10 (Surprising) French Habits That Make For a Happier Life

10 (Surprising) French Habits That Make For a Happier Life

The French have long been admired for their happy, balanced, and fulfilling lifestyle. While they work fewer hours than people in most other developed countries, they have mastered the delicate art of living well. So, what exactly is the secret behind the enviable French joie de vivre? The answer lies in several key cultural habits and philosophies that elevate their daily lives and promote overall well-being. The French lifestyle allows people to work hard when needed, then disconnect and savor quality time with loved ones and simple pleasures. From lengthy vacations and leisurely meals to embracing traditions and cultivating friendships, the French have honed ways of living that minimize stress while maximizing happiness, health, and satisfaction.

This article will explore ten surprising French habits you can adopt in your own life to tap into more happiness, fulfillment, and balance. These small yet impactful changes focus on improving your social connections, discovering joy in everyday rituals, and learning to slow down and prioritize self-care. So read on to discover how integrating a touch of French living could help enrich your life and bring you more contentment, one habit at a time.

1. Taking Vacation Time Seriously

In France, vacation time is sacred. Employees receive at least five weeks of paid vacation annually, and employers expect them to use it. The French savor their vacations, whether traveling abroad or exploring local sites. Time off allows people to relax, rejuvenate, and return to work energized. It also strengthens family bonds when spent with loved ones. Studies show that regular vacations significantly reduce stress and burnout.

Marie, a young accountant, tries to spend 1-2 weeks in the French countryside each summer. She turns off work alerts and focuses on biking, reading, and sampling local cheeses. She returns to Paris feeling renewed.

2. Enjoying Long Meals

Instead of rushed, on-the-go affairs, French meals are sit-down social occasions lasting hours. Good food and wine is savored alongside lively conversation with family and friends. Meals are centered around pleasure and quality time together. This relaxed ritual strengthens social ties and fuels happiness. Sharing delicious food also pushes people to prepare and eat healthier, fresher cuisine.

The Dubois family always has unhurried multi-course Sunday lunches. They prepare traditional dishes together in the morning, then gather at noon. The leisurely meals with delicious flavors, laughter, and discussion highlight their week.

3. Drinking Red Wine Moderately

While binge drinking is rare in France, moderate wine consumption is commonplace—the French drink red wine with meals to aid digestion and simply for the enjoyment of it. When consumed moderately, Red wine has been linked to numerous health benefits, like reduced risk of heart disease and lowered stress levels.

Edouard, a Parisian banker, drinks 1-2 glasses of Bordeaux wine during dinner on weeknights. He feels it aids his digestion, and he enjoys the rich taste. He rarely drinks excessively and feels this moderate habit reduces his daily stress.

4. Walking Frequently

French cities are designed for pedestrians, with charming sidewalk cafés, bakeries, and shops. People routinely walk to run errands rather than drive. On weekends, they enjoy long strolls to embrace urban life. Lots of walking is an easy way to incorporate exercise and boost endorphins. It also helps clear the mind, prevent weight gain, and explore your surroundings.

Simone walks three miles most days in Paris. On the weekends, she likes to pick a new neighborhood to explore on foot all day. The activity and movement energize her while the fresh air and scenery soothe her.

5. Taking Time to Cultivate Friendships

The French devote significant time to building and nourishing their social circles. Strong friendships provide emotional support, entertainment, and a sense of belonging. Prioritizing meaningful connections and spending quality time together are keys to happiness. It also gives introverts a chance to recharge around people they are comfortable with.

Bastien was feeling lonely after moving to Lyon for work. He tried to call his two closest friends weekly and plan weekend activities with new colleagues. After a few months, he felt socially fulfilled again.

6. Enjoying Quality Over Quantity

The French focus on quality – food, wine, experiences – rather than material goods. They create rich moments through simple, elevated living. For example, they prepare a multicourse homemade meal or share a bottle of exquisite wine with friends. This mindset leads to deeper fulfillment. Time is also prioritized over making money in pursuit of a balanced life.

Estelle would rather spend money on scheduling regular dinners at the new farm-to-table restaurant than buy expensive jewelry. These meaningful dining experiences bring her great joy and satisfaction.

7. Separating Work From the Rest Of Life

The French are highly productive during work hours but much better at leaving work behind once the day is done. They even discourage bringing work home or working overtime in most professions. This separation results in lower stress levels and protects leisure time. It allows people to be fully present with loved ones after work and wake up refreshed.

Attorney Henri is excellent about maximizing work hours and not responding to messages at night or on weekends. He gains energy from relaxing with a book or strolling with his wife after a long workday.

8. Embracing Tradition

The French retain traditions like delicious regional foods, beautiful language, and classical art forms rather than constantly chasing trends. These traditions provide a sense of connection, meaning, and comfort through ritual. They give structure to life and remind people to take time to appreciate beauty. France’s deep reverence for tradition slows the pace and focuses on quality.

Céline makes her grandmother’s coq au vin recipe every year for her family. The dish and tradition fill her heart with nostalgia and remind her of her beloved time with her family.

9. Taking Pride In Appearance

French women still use style, makeup, and hair as creative outlets for self-expression. They take pride in looking put-together, not to impress others but simply for their confidence and morale. Feeling attractive fosters positive self-esteem and happiness from within. Beauty routines also encourage mindfulness and care for oneself.

Camille enjoys spending time on makeup every morning. She sees it as therapeutic me-time and loves playing with different looks. The finished product gives her a boost of self-confidence before starting her day.

10. Savoring the Little Pleasures

The French have mastered the art of appreciating life’s simple pleasures. Things like taking a long stroll on a nice day, slowly sipping a café au lait, enjoying a fragrant bouquet, or reading a novel in a park. Pausing to enjoy these small joys mindfully cultivates gratitude and contentment.

Jean starts sitting outside with a coffee each morning, listening to the birds. He writes down three things he’s grateful for every night. This daily practice of appreciating small pleasures makes him feel calm and fulfilled.

Case Study: Adopting the French Lifestyle

Claire, a 32-year-old American project manager, felt burned out and unfulfilled by her stressful work life and few close relationships. After a trip to France, she was inspired by the French joie de vivre and adopted some of their habits.

Claire started taking all her vacation time, enjoying leisurely dinners with friends, and walking everywhere on the weekends. She spent more time nurturing friendships and simple pleasures like reading in cafés. At work, she became better about separating her nights and weekends and not overextending herself.

Claire found a renewed sense of happiness and fulfillment within a few months. Her stress plummeted while her health and social connections improved. She felt more balanced, present, and grateful for the little joys in life. Adopting some French philosophies allowed Claire to lead a slower yet richer life.


The French lifestyle provides a blueprint for living well that anyone can learn from. Their cultural habits naturally minimize stress and create daily joy without extensive effort. Life in France isn’t overly lavish or complicated. Rather, it focuses on elevating the everyday through intention and moderation. Simple yet nourishing pleasures like sharing meals, engaging with art, and spending time with friends and family are prioritized. The French live by the mantra of working to live rather than living to work.

Adopting just a few impactful French habits can exponentially enrich your life. Start by valuing your vacation time as precious. Share relaxed, quality meals with loved ones as often as possible. Try to moderate your vices, move your body through walking, and take time to nurture your closest relationships. Learn to separate your work and personal time. Appreciate life’s little delights, and embrace nostalgic traditions. With some practical lifestyle changes, you’ll find more balance, gratitude, and long-term contentment. What better inspiration could there be than the tried and true French lifestyle?