French lifestyle

10 ways French women practice self-care

French women practice self-care

French women practice self-care like experts.  It’s part of their genetic makeup and certainly a cultural norm. Self-care is neither indulgent nor expensive nor time-consuming nor a resolution to keep, it just is.

It is more than just a massage, facial or a bath with scented candles (although these definitely count too!).  Essentially, self-care is about putting ourselves first, and doing anything that feels good while also increasing our wellbeing.  

Since moving to France more than two decades ago, I have adopted many new self-care practices regularly.  But it took a while to put in place.  At first, I thought it had to be complicated, time consuming and scheduled in advance.  Since my children were very young at the time, I didn’t see how it was possible.

Women are somehow programmed to put themselves last on the list and focus on kids, partners, their home, their full-time job, and everything else before some me time.  We feel guilty focusing on ourselves.  Self-care is not in our nature.

But taking time for self-care is an act of respect for our bodies and our minds. It is no different than a regular fitness regime, meditating, eating loads of vegetables, and getting regular check-ups.  It is not a luxury.  Although sometimes it can be luxurious. And French women practice self-care like experts.

Here is a list of 10 ways French women practice self-care. I hope it inspires you to add your version of self-care to your life no matter how busy you are!

A basic of self-care: Just say “No”

This may not seem like self-care, but hear me out.  More than two decades of living in France and I am still quite fascinated by the relative ease a French woman will say no to something if it doesn’t suit her.  There are two sides to this, of course.  But the positive side is that French women do prioritize themselves and don’t stretch themselves thin. This may sound like a sweeping generalization, but I see it on a regular basis.  

Their ability to say no used to appear somewhat selfish to me, but I realize that it is yet another example of how the French retain life balance. Instead of bowing out of a yoga class or facial they had planned in order to accompany their child’s class on a field trip, they’re not going on the field trip.   Saying “no” when it doesn’t suit us can sometimes be an act of self-care!

Scents are important

Many self-care practices are simple and take almost virtually no time.  One of these is any ritual involving scents.  The French love perfume (France is known as the perfume capital of the world), beautifully scented candles (the luxury of L’Artisan Parfumeur!), scented face oils (Decleor products come to mind), essential oils and more.  Surrounding oneself with beautiful scents is simple self-care.

Gastronomic pleasure

We know the French eat what they like and yet, they don’t gain weight like the rest of the world. The term “moderation” is used and with reason.  Being moderate about quantities and gastronomic pleasures is about avoiding the negative feelings that come with overeating without giving anything up!

Check out “The 5 most important French healthy eating habits”.

Lingerie as self-care

Indulging in beautiful, matching lingerie is important to French women.  They spend up to 20% of their clothing budget on lingerie!  Lingerie is a luxury that is just for them, no matter how casual their outfit.  Perhaps a reason they exude that extra bit of confidence? 

Enjoying the now

Read any French women’s magazine and you’ll see that French women, too, can fret about impossible norms. But back in the real world, they know that happiness does not depend on wearing a size 36 (American size 2 or 4). It depends on feeling “bien dans sa peau” (feeling good in your own skin).  They won’t skimp on buying a new dress or getting dressed up because of a few extra pounds.  They do with what they have and play up their assets!

Beauty rituals are self-care

French women prioritize beauty rituals no matter what their budget.  Whether a local spa appointment, a monthly hair touch-up, or a massage, indulging in regular beauty rituals is key. The French word used for spa treatments is “soins”.  And it translates to “care”. Enough said!

Cafe society

The French in particular are experts at stopping to sit down when eating or drinking.  Rather than take-out coffee concoctions sipped on the run, learn to take a quick break in the day, sitting down, to savor your drink of choice and people watch.  

Looking good and feeling good

French women don’t go out looking like an unmade bed. They may be in a hurry, but they dress up and groom (no sweatpants or unbrushed hair). Feeling good is also about looking good, and looking good shows respect for yourself and the world around you.

Kind movement is self-care for the body

The “no pain, no gain” school of thought never made it to France. Bootcamps and 6am gym visits are rare. The French generally operate according to the pleasure principle: if you’re doing something that makes you feel and look great, there will be a positive effect on your physique and overall well-being.

Skincare is the ultimate self-care

Skincare trumps cosmetics in France every day.  Make-up is an accessory to the French, not a cover up or mask.  Self-care in France most definitely includes a skincare routine.  And the amazing brands available at pharmacies throughout the country come at affordable prices (Bioderma, Avene, La Roche-Posay, Embryolisse to name a few). The Avene Rich Revitalising Nourishing Cream has been my favourite for the last few years – I wouldn’t want to live without it!

And here is a bonus to the list:

Gratitude is self-care

Gratitude in France is a paradox.  On the one hand, the French can be openly critical about many topics.  On the other hand, they also have a huge appreciation of all the small and big things that are magnificent in our lives.  An aged cheese, an amazing lunch, an outdoor meal, the weather, a perfume, the most delicious eclair au cafe.  The French find pleasure in so much and they are very vocal about it.  Definitely another way French women (and men) practice self-care!

If you are inspired by the French to make some positive changes or additions to your wellbeing and self-care routines, please sign up for my newsletter and I will send you some helpful tips, trends and links to keep you informed and motivated!

Photo credit Carine Duflos

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