Before I even moved to France, I already knew that I should feel blessed to finally experience the French way of life.
When you see books like “French Children Don’t Throw Food” and “French Women Don’t Get Fat” topping Amazon bestseller’s lists for months, you start to thinking: those guys probably know something and living well!
Then you see a bunch of posts like “secrets of French women”, “how to look French”, or “how to cook like a French chef”, getting millions of shares. And get absolutely mind-blown by postcard-perfect views of Paris, Provence lavender fields, and turquoise waters of Cote d’Azur.
At a certain point, I did believe I got extremely lucky!
I already confessed that living in France improved my lifestyle, and now made up this list with a really pretensions title… But, let’s keep it real.
Living in France is not all croissants and midnight walks along the Seine.
Renting a decent living space even outside Paris costs a fortune; prices for most things (except wine, cheese, and bread) are rather high comparing to say neighboring Spain or Italy. And wages are lower, again comparing to Germany.
As a foreigner, you have tough times finding a real job and have to get used to dealing with bureaucracy. Taxes are high, making medical care and education affordable.
Like anywhere else in the world, the good things about French lifestyle counterbalance the less pleasant local quirks you come across.
Today, I’d like to focus more on what the French can teach the rest of the world about living healthier. Below are 10 takeaways that would actually make your life better!
1. Have Proper Lunch (early!)
Traditional French breakfast is petite. Coffee, croissant, or a few toasts with jam and butter.
Yet, lunch is the most important meal of the day. It is thoroughly enjoyed for at least an hour from 12 till 13. French are really serious about eating hours, and you should learn to stick to them.
Usual lunch offers include a small entre of salad plus main course, often with a glass of wine included in the price.
Why is early lunch great?
- Late lunch = late dinner = extra pounds you definitely don’t need!
- Eating several hours after breakfast re-charges your organism. Blood sugar level rises, making you more productive and concentrated.
How You Can Do It:
- Stop eating at your desk!
Neither you enjoy your meal in full, nor actually, mind what you eat. It actually promotes weight loss and healthier weight maintenance.
- Bring your meals from home.
Even if your company generously spares just 30 min for your lunch, you can still enjoy a proper meal if you cook it in advance.
You would feel much better in a week and become more productive at work!
2. Stop Munching On The Go and Drinking Coffee.
Starbucks and Subway are not very popular in France.
The French love to take their time, savor each bite, avoiding bottomless binging.
Not sure if we should consider them Mindful eating trendsetters, yet the French definitely know how to enjoy food, and so should You! (and me, who’s guilty of walk-drinking)
Ah, and yes, you can’t come in a cafe and ask for a takeaway cafe au lait. (Not that I never tried to order a takeaway cappuccino...).
But you can take all your time and nestle a cup of coffee for an hour without getting any looks from the waiter.
3. Be Moderate in Food.
French eat a lot of carbs, but have you noticed they usually have one or two croissants at a time? (Not five!) And how tiny their desserts are?
In case you are struggling with eating less, trick yourself with a smaller plate. It creates the illusion of eating a full meal, and a huge empty plate makes you think of how tiny your meal was despite the actual quantity of food.
And savor each bite! Not only this brings you more satisfaction from food, but our brain needs at least 20 min to register that we are full.
4. Treat Yourself at l’Heure du Gouter
My favorite time of the day from 15 pm to 16 pm when you are socially encouraged to grab something sweet and drink another cup of cafe au lait! You can check my list of best french pastries in case you don’t know what to choose
A small sugary indulgence will both make you feel happier and make your brain work better.
Note: Check #3. It should be one pastry and a few macaroons, not the whole box!
Of course, I’m no nutrition expert and can’t exactly say what a healthy diet (well, except for stating you should eat more veggies, fruits, and less junk food) is, but these little healthy eating tips I’ve adopted made me feel significantly better!
5. Learn to Disconnect
This French law prohibits answering work emails after 6 pm made a huge fuss all over the internet a while ago was misinterpreted badly, yet the French do know how to maintain a proper work/life balance.
