There are so many things about the French way of life which those from other nations envy. Some, such as their excellent food and wine, are well known. Others, such as their good work/life balance, are less recognised.
Many people dream of living in France or achieving a more French way of life. For some it’s the language – choosing to stay in the country to study languages with ESL Language Studies Abroad or another study provider is a dream holiday. Others appreciate French cultural offerings, from art to literature.
But what are the top 10 things which we could learn from the French?
1. How to achieve work/life balance
According to the uSwitch Quality of Life Index 2011, those living in France have an average of 36 days holiday per year. This compares with the UK’s 28 days and the US workers lack of holiday entitlement under Federal Law.
2. Great family life
Although paternity and maternity leave is organised along similar lines to other European countries with mothers due longer paid leave than fathers, in France parental leave is available. Either parent can take a length of time off work and still be able to return to their job once the child is old enough.
This makes planning for the family more fair, and enables women or men to take responsibility for child care depending on the family’s situation.
3. Starting the day
Unlike the heavy British or American breakfast, the first meal of the day in France is lighter and more delicious. The range of pains available for breakfast are impressive, including baguettes, croissants and croissants flavoured with chocolate, raisins or other fruit.
4. Effortless style
Chanel, Jean Paul Gaultier, Dior. French fashion is famous the world over and French men and women, especially in urban centres such as Paris and Lyon, are known for their seemingly effortless style.
5. Making cinema
From the eyrie proto-sci-fi narratives of Georges Méliès to the kooky exploits of Amelie, French cinema takes an innovative and forward-thinking approach. Film-making in France has impacted upon the medium worldwide.
6. Atmospheric cities
Paris features as a cultural reference point for film, literature, arts and music, and no other city can compete with its scenic views. Other French cities similarly touched with a certain je ne sais quoi include: Avignon, Lyon and Dijon.
7. Not dieting
Books such as Why French Women Don’t Get Fat explain the sense of balance which French people have when it comes to eating. Food is not seen as guilt-inspiring, but instead small measures, such as eating a lighter lunch after a heavy breakfast, keep weight in balance. This is a far cry from the extreme diets of other cultures.
8. Greeting people
If you meet up with a French person you are close to, you are likely to faire la bise, or share several kisses on the cheeks. Depending upon the region, you may repeat the gesture up to four times.
9. Delis and patisseries
Those visiting or going to study French in France for the first time often stare wide-eyed into the windows of delicatessen and patisseries at the intricately created delicacies inside. French strawberry tarts are like no other.
10. Regional loyalty
They love all things French in France; a vital part of French culture is to take pride in preserving the French language, customs and history.
But loyalty to a local region is also important. In rural towns, markets stock produce from local producers and shoppers always choose regional goods, such as cheeses, vegetables and meats.
There’s a reason that French culture is envied the world over. We could all do with living a little more like French people from time to time.
Useful linksThe history of French cinema
A short history of French cinema on the Guardian
Gestures for each situation
Never embarrass yourself again – here are the top 10 French gestures
French strawberry tart
Cook your own French strawberry tart with this recipe