Intentionally French – 11 Easy Ways to Add French to Your Day
Do you wake up every morning filled with romance and excitement, enthralled for the beautiful day ahead of you? Yeah, me neither. It takes a little intention.
Usually I wake up with my mind scanning all the things I have to do, sounding a little like turning a radio dial really fast and pausing briefly on the occasional newscaster or oldies or maybe a Spanish station.
Romance and enthusiasm and joie de vivre must be mustered up on a day-to-day basis, and the French do it oh so well by adding touches of beauty to their everyday routine.
Here are 11 simple things you can do to get you in that French state of mind.
1. Go for a Walk
In France, people walk everywhere, whether it’s a stroll in the garden, a visit to the local bakery or grocer, or just to work and back. It’s extremely extroverting, allowing you to appreciate the beauty around you and setting the tone for a beautiful day.
Walking is creative time. You’re in active mode so you’re engaged, but doing something sort of mindless (right foot, left foot, right foot), a combination that fires up the sparks and lets the mind explore new solutions and ideas and see things from a different perspective.
Here in America, we are not always so fortunate to have our destinations within walking distance, so it may take a bit more of a deliberate effort to get out the door.
As a free bonus (said like a Ginsu knife commercial), walking is great for keeping you fit and burning off past and future indulgences. It’s one of the secrets to how the French stay slim while enjoying amazing food.
I love walking with my husband – it’s one of the few times we have each other’s undivided attention. But I also enjoy the walks with just me and my playlist – an eclectic mix of Lou Pine, Damien Rice, Usher, Christina Aguilera, and lots of other great company.
2. Put out fresh flowers
A proverb, attributed to several sources (but I believe originally from Muhammad), says “If you have but two loaves of bread, sell one and buy white hyacinth to feed the soul.” I often remind myself of that when I want to splurge on something pretty.
Fresh flowers are an essential element in the French home. They add beauty and fragrance and remind you that somebody loves you, and it’s fine if that somebody is you.
Most grocery markets have seasonal fresh flowers year ‘round at very affordable prices. You may even be able to score some on your morning walk (no, I’m not suggesting you purloin them from other people’s yards – stick to what’s growing on the side of the road).
I love placing them in things that aren’t vases – a pitcher, dish or coffee mug; in places other than the usual dining or coffee table – the bedroom, bathroom or kitchen counter. It feels rustic and organic and just for me.
3. Have coffee and a croissant for breakfast
Breakfast in France (le petit déjeuner – the little lunch) is light – a croissant or tartine spread with butter and jam, and maybe some fruit. After all, it’s not like you’ve been working up an appetite all night.
The big, American, bacon-and-egg breakfast is just that – American. Eggs are not a breakfast protein in France, but are served for lunch or dinner. Sure, you can find bacon and eggs for breakfast in Paris – it’s called the “American breakfast”.
Enjoying a typical French breakfast is light yet indulgent – so French!
4. Help a total stranger
I’m sorry to break it to you but the stereotype of the French being rude is entirely false – probably invented by some Francophile who wanted to keep France all to themselves.
The truth is, the French are known (by those who really know the French) for being one of the most polite cultures anywhere on the planet. And part of that includes helping total strangers with random tasks in social solidarity.
It’s very common to see people helping someone onto the Metro or offering to carry an elderly person’s bags. I have personally experienced so many examples of this –
On one trip to Paris, we were looking for a particular street and asked in a bakery how to find it. Another customer, overhearing us, said that his office was in that direction and would lead us there.
In a trip to Provence, we were desperate to find a place with WiFi to send a business document. It was rather late, and raining. We met a young man on the street to ask for suggestions, and he walked us, quite some distance and in the rain, to a hotel where they were happy to share their bandwidth.
Driving in central France, we couldn’t figure out how to work the gas pumps for our rented car. An onlooker came over to offer assistance.
I could literally go on and on. I find too that my French friends in America are some of the most generous of their time and help, but for them it is second nature.
Small gestures of kindness benefit both the giver and receiver, and is a very French thing to do.
5. Kiss, kiss, kiss
The typical way to greet someone in France is with the faire la bise (in English, make the kiss).
To properly faire la bise, you touch cheeks while you pucker and make the kiss-y sound (you must make the sound or it isn’t a kiss, it’s just kinda creepy). You do not touch your lips to the cheek, which is so nice for preserving your lipstick.
How many kisses? Well this is a little confusing but it really depends on the region. In Paris, 2 is common. In some regions 3 or even 4 or 5 can be typical.
It is such a warm and friendly greeting – I don’t know that I could convert all of America to this convention, but you never know until you try.
6. Sit down to a proper meal
The French do not eat in their car, or on the run, or standing over the sink. The French meal (repas) is a calm, daily ritual, where the world slows down and attention is given to the food, people, and surroundings. It is a chance to connect.
