After a summer in the South of France soaking up the French lifestyle of relaxed and happy living, I think I may actually have a handle on what it means to have that French Joie de Vivre. Translated directly, Joie de Vivre means the Joy of Living (more on French phrases you’ll need for traveling here). And I think we all have an image in our minds of what it means, as we picture effortlessly chic, fabulous, happy French people going about their lives without a care in the world and still managing to lead fabulous lives. We know what it looks like but how can we pull it off? How can we master the French Joie de Vivre?
Coming from America, I’m constantly confronted with the stereotype that we’re manic workaholics who don’t know how to relax and are doomed to a life of extremes as we go from a hectic office to a jam-packed week of vacation and then back to our office for a tortured cubicle life that we crave and love. It’s not far off and I know I’m guilty of it. There’s so much to do and so little time! But I’m trying to understand the French Joie de Vivre and channel that energy because I think it’s a much healthier lifestyle. After studying the fabulous French people around me all summer, I’ve come to some conclusions about how we can master the French Joie de Vivre, let’s give them a try!
How To Master the French Joie de Vivre
Take a Break Each Day
Initially one of the most frustrating things about France, which I later learned to love, is the midday break. Stores are closed each day for a two hour lunch break and it’s totally acceptable. This is a cultural norm so you may not be able to convince your boss that you need a two hour lunch break, but try to use fully your entire break. Get up from your desk, go outside, enjoy your lunch, and give your mind a break from your work stress. Giving your mind a break allows it to reset and take in the stimuli around you which can inspire you to new ideas and solutions!
Take a Break Each Year
Unlike the highly-ridiculed 1-2 weeks vacation that Americans take each year, the French embrace a full month away from work to enjoy an extended holiday (though they say a month isn’t enough!). During this time they have no qualms about closing their business, so it’s not uncommon to see signs posted on the shops around town during August that they’re closed for the next month. Like the daily break, this annual holiday is a time for relaxing and rebalancing, after which the French come back revived and re-inspired. They cherish and protect this time away, resisting any notion of reducing vacation time. With your employer, try to negotiate for more vacation days. And if they don’t budge, then try to convert some of your sick days or personal days into vacation days. I used this trick to my advantage to travel a ton even when I worked a full-time job. And obviously, no matter how many vacation days you have to work with, you should actually use them! Plan a trip and take your holiday as a chance to unwind and enjoy yourself. Plus, having a vacation to look forward to is a mood booster in itself!
Drink Wine at Lunch
In every café around France there can be found people enjoying wine over lunch. If that doesn’t say ‘I’m enjoying life,’ then I don’t know what does! Without overdoing it, we should feel free to treat ourselves and allow space for relaxation. Just remember to grab a shot of espresso afterwards to avoid the post-wine afternoon fatigue!
Turn Off the TV
The television is just a distraction and it doesn’t give us anything. The French opt for spending time with friends and family, sitting around and chatting, instead of sitting antisocially in front of the tv. That is, other than for soccer matches, which are so lively they have to be considered in their own category!
Take the Table
Whether it’s an afternoon sitting at the café sipping on wine, or a dinner with friends, or just drinks to polish off the evening, the French are in no rush to leave the table. They sit and enjoy, treating the table as if it’s theirs for the night. A glass of wine can turn into a whole afternoon of people watching. And a dinner out can become an all-night affair. The French soak it all in, enjoying every sip, every bite, every exchange, and every laugh. If you’re not enjoying it, why do it! Try to resist the pressure to clear out of the restaurant as soon as you’ve taken your last bite, and instead savor the moment and stay to enjoy it!
The French Greeting
I love how the French greeting embodies the whole French joie de vivre spirit. The exchange of a kiss on each cheek forces both parties to slow down and notice who they’re speaking with. It’s unlike the American greeting of a wave or a handshake, which don’t interrupt the flow of conversation but instead allow each person to just blow through the interaction. Slowing down to appreciate the moments they’re in and the people around them is something the French do so well!
Look at the Big Picture
The essence of the French joie de vivre is the impression that the big picture is more important than the minutia. Taking care of you mind, body, relationships, and well-being lead you to being happier and more productive in the long term. Embracing the French joie de vivre is admitting that enjoying life allows you to get more out of it. When you’re surrounded by stressors and pressure, it’s easy to push this aside, but it’s so important to maintain a sense of happiness and joy for living, every single day!
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