As the daughter of French people raised in the U.S., I’ve always identified as American above all. When I was younger especially, I resisted all things French with every fiber of my being, probably because I wanted to fit in with my classmates. I resented that my parents spoke Franglish at home, and the concept of francophilia confounded me. This early stubbornness accounts for the sad reality that I never learned to speak French fluently, much to the dismay of every employee I’ve interacted with over the years at the French Consulate in New York City.
As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve come to embrace my heritage more and more. I now recognize that many of my habits are inherently French, and that a solid portion of my beliefs are rooted in French ideals. This is good news for anyone looking to adopt some elements of a lifestyle people love to celebrate because it won’t let you get fat. Below are 12 habits anyone can adopt to inject a hint of je ne sais quoi, into their lives.
1. Keep five different cheeses in the fridge at all times.
The goal here is to be able to put together a proper cheese plate in minutes whenever a visitor pops by. Cheese keeps well, so it’s easy to hoard a selection of hard and soft varieties at all times. This might be a bummer for the vegan set, but it’s an absolute must.
2. Sneer at Cheez Whiz.
I’ve never seen my mother more horrified than the day I returned from college for winter break after my first semester and requested Cheez Whiz. Obviously, mom refused to add this poor excuse for cheese to her grocery list. She also began to question my choice of a school since it was clear that my peers there were having a bad influence. Canned cheese is a major no-no.
3. Celebrate your fête.
Who doesn’t love an additional excuse to celebrate themselves? Since I was a girl, my parents insisted on celebrating my fête, or Saint’s Day (in my case, Saint Mélanie’s Day), in addition to my birthday. So figure out when someone with your first name was canonized, and mark it down in your calendar. If there isn’t an official Saint who shares your name, just choose a date arbitrarily.
4. Embrace pubic hair.
French women have always been relatively relaxed in their pubic hair grooming policies, whether it grows on or between the legs, or inside the armpit. Whether French follicle tolerance is a function of science (those hairs do serve a purpose) or aesthetics, I don’t know. But I encourage everyone to think before they shave, laser, or wax next.
5. Go topless.
If you haven’t freed your nipples already, give it a go. Especially if you’re on the beach, there’s no reason to shield your breasts from the world.. Boobs are beautiful, after all. Plus, you stand to save a significant amount of money if you stop buying bikini tops.
6. Never shun butter.
Julia Child said it best: “With enough butter, anything is good.”
7. Practice freer love.
The French are famously freer when it comes to sex. So try shelving the Puritan inside and have more sex with more people without feeling a shred of guilt.
8. Don’t get married, necessarily.
A significant majority of my cousins live with their romantic partner and have children. However, they have no intention of marrying. Fewer and fewer young French people are bothering with marriage, which seems like a genius way to avoid divorce and other relationship complications.
9. Watch more futbol (not football).
To this day, I’m completely NFL ignorant. Football terrifies me, and for good reason, I’d argue. Soccer (or futbol), on the other hand, is an exciting game that lets you see players’ faces without wondering if the clock is going to stop every other second.
10. Kiss everyone you meet.
Cheek kissing is a far warmer method of greeting someone than shaking hands or hugging. To boot, since no one can know whether you’ll go for a double, a triple, a quadruple or a five-point kiss, there’s an element of surprise embedded in there.
11. Say you’re sorry regularly, but not because you’re sorry, necessarily.
When the French bump into each other, they tend to say “pardon,” which translates to “I’m sorry.” This means that if you’re a French person living in an English speaking country, you’re likely to say “I’m sorry” when you’re actually sorry in addition to when you simply want to be excused. I apologize constantly—not because I’m a woman and I can’t figure out how to lean in, but because I’m a little bit French.
12. Don’t say you’re welcome.
The French equivalent for “you’re welcome” is a long, clunky phrase no one whips out all that often. For one, French etiquette doesn’t demand a reply to “thank you,” which, if you think about it, is pretty unnecessary. The French simply say nothing at all when thanked. Alternatively, it’s common (or should I say de rigueur?” to say “de rien,” which translate to “it’s nothing.” So the next time you’re recognized for a kind act, reply with silence, or a shrug and “it’s nothing.”