5 Fabulous Life Lessons from the French

How to be Parisian

When I finished up at my workplace of 9 years recently, my former boss gave me a gift.

“For some reason, when I saw it, I knew I had to get it for you,” she said.

The gift in question? How To Be Parisian (Wherever You Are) – a fun and spirited book about what it really means to be a Parisienne in the 21st Century.

I’ve always been a tad obsessed with all things French, which was further cemented when we visited Paris on our honeymoon in 2013.

I lapped up the book, finishing it in two sittings, which – for me – as someone who literally almost never reads {well, never seems to be able to ever finish a book} is really saying something. It’s light, entertaining and a teensy bit thought-provoking.

Seeing as so many of us take our style cues from our Parisian sisters, I thought I’d share what I took from the book.

Here are 5 fabulous life lessons from the French…

5 fabulous life lessons from the French

1. Embrace who you are, faults and all

The Parisienne is a complex, contradictory character. She knows it and doesn’t care who else does. So what if she said “no” 5 minutes ago and is now saying “yes”? That’s her right. Plus it was sooo 5 minutes ago, anyway.

She is well aware of her faults and makes no apologies for them. They’re part of her and make her the woman she is. She embraces them as much as she does her strengths.

There’s something to be said for that, don’t you think? We’re all too quick to point out our faults and then try to hide them away. Why not try flipping the script and being proud of our so-called shortcomings. We wouldn’t be who we are without them.

2. Build your girl gang

They say there’s power in numbers and this is one theory the Parisienne definitely subscribes to.

She builds her ‘girl gang’ slowly and deliberately. If there is a true and genuine affinity, the women befriend each another. Each member of the gang complements one another.

They build each other up, support one another and are there to celebrate the good times and commiserate the bad. They ride life’s rollercoaster side by side and make sure there isn’t a hair out of place, mascara smear or lipstick smudge amongst them.

Female friendships really are something to behold. We hold each other’s deepest darkest secrets locked away in an impenetrable vault. We shout each other’s achievements from the rooftops. We know when to buy a bunch of fresh flowers, when to buy a tub of ice cream and when to buy a bottle of expensive French Champagne. And most importantly – when to buy all of the above, all at once.

Cheers to our beautiful girlfriends!

3. Age gracefully… then do whatever you want

When it comes to beauty, the Parisienne keeps things simple yet significant.

Always take your makeup off before bed. Keep an arsenal of lotions and potions to take care of every inch of skin from your face to the soles of your feet. Work with – rather than against – the natural state of your hair. Play up your natural features and embrace your quirks.

A French woman’s typical beauty routine goes something like this: moisturise, apply light coverage in the form of concealer or a BB cream and add lashings of mascara to both the top and bottom lashes. For night, finish with a bright red lipstick.

When it comes to ageing, the French anticipate and prepare for the future, but do not try to reverse the ageing process… well, not in an obvious way.

They will use every anti-ageing option available to them that doesn’t involve surgery – until they feel like it’s time for surgery and will then have one thing done (subtly) at a time. If they so choose.

As they say in the book, “better to look your age than look no age at all.”

4. Have a small but mighty repertoire of recipes

The French love their food and they love to entertain.

Regular visits to the markets are a must to purchase local, seasonal fresh produce ready to take home and prepare for your guests who will be arriving that afternoon or evening.

But even if you have all day to cook, no Parisienne wants to be stuck in the kitchen for hours on end, so she makes sure she has a small but mighty repertoire of recipes that are simple enough to be whipped up without stress, yet impressive enough to wow her guests.

Knowing how to make a winning salad, soup, roast and dessert is all you have to master to be the hostess with the mostess. And chilled Champagne for your guests on arrival, naturally.

5. Nail your signature item

The key items in a Parisienne’s wardrobe include jeans, ballet flats, black blazer, silk scarf, white shirt, trench coat, oversized sweater and sunglasses, thick scarf and the very simple but very expensive t-shirt.

These are all classic staples that form the foundation of every outfit, but there’s also one extra special item that is as unique as its owner.

The signature item.

It’s the one detail that brings her outfit together, from head to toe.

It could be a vintage piece handed down from generation to generation, a flea market find or an investment piece that cost more than she will ever admit. It could be a coat, pair of heels or leather handbag. It’s timeless, transcends trends and is understated yet totally fabulous.

No matter the price tag or place it was purchased, the key to the signature item is to treasure it but most of all – wear it.

You can read more French style tips on Smaggle.

Do you subscribe to any of these life lessons?

What would you add to the list?


  1. merilyn says

    love this post thankyou Sonia! … your boss nailed it for you!
    I love anything French and particularly PARISIENNE!
    what I love about them is that they don’t disregard mature women in society!
    they actually admire them and give them some worth!
    I like to subscribe to that point of view too!
    I might need this book in my life even though I already do most of these things!
    enjoy your day lovely! … much love m:)X

  2. says

    Such a true post. I am French and these rules are truly handed down from mothers to daughters! I left France 20 years ago and the one thing I really miss is French fashion and French shops! Not easily replicated over here unless you have the money 😉

  3. Amy says

    I especially love #2 Build your Girl Gang. I don’t know where I would be without my girlfriends, those very special ones whom I refer to as ‘My Tribe’. The quote I love: ‘Find your tribe, love them hard.’ Some wonderful Parisian inspiration never goes astray! Maybe a Parisian inspired fashion post soon?? xx

  4. Amy says

    I especially love #2 Build your Girl Gang. I don’t know where I would be without my girlfriends, those very special ones whom I refer to as ‘My Tribe’. The quote I love: ‘Find your tribe, love them hard.’ Some wonderful Parisian inspiration never goes astray! Maybe a Parisian inspired fashion post soon?? xx

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