Anyone determined to live well and has done research on the subject has undoubtedly come across books, blogs, and podcasts about the idealized French culture. Some critics turn up their noses at our French-obsessed culture, saying our beliefs that French women don't get fat, are always stylish, and hardly ever wear makeup are fiction. Even as a devoted Francophile, I completely understand and respect that viewpoint. It would be silly to idolize a country I've never been to and be steadfast in my belief that France is every cultured woman's dream.
However, I still embrace my French obsession in a different way. In her book 30 Chic Days, author Fiona Ferris describes having an idealized version of a French Girl in her head who she knows in reality does not exist but is a trope that gives her confidence and a goal to aim for. This is where the truly magical effect of French obsession comes into play. By reading these blog posts or books about what makes French women special, we start trying to exhibit that quality in our own lives. Sure, French women are as deeply flawed as the rest of us, but the dream of the chic French Girl keeps us Francophiles moving toward our dreams, even if those dreams don't exist in reality.
Rather than looking for the bad or the "overrated" in a cultural obsession, why not choose to see what wonderful outcomes a predilection brings?
Emphasis on good food
In the famed French Women Don't Get Fat, Mireille Guiliano writes about how French women eat bread, butter, and dessert—all without getting fat. Several other books, such as Anne Barone's Chic and Slim, discuss the same topic. While these books provide different outlooks and tips, the philosophy boils down to our French Girls eating high quality, nutritious food in small portions. Out with the rice cakes and in with the boule if you will. With the food revolution that's taking place—more farm-to-table and organic foods—embracing French food culture couldn't have come at a better time. With the French philosophy in mind when it comes to food, I've found I'm better able to enjoy my meals and am discovering new foods I like.
Much like fine cuisine, capsule wardrobes have recently come into vogue with the rise of minimalism and French adoration. As Americans, we've often used clothes shopping as a way to cheer up a bad day. This consumerism isn't only bad for our wallets. With too many items of clothing to choose from we're creating decision fatigue and causing ourselves unneeded stress before the work day has even begun. When we limit the number of items in our wardrobe like a French Girl does, we're making our decision process easier. And, when we spend money on fewer articles of clothing, we can save up for highly quality purchases that can last through many seasons. Since adapting this philosophy, I've found that getting dressed really is a lot simpler and wearing a "uniform" of black pants and light colored tops suits my lifestyle and taste.
Appreciation of art
I imagine it would be difficult to not appreciate art when you have Musée du Louvre in your capitol city. That being said, the abundance of art readily available to the French Girl provides her with numerous opportunities to "seek out the arts," as Francophile author Jennifer L. Scott would say. Those who are channeling the ideal French Girl lifestyle are often inspired to find more opportunities to see exhibits, productions, or performances. I take a certain amount of delight in going to the theatre because in my mind, I'm acting like a Parisienne.
While the French might be known for being a bit cold, they have very strict standards for proper greetings and interactions while doing their daily shopping. Part of this has to do with the more formal language usage (tu vs. vous), but the rest is based on the idea that when going into someone's shop, you should act as if you're entering their home. After all, one's job is their livelihood. Since learning more about the French necessity of greeting shop owners with "Bonjour!" and a little friendly chit-chat, I've made strides to do the same whenever I speak to an employee at a store. For example, I always make sure to says hello and ask the baristas how they are when I'm at Starbucks. Often times, I think they're so used to asking, "Hi, how are you?" and hearing someone's order in response that they're taken aback at a genuine exchanged of pleasantries. It can actually be quite fun and lead to interesting conversations.
I've been wanting to write this post for awhile because I am undoubtedly smitten with the French culture. After years of reading Francophile books and blogs, I'm excited to add my voice to the conversation. Moving forward, you can expect more French themed blog posts on Sarah Michelle and further discussion on how to embrace your inner French Girl. Share in the comments any French philosophies you live by!