For the last seven months, I’ve had the opportunity to live in a small city in the south-east of France called Gap. I initially came here after I graduated college to improve my language skills in French and enjoy some time abroad. However, being here has taught me so much more than I could’ve imagined, and I want to share those things with you all! I highly encourage people to immerse themselves in a new culture if possible! In the meantime, here are some things I’ve learned about the French lifestyle that maybe you can give a try as well!
What You Eat: Quality Over Quantity
This one was the hardest for me to realize, and yet the one I wanted to adopt most. I’ve noticed that the French put so much more value into the ingredients they buy, dishes they create, and wine they drink. Never have I enjoyed myself so much until I helped plan and prepare a well-balanced meal that I put time and consideration into. Not only that, but then taking time to enjoy that meal with friends, wine, and laughter makes all the difference.
Eating Lunch with Humans and Not my Screens
I thought that being social (wink wink) didn’t affect me in any short-term way. But after seeing how differently American and French culture treats mealtime, I realized that it did, and does! You might have known this, but it is a common European practice to take a 2 hour break in the middle of the day. If possible, many people go home to their kids or pets to enjoy a meal. Others often head to local restaurants to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine. For me, it helps get me out of my head for a while, and that not only gives me a much needed break from work, but also boosts my confidence and motivates my productivity. Although I might not be able to convince my boss to induct the 2 hour break, I am definitely going to try to be a little more French in this department.
Adjusting my Work-Life Balance Priorities
As much as it might seem like it, my job isn’t my life. It might be one of the things that makes me happy, but my life is so much more than that. Living in France has taught me to take time throughout the week to do things that I enjoy. Things that make me happy. Maybe it’s the 35-hour French work week or the more abundant vacation time that has put more emphasis on life outside of work here in France. I’m happy to bring this little piece of knowledge home with me to Chicago.
Going to the Farmers’ Market
Although I did like to head out to the market when I was still living in Chicago, living in France has only emphasized the reasons why fresh markets are great. Starting my Saturday mornings with Tortons (a local Hautes Alpes specialty) and a cup of coffee, walking around the market is by far my favorite memory from my time here. Not only is it a way to feel involved in your community, it also promotes sustainable farming, provides healthier foods, and supports locally grown produce.
Prioritizing Genuine Emotions
This might be a Midwest thing that I learned growing up, but I have realized that throughout the day, I am happy and positive when I’m speaking to my friends, colleagues or acquaintances, like always. Very soon after I arrived in France, I realized that’s not a world-wide phenomenon. I’m not saying that people I meet here are mean, just that they express their emotions freely and naturally. After I put this together, I tried to do it myself. Although it was a difficult habit to kick, I found that not sugarcoating my sadness or masking my pride helped my mental stability significantly! It also helped me make and keep more genuine friends.
By Lynnea Wolfe