When I moved to Paris in 2016, I learned that everything you hear about French girls is at least partially true. Their outfits are perfectly nonchalant, their skin is healthy and glowing… and yes, hour-and-a-half workday lunches are totally normal.
Which is why, I suppose, it came to be that the world looks to them as the gatekeepers of good taste. They have time to figure their shit out.
It wasn’t only the long lunch breaks that triggered culture shock. It was the wild amount of vacation the French are expected—yes, expected—to take every year.
Every worker has the right to two and a half paid working days off each month. Do you work more than 35 hours a week? You’ll get more time off for that too in the form of RTT—réduction du temps de travaila.k.a. comp time. And this doesn’t include the 11 official public holidays!
For those following along at home, that’s approximately five weeks per year of vacation, with the possibility for more. And the French protect it fiercely.
Nothing put that into sharper relief than my recent trip to the United States. As I thought would be expected from me, a few days into my trip, I checked my work inbox and shot off a few quick messages to my team back in Paris. The response I received from my boss shocked me.
Subject line: DO NOT CHECK YOUR EMAILS.
Message: Unfortunately, Chloé, I received your message. There is no reason for you to be checking your inbox. The world will not end if you do not respond to a few messages. What’s the point of taking a vacation if you’re just going to work?
And that’s the thing: The world really won’t end if you don’t respond to a few messages.
“The French prefer to be on vacation,” says Loé Perrot, a fashion student based in Paris. “So when we have the opportunity to work, we work super hard and we are super focused. The more you vacation, the better you can do this.”
Here are seven ways you can vacation like a French girl:
Absolutely do not check your work email
My manager was right; what’s the point of a vacation if your mind isn’t able to truly relax? Put your job into perspective. Your world won’t end if you don’t respond immediately and you’ll be in a better frame of mind when you return.
Put your phone away
“We would never answer calls and we would disconnect from social media,” says Perrot. “It’s difficult, but we want to be present in the moment and truly be where we are.” Your phone doesn’t let you do that!
Decide your holiday style
Are you in serious need of rest and relaxation or are you more interested in gritty, exciting travel? Pick a theme for your time OOO and stick to it.
When you budget for your vacay, add a little extra
Nothing will harsh your mellow more than freaking out over every cent. Plan your allowance, then add 15 percent.
Try out the French art de vivre
Before mindfulness, the French had l’art de vivre, or the art of living. “It’s almost a philosophy; it’s a very French way of thinking,” explains Perrot. It’s taking the time to savor and appreciate the everyday moments and trying to elevate them into something special.
Prioritize time with friends and family
“French people love to stay with each other,” says Perrot. “The French love being in a family. We have a very conservative society in this way. We all work very hard, but behind all that is to give yourself a lot of free time to spend with family.”
Spend time in nature
“We are very lucky in that we don’t have to go far to experience beauty; we have Corsica or the Pyrenées. We love nature,” Perrot says. Mother Nature has restorative effects on the soul. Get out and just be.