6 French lifestyle rituals to practice every day
French women so often seem to be the font of all knowledge, n’est-ce pas ?
We’re all grasping for that perfect French lifestyle – the one filled with long, sun-soaked lunches in Provence; glass after glass of vin rouge, as much fromage as we could stomach… All with the pleasant effect of a shrinking – rather than bulging – waistline at the end of it all.
But having spoken to many a French sage, we believe two things are abundantly clear. First, that the French aren’t perfect like we believe. And second, that the secret to happiness lies in the simple things. (And also perhaps, champagne.)
Mireille Guiliano is the poster girl for living the good French life. Almost 10 years after the release of her first book ‘French Women Don’t Get Fat’, the title is still a tome for francophiles and women everywhere.
We recently shared her 8 simple French lifestyle secrets with you, and after some haphazard testing, I am delighted to say that they do make a difference. But of course, life isn’t all about drinking two glasses of water in the morning and eating your meals sitting down.
Once you’ve mastered those everyday habits, it’s time to go a level deeper.
When we sat down with Mireille to talk about things fromage, travel and style, she shared some poignant insights into her world, and the secrets to existing between two cultures.
So, how many of these French lifestyle rituals do you practice every day?
1. Don’t underestimate the value of beauty
In Paris, Mireille explained, she could be lost in the beauty of the city. “You’d want to buy everything whether you went into a food, utensil, fashion or jewellery shop. Just when you buy something and they wrap it for you – it’s an act of love – you can’t be in a hurry because it’s just amazing! I’m still amazed by all this!”
“I’m still always amazed by the care they have for all the craftsmen and the artisans. Not only for couture but little things – all the rituals. Everything has a meaning.”
2. Don’t sweat the small stuff
Although the French pride themselves on attention to detail, it’s important to know when to not strive for perfection. “I don’t have the perfect china, I mix and match; and now it’s fashionable, but twenty years ago people would have been shocked!” she laughs.
3. Don’t lose a love for togetherness
“With my husband – we entertain a lot,” says Mireille. “I like my space, perhaps that’s part of getting old, I like quiet time and I still love to meet people. I can do both!”
“In Provence we have three guest rooms. Most of the time we have a full house. Every day I have a dozen people and it’s great fun. They do whatever they want in the day and we have meals together, we talk together… It’s a nice combination – I really don’t miss corporate life.”
4. Find a work/life balance
Mireille says that she allots time for writing, but also for seeing friends and unwinding.
“I have an agent in New York for my books and we did two at a time and every time I fall into the trap,” she tells us. “I’ve just turned in book number six’s manuscript to be edited. A week later she invites me to lunch… Her first question is: ‘So what are the next two books?’”
“She’s become a friend and I love her dearly but I say, ‘you’re kidding me? Let’s talk a year from now.’”
5. Don’t play up the myth of French perfection
Whenever Mireille and her husband entertained in their New York apartment, Mireille says her guests were enthralled by how she did it all. They’d ask endless questions – about the food, decor and everything in between. “Everything was interesting to them… It was always fun – they were very curious but I never had any problems,” she recalls.
“It was often embarrassing – all my husband’s friends who have lovely wives – they’d say ‘Mireille this’ and ‘Mireille that’… But I’m not perfect! Please stop, [it’s] too much!”
“It’s like you can do no wrong if you’re French, but we can do lots of things wrong!”
6. Don’t forget to practice gratitude
You might have already read this secret here, but we think it’s one worth repeating. After all, we do so often forget it.
“To me, life is a gift and every day I try to see how lucky I am to be alive, especially at my age when I see many of my friends are gone or many are unhealthy.
“To have your health is the most important thing. It’s not money. It’s not your career. If you don’t have your health, there’s not much left out there because you are physically unhappy and psychologically unhappy, and you are probably making a lot of people around you unhappy.
“It’s a responsibility of everyone to try to lead a healthy life, and it starts with eating well.”
Do you know any other secrets to happiness, and living the perfect French lifestyle? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.Images courtesy Mireille Guiliano.
1. © Andrew French.
2. © Tim Knox.