Why do shops close at 7 pm in France?
Because business owners realize that the workers would like to have dinner with their families and value their rights more than making extra profits.
Even though “35 hour workweek” is already more of a myth than a reality, the French still work to live, not live to work.
Staying deeply connected with your work all the time results in quick burnouts, loss of creativity, and a general feeling of deep “I hate my job/life” misery.
Bottom line: stop replying work on emails late at night and on the weekends.
(I’m super guilty of this as a freelancer)
P.S. For those loving to work from cafes or during lunch, good luck finding a place with wi-fi. (unless it a new hype Starbucks-styled cafes or super-touristy dinners). So, yeah. You have to focus on just-food.
6. Give Yourself a Break. Take Vacations Seriously.
Just as August roles, I see how the city gets emptier and emptier, and flight costs to Nice, Corsica, and other Southern Cities rise. So, I would not advise traveling to Southern France at this time…
Taking all 30 days of vacation per year is absolutely acceptable in France. Not at all in once, though, but 3 weeks at summer + a week during Christmas and a few more Fridays throughout the year actually allows you to travel quite a lot. Even if you are on a 9 to 17 job.
7. Spend More Time Outdoors
What’s the most crowded place in France on a Sunday afternoon?
On the weekends you’ll find the French on a picnic, enjoying randonée in the mounts or having a splendid time at the seaside. The weather in France is nice most time of the year, and you’d definitely find a lot of seasonal activities to do outside! Along with numerous huge parks to walk around even on a chilly day.
Spending time outside is awesome! Don’t forget that.
8. Being More Polite in Everyday Life.
Ok, before throwing stones and sobbing about the Rude French, listen to me for another minute.
I love going to the same boulangerie. It may not be the cheapest, but I always prefer to go there.
Because of the owner.
He says “Merci, Madam” at least three (!) times if I buy just bread. And up to six “mercis” when I take something sweet along.
The other day, he corrected my “Ce bon” to “Ce manifique” when I took two lemon tarts.
Note: I suck at French, making me rather identifiable as a foreigner.
Or isn’t it pleasant to hear “Have a nice day!” each time you buy a bubble gum or just leave the shop without any purchase?
Another recent story.
I was walking with a huge grocery bag (obvs heavy), and an elderly Frenchman jumped over to the road, so I could have enough space on the narrow sidewalk to pass along.
….and there was this French lady on a broken train who bought me breakfast. She spoke English as bad as I do French
….and some sweet Parisian folks helping me to catch a plane. Twice.
Bottom line: Maybe the French are not rude after all? Though there may be a few reasons why you might have thought so.
9. Dear Girls, Care Less!
Do you know the biggest secret of French women?
They don’t give a fuck most of the time of how they actually look.
No heavy makeup, no extreme heels or mini bandage dresses (that look ugh on most people except Victoria Beckham maybe). Their hair may be messy and not perfectly clean.
But, she walks like on a runway with all the looks magnetized. She acts like she is the most gorgeous woman in the whole world.
You can’t fix everything and please everyone, so just Stop Trying So Hard for a short while and act like
Start being you more and show off your strength!
Bring passion in everything you do and slow down your pace to a saunter.
After all, life is not about impressing others but to enjoy yourself.
10. Bike More!
The French became extremely eco concerned in the last decade, encouraging more people to bike, use public transport (running on eco petrol) and covoture (car share).
Did you know that last spring Paris city administration made all the public transport free due to heavy fog hiding the Eiffel tower?
You can find plenty of bike routes at any major town and countryside along with city bike rentals (dirty cheap!) with parking space pretty much everywhere.
I often see men in suits (or ladies on heels) biking from/to work. Ah, and do you know one of the local ways to transport baguettes on a bike? Just put them in front of you, inside your half-zipped jacket and make sure you still see the road
Treat yourself and the nature around you!
What is your advice for living well?