If you’re dining alone, it’s an opportunity to people-watch, which is a sport in France.
Ever wonder why some restaurants are so loud and echo-y? Well, there’s a darn good reason for it, and it has nothing to do with enhancing your dining pleasure. Studies have shown that people will eat more food in noisy, distracting environments. Slowing down to enjoy a quiet meal is just one more slimming trick the French have up their skinny little sleeves.
Turn off the TV, set the table, put on nice music and light some candles. Whatever you serve from there is up to you.
7. Have a picnic
The French call it, mmmm, what’s the word? Oh yes, pique-nique. It’s oh so French! Pique – to pick or peck, nique – small things.
On a rather pricey dinner cruise, I’ll admit I was a little jealous seeing people casually strolling along the Seine, stopping to enjoy their basket of bread and cheese, charcuterie and wine. It’s such a simple, casual pleasure.
Whether in park or on the beach, or just on your own terrace, make your picnic special. Put a nice cloth on the table or ground. Elevate your picnic with real napkins, real glasses and real plates (you can find great quality plastic or melamine). Bring a cutting board and knife for cheeses and bread.
Some excellent picnic staples include:
- Charcuterie (dried sausages, French ham or prosciutto)
- Cold roast chicken
- Salads (fresh green salad, tabouli, etc.)
- Fresh or dried fruits
- And of course … a nice bottle of wine
8. Give your skin a treat
The two biggest splurges every French woman makes is skin care and underthings, and she will pinch pennies until they squeal to buy the best.
French women do not wear a lot of makeup. What they wear instead is beautiful, radiant skin.
If you’ve never had a great, professional facial, you really should treat yourself to one. It’s so much more than just getting goop on your face.
A good aesthetician will analyze your skin to give you the right cleansing, exfoliation, and treatment you need. In addition, you’ll get a wonderful facial massage and usually a scalp massage.
You will walk out feeling relaxed and looking refreshed. If you walk out looking like you’ve been stung by a hive of bees, find another facialist.
Many aestheticians can also give various laser treatments with magic wands to tighten and improve your skin, and in this case you may have some down-time, but it’s well worth the wait.
If time or money doesn’t allow for a professional facial, take the time to give yourself a full at-home treatment.
9. Don’t futz with your hair too much
You may be aware that French women do not wash their hair every day, but what you may not know is that they don’t necessarily even brush their hair every day.
That casual, sexy “bedhead” look? Yep, it’s bedhead. Excessive hair brushing breaks the ends and makes the hair bush-y. Try waking up in the morning and fingering that tossled hair into place, with maybe a little pomade, or argan or coconut oil, for a sexy French look.
The first time I did this, I felt a little conspicuous, wondering if I’d get called out for tumbling out of bed and leaving the house. I had a 7:00 am appointment, and by 8:00 am I’d racked up 3 compliments on my hair. Survey done.
All French women know that hair looks best a day or two after it’s been washed, and will plan ahead for special events so they don’t need to wash their hair “the day of”.
If you wake up with your hair looking all cute and sexy, leave it be.
10. Drink a lot of water
Yes, the French really do this very deliberately, and it shows –
The French stay slender – drinking water helps eliminate excess weight and reduces your calorie intake.
The French do not have heart disease – water thins the blood, making it easier for the heart to pump blood.
French women have beautiful skin – water hydrates the skin from the inside out.
And if you get mad at someone you can throw water on them.
11. Enjoy a nice glass of wine with dinner
The French are not big drinkers (they leave that to the English), but they do enjoy a nice glass of wine with dinner. In France, a glass of wine is generally less expensive than a cup of coffee, and even the inexpensive ones are quite good.
Ordering wine can be a little daunting, but it doesn’t need to be. Here’s a couple of tips –
Learn what you like, and how to describe it. I prefer a red wine that is full-bodied with some complexity, meaning that the flavor changes from the moment you first taste it to the moment you swallow. You may like that too, or you may like something light and fruity, or crisp and citrus-y, or an assortment of other -y words. By learning to describe what you like, the waiter can help you make a nice choice.
If you’re afraid that, by describing what you like, you’ll end up with a $100 glass of wine, simply point to the menu at a wine that is at the price point you’re willing to pay, and say I’d like something like this, that is … (your description here)”. That’s sort of the universal language for “this is what I want to pay”.
And finally, don’t be afraid to ask for a taste, and send it back if it’s not to your liking
There you go.11 ways to French it up! I hope you’ll try some of these out and email me to tell me how it went!
Bonjour! Je suis Kelley
Hi, I’m Kelley – thrower of parties, drinker of wine, and lover of all things French. I hope you enjoy my Lessons in Becoming French!