“Self-care” has become one of the trendiest buzzwords: We spend money on scented candles, at-home facials, matcha lattes, and quinoa; meditation apps are as popular as the latest Netflix show; and if you’re not glowing with the confidence that comes with “I Woke Up Like This” athleisure style, you’re not doing self-care right. We Instagram our “true selves” with #nofilter and post mirror pictures of our fat rolls because models and fitness bloggers made it fashionable.
While all of these wellness movements are promoting important (and even revolutionary!) ideas in body positivity and health, I learned after living in Paris that self-care looks a little different to French girls. Parisians do not always feel the need to spend fortunes on health treatments and workout classes, cook the latest health-food crazes from TikTok, or feel stressed out and guilty when they don’t fit in gratitude journaling or meditation. The way they care for themselves is muted, private, and not trend-driven at all. Read on for five lessons I learned about self-care from Parisian women.
1. They indulge regularly in what they enjoy
No doubt, Parisians will have a glass of wine with lunch or an Èclair au Chocolat after work for no other reason besides wanting to enjoy it. Because they don’t fight cravings, you’d rarely find a Parisian overindulging. She enjoys every bite because she does not restrict herself from eating what she wants or hate herself when she indulges. PSA: Joy is a nutrient too. Yes, caring for yourself means giving your body nutrients that help you feel your best, but it also means knowing that food (and life) is meant to be enjoyed.
2. They accept their flaws
No one is totally exempt from insecurities and pressure, Parisian or not. We can (and should) all be working on more self-acceptance, but I did notice a difference in how we think about and address our insecurities. When I left for Paris, I had the mindset of covering up flaws with makeup and fake tanner and adapting my beauty routine to whatever was trending or considered “beautiful” in society. I soon learned that covering up flaws is not very French. Parisians know how to accentuate, appreciate, live with, and maybe even love flaws. Makeup is used to emphasize unique features and fashion is used to show off curves instead of hide them. Parisians show up consistently as who they truly are rather than faking the beauty trend, clothing style, or personality du jour.
3. They are choosy with friendships
Maybe you’ve heard the stereotype that the French can be cold or abrupt (I did not find that in my experience, BTW). I don’t think they get this reputation from actually being rude; rather, they’re selective about who they give their time and energy to. When I first arrived in Paris, mon professeur gave me tips on assimilating to French culture. I’ll never forget hearing that topics like religion and politics are commonly discussed with friends, coworkers, and strangers alike. Small talk like the weather that is considered “polite” to Americans is simply boring, and Parisians would rather talk about things that matter, even with a stranger on a bus or during dinner with friends.
I found that French women are less likely to be “fake-nice” to someone they dislike out of politeness and won’t waste time or energy with people who don’t bring them joy. Therefore, friendships are always deep, meaningful, and lifelong. They find the people they click with and then are fiercely loyal to those friendships. After all, one of the best ways we can care for ourselves is to foster joy in our connections with other people we care about.
4. They have rituals that they stick to
I’ll admit I’m a sucker for basically any new wellness fad or self-care trend (as a wellness editor, I tell myself it’s all for “research”). In France, you’re less likely to find cycling wellness trends or health practices that come and go. Instead, French women have tried-and-true go-tos for when they’re feeling extra stressed or their pores need unclogging (many that they learned from their mothers instead of fashion magazines). Bottom line: They prioritize rituals and routines that work for them instead of what’s making headlines, and they listen to what their bodies need, knowing they have an arsenal of go-to rituals to help it feel its best.
5. They prioritize simplicity
There’s a reason infamous French beauty routines consist of a good moisturizer, a swipe of mascara, and smudged eyeliner: Parisians know that simple is best, and that goes for other areas of life too. Their meals aren’t complicated or packaged. Instead, they keep it simple: a cup of espresso, freshly baked bread, or a homemade salad dressing with Dijon, vinegar, and olive oil. They find pleasure in the details, indulge in whole ingredients, and spend money on the highest quality of fewer things instead of the cheapest, biggest, and fastest. The book French Women Don’t Get Fat explains that French women eat fewer, whole, high-quality ingredients instead of stocking a pantry full of complicated vegan snack foods in the name of health (not to out myself or anything) or grabbing something quick on the go.