Bringing a bit of French into your every day life
The French have this way of life that is sometimes hard to put a finger on. They do so effortlessly without breaking a sweat. I first visited France in 2000 and when I returned, fell head-over-heels in love in 2003. My mum always said I was born on the wrong continent and she was right (sorry Mum) !
Once I moved back to the States to continue life in 2003, I never felt quite at home. I was always a little out of my element. I had adapted to a lifestyle that I had experienced in France; time is valued, there’s an emphasis on family, culture, personal well-being. How you look at life (glass half empty or half full), how you approach life situations and your daily routine.
Here’s what I learned from the French and have adapted as part of my own personal mantra.
6 life lessons from the French
An overall theme of less is more. This is in every aspect of the French way of life; it is intertwined in everything the French do, from daily life, to family life, to social and professional circles. Less is more can show up in so many ways. One way to accomplish this is to create a habit, a routine. This can be daily, weekly, monthly, whatever you see fit, wherever you see fit.
Keeping a habit/routine is huge, it’s not only motivational but it helps you feel more in tune with yourself and those around you. It gives you peace of mind and the ability to enjoy the simple pleasures. It allows you to be able to balance out everything else and create cohesion in all aspects of your life. With habits/routines, the French have really set the balance in motion. They are not afraid to say no (or yes). They know what is best for them and how everything fits into each aspect of their life.
With routines, there are also boundaries. The French know how to say no; they also know how to say yes. But they do so with moderation and style. Creating a habit of saying no and prioritizing certain things works out well in the long run.
Priorities are a big thing with the French. They have an understanding of what is important and necessary and what isn’t. Being able to differentiate between these is a foundational support in French living. This is something that I’m struggling with my American mindset of being a people-pleaser. Shifting my focus from everyone else to me has been something that I’m working on on a daily basis.
Creating and defining priorities can be as simple or as hard as you would like it to be. They are your priorities and you’re the one that defines them. It is okay to say no. In fact, no should be in your vocabulary and you should not be afraid to use it. It is not the enemy, it is your friend. This goes along with the idea of boundaries.
Here are some priorities I’ve set for myself after living in France for over 2 years : you are allowed to pamper yourself, put yourself first. If it does not suit you, you do not need it. Take pleasure in the simple things, allow yourself to appreciate the moment.
It’s all about the attitude and mindset.
I learned very quickly to walk with confidence because here in Paris, people can read your body language very well. Starting the day off on the right foot, with the intention to be productive and positive does a lot for one’s mental capacity.
There are many things that can help boost the right mindset. Take for example, the way you dress. Have you ever noticed that the type of clothes you choose to wear shape how your attitude is/how you feel for the day? Dress to impress not only those around you, but most importantly, yourself. You can be stylish and comfortable at the same time. You do not need stretchy yoga pants to feel good in.
Here are a few other lessons I learned after spending more time with the French: put yourself out there and put yourself first. Embrace beauty in its simplest form; age with grace (do not overdo it with the makeup, this is not the early 2000’s anymore). It is okay to say no and set boundaries for yourself.
The French are experts in this area and it is present in every aspect of their lives. Enjoying life to the fullest does not equate to overindulgence. Moderation is not something restricted only to food, but also to every other area of life. The idea of “bigger is better” does not really exist here. Take the time to savory the moments. Take the time to live in the present. A sweet treat after a meal, a small splurge on your personal self. Little doses of pleasure, les petites plaisirs, that allow you to enjoy life to the fullest without breaking the bank or overdoing it.
There’s no reason to get your panties in a bunch and live stressed. Living in France, even the French have to deal with administration and they know it’s a pain. Do not stress over the little things, because it is completely not worth it. Instead, take everything in stride, plan as much as you can (check out my post here talking about my dossier) and don’t sweat it when things take a little longer than you think they should. This is the biggest lesson I’ve learned since starting my French journey and it has been the one I’ve needed the most. Not only to have patience with those around me, but most importantly myself.
The French have one (of a numerous and many) thing(s) down and that’s how to have a balance between work and play. On average, the French work week is around 35 hours, Monday to Friday. After your first year of work, you’ve got about 5 weeks worth of vacation earned up (2.5 days earned every month). Usually everyone take off several weeks between July and August as well as the week between Christmas and New Years. Don’t get me started on holiday weekends in May (when they fall on the right day). And the rest is up to you to take when you want to.
It’s okay to take that time off, take that 3 day weekend. Having a break every once and a while from work allows you to refocus, regroup and recharge. Something I learned since working in France full-time, when you’re off, you are off. You are not expected to answer emails, phone calls, etc… It can wait till you are back at work again. Disconnect from work when you are not there. It will not kill you if you do not answer that email. You are allowed to have a life outside of work. I am giving you permission.