What does it really take to live the French lifestyle? If you want to know a little bit more about the French lifestyle or “l’Art de vivre à la Française” in French, here are my 20 best tips to incorporate the French way of life into your daily life, regardless of where you live. But first, here is a little about me: I’m French and I’m a Parisian expat currently living in the city center of Amsterdam. Previously, I lived several years in London and in Paris —in the 17th arrondissement and in the 4th arrondissement, on the Île Saint-Louis —. As a native, I have a good idea of what the French lifestyle is and I’ll try to share in this article my best tips to help you live like a (true) French, no matter where you live.
But what is a typical French lifestyle? How the French enjoy life? The French lifestyle is all about living a simple life. Indeed, life in France doesn’t revolve around work, money, or having the nicest and most expensive things. Instead, it’s all about enjoying the best moment in life, whether it’s through social gatherings, amazing food, art, fashion, or architecture. Keep scrolling to learn more about the twenty French lifestyle tips that come from my personal experience of being French and living in France (both in Paris and in the countryside). There are plenty of tips and ideas listed below you can easily incorporate into your daily life to live the French lifestyle.
20 Tips To Live The French Lifestyle
1. Enjoy Simple Things In Life
Stop prioritizing or scheduling things to do during your days off. Instead, just ask yourself what would you do today that would make you happy. It can be reading a book in your favorite coffee shop, buying fresh flowers, or cooking a nice meal for yourself or for your loved ones. The French lifestyle is about slowing down when you’re off work as it’s the best way to enjoy the most simple pleasures in life. Also, challenge yourself by spending time alone, doing things for yourself, and preserving your “Jardin secret”.
2. Be A “Flâneur”
If you were wondering what “flâneur” means, it is a French term meaning “stroller” or “loafer” used by nineteenth-century French poet Charles Baudelaire to identify an observer of modern urban life. And if there is no real translation for the French word “flâner”, it’s definitely an essential part of the French lifestyle. Being French, I love walking in the streets of Paris, London, or Amsterdam with nowhere to go, but just to stop for a sunrise in the morning or sunset at night and sometimes to take a photo of it. Being a flâneur is to slow down in order to enjoy the beauty of the moment. Remember that if something doesn’t get done, the world will not fall off its axis. There is no rush for anything, here is my 5 step guide on how to be a flâneur:
- Set off without a set purpose and see what the city streets will reveal to you when you walk them with no set agenda.
- Move past the edges of your known territory and take the winding street you’ve never walked before.
- Leave your phone in your pocket in airplane mode.
- Challenge yourself by wandering in the streets alone.
- Be curious and embrace the unusual and unexpected on your way.
3. Have A Coffee En Terrasse To People Watch
Being French, having a coffee en terrasse to watch people is one of my favorite things to do, and especially in the morning. It’s a real satisfaction to watch the world waking up and to see people being in a hurry while I’m sitting down and enjoying my coffee (alone or with friends). I usually try to guess where all these people are going and what they are doing for a living. It’s like a real game! So next time you’re at a café or even just passing by a park, sit down and just observe the world around you.
4. Master The Art Of Discretion
French lifestyle’s mantra could be summarized as “Pour vivre heureux, restons cachés” —literally in English: “To live happily, live hidden”. The French do not want to be seen and heard by the world. Indeed, French people do not share every detail of their life with anyone or on social networks. The French usually do not speak or laugh loudly and do not show off about expensive items or money. In the French culture, it’s very vulgar to show off its wealth or to even talk about money (or how expensive the things you own are).
So, if you don’t want to look like a tourist in France, make sure to visit the city in the most discreet way possible to blend in. Avoid attracting attention from all directions and do not overshare en terrasse (even if you’re speaking in English).
5. Cultivate Your Intellect
The French love cultural activities such as going to the cinema, opera, or museum. The French are very much into the arts; visiting the theater for any kind of production is a very normal thing to do in France. Most of the cultural institutions are subsidized by the French government, which provides better access to cultural activities for everyone.
Being educated and well-read is one of the most important parts of the French lifestyle. The French will rather judge people by their level of education and their knowledge than the amount of money they earn. Stay curious and embrace cultural activities such as going to the latest exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo or read the latest Houellebecq’s book.
And if you were wondering, reading is still very much a part of daily French life. You must have seen those iconic newspaper kiosks that are in every street of Paris. Most of the French are still reading books and newspapers and for them, it’s a way to support their local bookstore. Here are five of my favorite French books and novels:
- The Flowers of Evil (“Les Fleurs du mal”), Charles Baudelaire
- In Search of Lost Time (“À la recherche du temps perdu”), Marcel Proust
- Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
- Friday, or, The Other Island (“Vendredi ou les Limbes du Pacifique”), Michel Tournier
- Journey to the End of the Night (“Voyage au bout de la nuit”), Céline
6. Have Meaningful Conversations
The French usually do not like superficial small talks but instead, they prefer to have meaningful conversations. To master the art of conversation, make sure you always have something to talk about. Read, listen, watch the news, and get informed about world events and local ones too. Indeed, conversations need to be intelligent, no topic is off-limit such as religion or politics. Except maybe money; avoid in a conversation to talk about how much you spent on your new car or how much you’re earning. In France, it’s vulgar to talk about money so openly in a conversation.
