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What is unique about French culture?

When you leave France, it is impossible not to miss the lifestyle. It is so distinct, so defined, it has even developed its own name ‘art de vivre’. Nowhere else is quite the same.

This is the reason La Maison French was started. Bridging a gap between a lovely life in Britain and the best of French living.

It’s hard to pin down exactly what is so unique about it though. It’s not one aspect, one thing you do or one choice you make. It is everything. It is a way of acting, a way of thinking. Essentially, it is a way of being.

What is French culture famous for? 

It is hard to know how to describe French culture. Especially in one short blog post. 

I could spend a whole post focused purely on the French traditions of debate and discussion, honed in the heart of salons and café’s across Paris. Another post on the vibrant tapestry of French philosophy.

However other countries might try to lay claim to these. Or perhaps say they are not just French but Parisian culture. A metropolitan way of being.

So instead, I will focus on French culture and traditions that are followed across the whole country. In the bustling cities and quiet villages. 

  • Eating

Almost always, when people think about famous French culture, food springs to mind.

Known as a mix of indulgence and innovation, French cooking is full of fresh herbs, folds of rich cream and crisp, pillowy baguettes. It is respected around the world and it’s easy to see why.

But the culture around eating in France stretches far beyond what appears on your plate. A French meal is meant to be savoured and shared with good company. You don’t rush, forking food with your eyes trained on a screen. You focus on each mouthful. It is a pause in your day where you are fully present. 

And, while yes, this is usually across multiple courses it is still in moderation. The French do not stuff themselves silly, till their seams ache and their stomachs churn. Instead, portions are kept petit, and each mouthful is considered and enjoyed. 

When the food is that good, why waste it on gluttony?

  • Shopping Fashion

It might not quite be unique, but there is definitely a distinct style of shopping in France. And it is built around a love of markets.

Perhaps most famous are France’s bountiful farmer’s markets. Stalls stacked high with fresh fruit, vegetables and local artisan products like pains, fromages and pâtés. People surface at sunrise to scour these stalls in search of the best produce, and they are always handsomely rewarded.

The vendors of these markets impress too. Experts on the things they sell, you’re missing out if you don’t ask their advice and opinions when buying.

It isn’t just food markets that French people flock to either. Antique and second-hand market stalls (brocantes et braderies) also tumble across many French streets, drawing crowds every time they are held.

Similar to English ‘car boot sales’ these French flea markets are utterly unpredictable. Furniture sits beside teetering towers of books, beside jumbled piles of kitchen items.  The only thing you’re guaranteed to find at a brocante is a bargain.

  • Fashion

When it comes to cool things about French culture, clothes will always pop up. Is Paris not the fashion capital of the world?

But the extravagances of fashion week run against the general rules of dressing in France. As with food, the key to understanding French culture around fashion is the phrase ‘less is more’.

This ‘effortless chic’ French women are renowned for, is born of pairing elegant key items and keeping everything else understated.

Neutral colours, clean lines. Spend a little more, buy a little less. Make the most of your purchases. Actually, the French outlook on fashion sits well alongside sustainability

  • Art

Of course, no reliable rundown of what French culture is known for could fail to mention art.

This country is home to the second-largest art gallery and museum in the world. It gave us impressionism, art nouveau and new wave cinema. Flaubert, Proust and Victor Hugo all penned their greatest works within the country’s borders. 

Even the buildings are beautiful. The symmetry, swags and sculptures of Beaux-Arts architecture may not be unique to France anymore, but the way the designs are scattered across the world are proof of how renowned and admired it is.

France has gifted all this beauty to the world. It has gifted so much more. It’s heritage it’s impossible not to be proud of. 

Why is French culture so influential?

L’art de vivre is so influential because it is a happy way of living. It is about taking your time with life, enjoying each moment without madly rushing on to the next. 

In modern society, technology drives our lives and we are always on the move. Always plugged in. Always distracted. Even in France people are guilty of this.

This way of living is proven to be bad for our health. It makes us miserable. It numbs us to the joy in life. And it makes us ignore the damage we inflict on the planet.

The world admires French culture, the traditional way of French living, because of the connection it brings to life, to the people around them. And to the world.

Don’t we all need that these days?

À bientôt, Jessie.