We’ve written before about the adoration one can experience with Paris, the city of love and light. It’s an easy city to become enamored of, as I did when I was 16 and spent a month studying film at the American University. From the first moment I stepped out into the humid Paris streets I knew my heart belonged to that beautiful city, and I swore to myself I would one day live there. Well, that didn’t happen. Instead, almost 10 years later, I’m still stateside, dreaming of my far-off idyllic apartment on a quiet Parisian street.
Judging from the self-help section at the bookstore, I’m not the only one wishing I was lounging in the Tuileries. French culture has become a cure-all for the hectic American lifestyle many of us simultaneously loathe and can’t break away from. The idea seems to be that the French have some secret that makes life better, and if we can just pick the right lipstick and perfect a chignon, we too can live the Parisian dream.
I’m guilty of pinning my better days on France and the distant one-day when I would have a Parisian address. Paris became a mantra, a reminder that my life in the U.S. was just an interlude before I found happiness across the Atlantic. But once I felt myself slipping into a quarter-life crisis, brought on like most such crises by a daunting job hunt and the self-criticism that came with it, I started really wondering what it was about the French that made me think I’d be happier if I was more like them.
The answers I came up with weren’t surprising, but I was surprised when a voice in my head whispered, “You don’t need to be in France to have that kind of life.” For those of us in love with a far-flung place, using the excuse of distance to hold off on making ourselves happy is unnecessary. So for the sake of helping others find some peace of mind beyond the boulevards, here are some tricks to capture that Parisian edge while living in the US.
Pinpoint the differences. Visualize your life in Paris. What are the key differences? Are you more relaxed, enjoying good food, or living in a romantic apartment? Once you know what parts of your life you think would be improved, you can set about making changes.
Give yourself permission. One thing Americans think the French are better at is unwinding and letting go of stress about work. Whether true or not, the leisure we think the French are enjoying is part of the mystique of Parisian culture. If you feel your life would be better with more down time, give yourself permission to check out of the rat race.
Unplug and get outside. Now that the weather is getting nice you have the perfect opportunity to add more sunshine to your life. Parisian parks come alive in nice weather, so take a cue from the French and lounge outside. Read, enjoy a picnic, or just sunbathe—but leave your phone at home!
Cue up some French pop culture. From movies to music to news, it’s easy to fill your home with the soft sounds of the French language. Netflix features many French films, while French music is easy to find on iTunes or Google Play. France 24 features 24-hour streaming news, accessible from the U.S. Pop it on while you’re doing housework to learn the latest news and brush up on your French listening skills.
Opt for real food. France is known as a foodie’s dream, and the delicious cuisine has many Francophile mouths watering from oceans away. Paris’ open air markets are known the world over, but it’s possible to enjoy the same charm while staying local. Pick up a Julia Childs cookbook, stop at a nearby farmer’s market, and get into the habit of cooking with whole foods rather than processed. If cooking isn’t your strong point, keep French staples on hand such as delicious cheese, tasty wine and crusty bread. Trader Joe’s has a range of frozen croissants perfect for making your kitchen the next best thing to a Parisian cafe on a Sunday morning!
Speaking of Sunday, keep it simple. Sunday is a quiet family day in Paris—a chance to eat delicious food and recharge before the week gets started. Plan your week in a way that makes it easy to spend Sunday lounging. Invite friends over for brunch, or give yourself some at-home spa treatments to refresh before Monday.
Enjoy the arts locally. Paris is full of gorgeous museums and events for art lovers, something your homebase may not offer. But if you look, you’ll most likely be able to find some way to connect with the arts. If offered, join the local Alliance Francaise for Francophile events throughout the year. Other options include volunteering at museums or theatres, using Meetup to get in touch with other lovers of French culture, or hosting French movie nights with friends. One of my favorites is to read or write at the art museum!
Surround yourself with beauty. Maybe that means getting fresh flowers on your weekly grocery run. Maybe it means clearing the clutter that’s making your home feel claustrophobic. Whatever beauty means to you when it comes to your home, embrace it! Open the windows, let the light in, and make home a refuge where you are able to see a manifestation of your love for French culture!
Identify French beauty icons. We all wish we could pull off the effortless glamor of the French. The ease with which we think they pull themselves together, always looking marvelous, is a big part of why American women idolize Parisians. Consider those who you most admire and see if you can learn anything from them. Maybe you love the adorable image of Audrey Hepburn or Audrey Tautou. Perhaps you’re drawn to the bohemian look of Julie Delpy. Whatever attracts your eye, figure out what it is and if you can incorporate lessons in your beauty routine.
Be the best you possible. Chances are you think Paris will somehow help you shed the layers you don’t need anymore and become a better version of yourself. Rather than waiting to be that person, just do it! Figure out the edges you want to smooth and the habits you want to develop, then go for it!
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