Conversations need to be engaging, objective, and with no political speak. And usually, it’s always better to have those types of conversations with a meal, a glass of wine, or with a coffee. Now, you understand why French dinner parties can last for hours! I think it’s a great way to learn about new topics and to share ideas with others.
7. Host A French Dinner Party
I do think hosting is really at the heart of French culture. And being French, I did not have to learn it, I was exposed to it at home. I remember growing up, we had family lunches and dinners where we would all gather at my grandparents’ house and have a glass of champagne to start with, and then we had a full menu.
In French, we call it the “Art de recevoir à la Française” (“the art of hosting French-style” in English). French dinner parties usually follow an elaborate ritual of different courses with paired wines, multiple place settings, and pre-and post-dinner drinks. French dinners are effortlessly chic: a good conversation with a lot of laughter, good wines, and delicious food, an evening that unfolds at a leisurely pace and ends late. If you want to learn more about the art of French hosting, you can read my guide to hosting the perfect French dinner party.
8. Spend Your Sundays The French Way
Being French, Sunday is my favorite day of the week! Indeed, Sunday in France is like a French holiday, except it happens every weekend. Most stores are closed and restaurants are open, forcing you to focus on the truly important things in life: family and friends with a side of delicious food and good conversations. Indeed, the French are known for their long Sunday lunches “en famille” that stretch into the afternoons.
Sundays in France is the perfect day of the week to slow down and/or to do nothing, except what you truly want to do! You can either enjoy a brunch with friends, a picnic in the park or go to the museums. In France, if many boutiques and independent shops are closed on a Sunday, many museums remain open. And one of the most exciting things to note about Sundays in Paris (the first Sunday of the month to be precise) is that museums are free for anyone to visit.
9. Shop From Your Local Farmer’s Market
Wherever you’re living in France, there is always a weekly outdoor market close to your house. When I was living on the Île Saint-Louis in the 4th arrondissement, I used to go once a week to my local farmer’s market to get all my fruits and vegetables for the week. I used to get my fish at the fish shop, and my meat at the butcher. Now that I’m living in Amsterdam I have the same kind of rituals. In France, it’s a tradition to shop all the food you need for the week at your local farmer’s market. It’s a great way to ask farmers which ingredients are the best, what is new, and some advice on the best way to cook their products.
10. Learn French Cooking
The French love to cook! Every day, the French cook meals with fresh whole, and unprocessed foods. Being French, I grew up in a family where we have always been used to cooking every single meal. Growing up, I kept this healthy habit. A typical weeknight dinner would be a vegetable soup (see my French peasant soup recipe with leeks and potatoes), with homemade bread (see Éric Kayser’s French baguettes recipe), or some fresh vegetables cooked with olive oil and herbs.
I usually cook fish once a week, when I get it fresh from the market. I eat meat a maximum of twice a week, most of the time organic free-range chicken filet from my local butcher. Dessert is whatever fruit in season or homemade tarts (see French lemon tart and strawberry tart recipes). For more, see my previous post on what real French women eat in a day. And if you wish to learn French cooking basics, I really recommend one of these best French cookbooks by actual French chefs.
11. Sit Down And Savor Your Meal
For the French, mealtime is sacred! And dedicating time each day to sit down and savor your meal is something the French have embraced and practiced forever. So, stop rushing around and doing extra work while you’re eating. Instead, just sit down at one table with your family, friends, or colleagues and enjoy a nice meal together. Also, at home, avoid TV dinners or lunch/dinner on the go. Finally, make sure to take your lunch break! The French usually have a proper one-hour lunch break they enjoy with their friends and/or colleagues.
12. Exercise The French Way
Instead of doing exercise programs with high intensity and high frequency (which are often unsustainable and lead to failure), the French stay thin simply by eating healthy and living their daily lives —see my previous article on how French women stay slim. The French move around regularly, using stairs, bikes, and public transportation. And it’s especially true in cities like Paris, where most Parisians walk or bike where they need to go.
The French walk because they enjoy it and it’s a part of normal everyday life, not because it’s something they have to do to stay fit. So, whether it’s a walk in the morning or a stroll after dinner, embrace a walk around the neighborhood or local park instead of heading straight to the sofa or staying cooped up indoors. Adopting this habit is one of the simplest ways you can start incorporating the French lifestyle into your daily routines.
13. Adopt The French Approach To Self Care
For the French, self-care is all about slowing down the pace of life to enjoy the small things that you know deep down will make you happy. The French do not spend fortunes on drastic health treatments, intense workout classes, or the latest healthy cookbook bestseller. Instead, the way the French care for themselves is more about doing something for themselves every day. It’s naturally embedded in their daily routine and it’s mostly traditions and rituals passed from generation to generation. Here are some French tips to take better care of yourself:
- Do not strive for perfection.
