When I first moved to France in late 2015, I had no idea what it would be like! Sure, I’d visited the country a few times, as well as Paris once when I was 18, but visiting somewhere is by no means anything like actually living in a place… Besides, when you live in France you can learn all of the best French habits (and maybe even steal them for yourself!)
So, with an open mind, I tentatively packed my belongings into three suitcases, boarded the Eurostar and nervously turned up at my accommodation. However, nothing could have prepared me for my arrival: when I arrived at my student accommodation, the building was on fire! Literally, on fire.
The building had to be evacuated and there were multiple fire engines. Luckily, no one was hurt and there was little damage to the building. And so, a few hours later I was sitting on the bed in my new room thinking “what do I do next?” Immediately, I set about learning more of the language…
10 French Habits you Should Steal
#1 Drink your hot drinks from a bowl!
I remember the first time I met my boyfriend’s family and was offered tea… it was in a bowl. Like, a cereal bowl! I was quite surprised when I first saw this, but now I’ve kind of adopted the habit. After all, there’s something soothing about picking up your morning tea and holding it in both hands.
Oh, and as I can tell you from first-hand experience, on a cold morning, drinking your coffee from a warm bowl is definitely a great hand warmer, especially during winter in Paris when the air is cold and the ground is freezing!
#2 Enjoy your morning coffee
Oh, and while we’re on the subject of caffeine, it’s worth noting that any coffee should be enjoyed. It’s not at all unusual to stop off at your local café on the way to work and stand outside en terrasse, sipping your morning espresso and watching the world go by.
You don’t have to take a great deal of time out of your day, but giving yourself ten minutes to simply enjoy your morning coffee (rather than checking up on your Facebook feed or even catching up on emails) is a great way to relax for a couple of minutes and unwind before the busy day ahead.
#3 Put away your electronics at the table (and have proper family meal times)
Put that phone away! (After you’ve read this article, obviously). But, seriously, take the time to enjoy your food and unplug from the online world on a regular basis. Not only do the French avoid electronics at the breakfast table, but they do so at the lunch table and dinner table too.
It’s good manners and you can truly enjoy the time spent with friends, family and work colleagues. Oh, and just because you didn’t post it on Instagram, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen! Social media addiction habits die hard, but French habits are so much better…
#4 Eat anything you like! (In moderation, bien sûr)
Like many things, the French have got the balance between health and enjoyment of life pretty spot on. Whether it be a small glass of wine in the evening or a slice of cheese, for the most part, things are eaten in moderation. All in all, French women have one of the highest life expectancies in the world, third only to Japan and Spain.
When you order at a French restaurant, everything is quite rich; cheeses, oils, cream, wine, you get the picture! However, the food is fresh, devoid of artificial additives and the portion sizes are never too large. What can you learn from this? Eat what you like, just do it in moderation.
#5 Spend time with your loved ones
Of all the French habits I learned whilst living in Paris, this is the one that has stuck with me the most. Whether it be friends, family or work colleagues, the French understand the importance of spending time with those you love most. There’s a reason they unplug from electronics, enjoy long lunches together and bond over good food and wine. It’s because there is no good alternative to genuine vis-à-vis human interaction…
#6 Dress how you like (but wear it with confidence)
When I lived in Paris, what struck me was that many of the Hollywood clichés I’d seen about French fashion simply weren’t true! No one really struts around in their highest heels and best fake fur. The thought of navigating all of those cobblestone lined streets six-inch heels is making my palms sweat!
Nor does everyone cycle around carrying baguettes and wearing berets. Or, at the very least, not that many people do… The number one French habit I picked up from living in France was to dress in what made you feel comfortable, and then to own your dress sense! For more French dressing habits, here’s a guide to dressing like a Parisian.
#7 Tell it how it is (and talk politics ’round the dinner table)
The thing I enjoyed most about my time in France was that if there was a problem, then you would know about it. The French were never rude, but they certainly wouldn’t beat about the proverbial bush. If there was a problem they would tell you- no bs- and all would be sorted out promptly.
Similarly, there is no taboo surrounding discussions which I often find to be off-limits back home in the UK; for example, politics. As soon as the Brexit vote was announced, the first question my French friends and acquaintances would ask me was “So, which way are you voting?” Of course, this was a silly question as they already knew the answer; after all, I was already living in France.
There was never any polite small talk or awkward false friendliness. Instead, you’d have proper debates around the dinner table and everything would be discussed and well-debated. I really enjoyed this openness about ‘controversial’ topics as you could learn from other’s perspectives and challenge your own…
#8 Make a habit of enjoying (good) French bread!
While the ‘stereotype’ of A Frenchman carrying a baguette, wearing a beret, and sporting a Breton-striped shirt, this is very obviously a caricature. What is indeed perhaps more reality than cartoon, however, is the French habit of enjoying seriously good bread.
From baguette to sourdough, skip out on the sliced loaf and instead start purchasing tastier fresh bread from your local bakery (if you have one nearby). I truly never understood the joy of good bread before moving to France… and now there’s no way I’ll ever be returning to my former non French habit ways!
#9 Adopt La Bise!
Unlike in Anglophone speaking countries, greeting with friends and family members is all about ‘la bise’ as opposed to giving someone a hug. It’s considered to be more intimate to give someone a hug and instead, the side to side cheek kiss is a much more common form of greeting someone. Learn more about the custom of la bise here.
#10 Adopting French phrases and words
If you’re looking for the best way to learn French, then it’s clear that immersing yourself in the language entirely is obviously the best solution. However, you should also bear in mind that, while this is not always possible (though watching TV shows and listening to music is a great place to start), you may actually have a good head start when it comes to learning vocabulary. You see, there are actually many French words and phrases used in English on a daily basis!