Ten Things I Love About The French

1. I love the appreciation the French have for good food and good wine. A Frenchman I know once stated that when a person isn’t willing to indulge sometimes, enjoy great food, let go a bit, it “really says something about that person.” He couldn’t comprehend people who never eat the good stuff, even if it might go straight to their thighs. Lest you think the French are okay with gluttony – they aren’t. (I think half the women in France are starving themselves because they certainly aren’t exercising!) They just aren’t into denying themselves the pleasures of life.

2. I love Sunday lunches, where families gather to spend a couple hours together over a nice meal.

3. That je-ne-sais-quoi French people possess. The way the women seem to never style their hair yet it still hangs in perfect waves with just the right amount of flyaways to say: I’m beautiful, and I’m not trying. The slightly arrogant, stooped posture of the men that says I’m more intellect than athlete, and I don’t care what you think about it. What is it about French people…it’s so hard to put a finger on it, it’s that je-ne-sais-quoi. They can drive me crazy, but I still love them.

4. I love that they flirt with most everyone, even in the most benign situations. Not to be anti-feminist, but turning a simple transaction – like buying a container of aspirin – into a dance of compliments and innocently arching eyebrows puts a smile on my face. I call it the French version of customer service.

5. I like that the French enjoy intellectual conversations and pride themselves on being realists. I like that they will engage each other in a verbal battlefield over ideas and current events, yet not take the conversation personally or allow it to damage a friendship. Except sometimes I don’t love this. I should probably put this on a list about things I don’t love about the French, too.

6. I find French men’s abhorance for white socks (even when exercising!) endearing.

7. I love that the French believe, and pursue, balance in life. Between work and play, time for children and adult time, in indulging in their desire to enjoy amazing food but not overdoing it….

8. I love the way my French friends are always happy to spend time together. We linger over meals, enjoying long conversations, enjoying each other’s company, playing games, long after most of our other friends have decided it’s time to get back home, or go to the next party, or who knows what. The French prioritize people in their lives in a way that I wish we did better here.

9. Scarves. I stayed in Paris long enough to learn several different ways to wear a scarf, and wear it well, but not so long that I stopped smiling at people. I love the elegance of scarves, and the way the French propel scarf-wearing to an art form.

10. Get away from Paris or any other major city, and you will find the French to be some of the most welcoming, gregarious people you will meet in your travels. Even Paris is getting better – complete strangers have – gasp – smiled at me and offered to help me when I appeared lost or confused. Parisians in restaurants have complimented my imperfect French and cute accent. Learn a few key words and get ready to knock down those stereotypes!

24 thoughts on “Ten Things I Love About The French

  1. Love it! You nail it each time.
    Although I must come to the defense of, dare I say, the Parisians. (per number 10 on the list).
    My first time in France as a solo traveler, I got so lost. Lugging a huge suitcase behind me, I somehow ended up walking along the seine to… baf! directe sur le periph! How?! I, to this day, have no clue. I turned around and did my best to find my way back to the train station, sobbing. As I wiped my adolescent teary-eyed and petrified face while trying to get my bearings, I look up and voila, a concerned French woman reaches for my shoulder and asks how she can help. Clearly I was a mess. She walked me to the bus stop, told the driver where I wanted to go and asked him to signal to me when I should get off. She left me with clear directions of what to do after the bus stop and I made it my destination. That was in 1996. I ended up living in Paris for 10 years after that, and yes Paris can be quite rude, but no less than any other city. I moved back tot he states almost 8 years ago. I left a piece of my heart in France, and a chunk of it in Paris.

    • I had a similar experience in the metro – I was so lost, wandering aimlessly, staring at signs and maps, and a girl my age stopped, asked me if I needed help, showed me my route on the map, then escorted me to the proper quai to send me off. Beyond nice and helpful. Like you, I often defend Parisians and say that any big city has people who don’t want to be bothered with lending a helping hand or being kind, and France is no exception. But I have had some of my worst travel experiences in Paris, I’m sad to say 😦 The positive far outweighs the negative, and part of my heart, like yours, is always in Paris! How amazing that you got to spend 10 years there! And how wonderful that you ran into such a kind soul who set your trip off on a positive note.

  2. Mmhmm. We French may have our faults, but even so we’re still pretty awesome. 😉
    I do love getting together with friends over a meal and spending hours talking about everything and nothing. That may be my favorite aspect of French culture.

  3. Oh my! You are a woman after my own heart! I love how you stated that the French prioritize people,what an accurate depiction of their character. As a francophile, I am always in need of good company. I’m glad I found you.

    • Hello! It depends on your level of fluency – if you feel you can comfortably impart the language to your kids, I suggest doing certain activities in French: Play age appropriate games, or just play with your kids and speak about what you are doing together in French; grocery shopping for us is a French activity. Play French songs in the car – we’ve listened to French songs almost exclusively in the car since my kids were born, and they know them all by heart now! If you aren’t comfortably fluent in these sorts of activities and can do it, hire a tutor. I’ve started that with my kids, in addition to my own attempts, and I’m amazed at how much progress they’ve already made with just 45 minutes/week in lessons. I believe that good teaching skills outweigh native level fluency, so don’t be intimidated by the line of thinking that some hold that only native speakers are qualified to teach a language! Good teaching and a reasonable level of fluency (I’d say intermediate or better) are a great place to start.

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