- Accept your flaws —which make you charming and unconventionally beautiful— rather than trying to fix them.
- Appreciate the small things in life: do not fuss too much about how you look or what people might think of you and do not try too hard to be healthy.
- Do not be afraid to spend time alone, to get to know yourself better.
- Dream, plan the future, and contemplate life.
You can read my previous article on how French women practice self-care.
14. Embrace Aging Gracefully
French women know that age has nothing to do with style and great style is possible no matter how old you are. You can be chic at any age, the key is to know how to flaunt your body and sensibility in a way that works for you. And the French will always prefer to look their age than trying too hard to look younger: they just want to be the best version of themselves at any age.
Also, French women don’t overdo Botox, as it can make them look older than they are. French women will always prefer to stay 100% natural than going for excessive plastic surgery that looks fake and unnatural. For more, you can read my article on the classic French style for women over 50.
15. Declutter Your Wardrobe
When organizing your wardrobe, remember the French mantra “Less is more”. French woman’s wardrobe is usually minimalist and well organized. When it comes to clothing, French women usually buy less but better: they invest in high-quality and long-lasting items. And instead of accumulating a ton of clothes, French women create what we call a capsule wardrobe. Which is a set of basic, high-quality, and timeless pieces that you can practically and fashionably wear every day.
So, each time you go shopping and before each purchase, ask yourself if you really need this item and if it’s the best quality you can get. In the long run, you’ll save money as you’ll buy fewer items and you’ll be surrounded by only the best things you love.
16. Curate A French Capsule Wardrobe
In order to curate a French capsule wardrobe, just do a list of all the fashion basics that are missing in your wardrobe. And then, slowly curate your items. French women are usually looking for high-quality fabrics, long-lasting, and timeless clothing styles. The French do not look for the latest fashion trends and tend to avoid fast fashion clothing shops. Instead, French women curate clothing items that all work together. Shop timeless pieces with those French fashion brands that combine quality, perfect cut, and French savoir-faire:
See the 10 best French fashion wardrobe essentials if you’re looking for inspiration. Also, you can retrieve all of the French capsule wardrobes that I’ve created for each season. Finally, don’t forget to read my guide to adopt the French style and the Parisian style.
17. Wear What Makes You Feel Fabulous
If you went to Paris, you might have seen how much effort French women put into clothes, and the way they present themselves. Every day, the French always make sure they represent themselves in the best possible way. This means, taking time to look polished and refined whatever they’re wearing.
However, looking your best doesn’t mean spending a fortune on clothing or being a fashion victim by following the latest trends. French chic style is not a difficult style to pull off. It’s something effortless, classic, nonchalant, cool but not arrogant. French style is about finding the right balance between looking dressed up and laid-back. Shop for items that are comfortable to wear, with neutral palette colors like black, grey, beige, navy blue, brown, etc. And most important, always wear items that make you feel fabulous!
18. Treat Yourself To Beautiful Lingerie
Lingerie is a big industry in France, with French women spending an average of 20% of their style budget every year on lingerie! It is an essential part of a French woman’s wardrobe as lingerie is the first thing you put on in the morning and the last thing you take off at night. And because most people don’t see what’s underneath your clothing, you can wear any lingerie item that makes you feel fabulous! Also, try to match your lingerie as French women do. If you do not have any set of matching lingerie, it’s maybe time to invest! Check out the 10 best French lingerie brands for women to shop for.
19. Wear Your Signature Perfume Everyday
Being French, I couldn’t imagine leaving the house without wearing my favorite perfume. For the French, perfume isn’t something they save for special occasions. Instead, having a scent that is unique is part of your identity. So when people smell your perfume they are instantly reminded of you. One of my favorite fragrances is Un Jardin Sur Le Nil by Hermès. If you’re looking for French perfumes, check out the most iconic French perfumes of all time.
Usually, French women have a selection of different perfumes for different occasions. One for every day, others fragrances for a night out, and the most expensive ones are kept for special occasions. Each morning, the French usually choose which fragrance they want to wear that day, depending on the mood. To make your perfume last longer my French tip is to spray a small amount behind your ears, on the back of your neck, and on your wrists.
20. Simplify Your Life
Finally, one of the essential parts of the French lifestyle lies in living a simple(r) life. Try to simplify your life down to only those things that you treasure most and that make you happy. And this applies in any area of your life: whether in your relationships, work, finances, hobbies, shopping habits, etc. Life can be pretty complicated already. Staying on top of work responsibilities, keeping up with friends and family, paying your rent and bills on time, being a good parent, and making people into believing that you’ve got your life together, just aren’t easy. That is why it’s important to effortlessly practice the concept of less is more. The more simple your life, the richer it becomes as you’ll have more time to truly enjoy life. To learn more, you can read my 17 French tips for a happier and healthier life.
Which one of these French lifestyle tips will you incorporate into your daily life? I would love to know your thoughts! Please add your comment below.
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