for doing absolutely nothing except spending time with family. The French are known for their long Sunday lunches “déjeuners dominicaux” that stretch into the afternoons. It’s the perfect day to take the time to sleep, eat, to visit family and relatives. Sunday in France is a time for everyone to just “être” (to be).
15/ Take pleasure in the Small Things
Taking time to slow down and appreciate the little things in life. It can be buying a bouquet of fresh flowers, baking a cake, having a coffee or reading a book. Stop waiting for someone to give you a call to cheer you up you are your own source of happiness. If your happiness comes from doing nothing, then just don’t do it.