Spend a few days in France and it's clear that life in the European country differs from life in America. There are pros and cons to both, but we think elements of France's rich culture and history are worth bringing back home to the U.S.
The nation was named 2014's most visited country in the world by the World Tourism Organization (84.7 million people traveled there last year!). Yes, France is known for cheese, wine, berets and romance. But the culture also prioritizes eating well, aging gracefully and relaxation as an integral part of life.
Here are seven takeaways from life in France that Americans should incorporate into their lives:
1. Treat every meal like a delicacy.
The French appreciate food like they do the arts. Meals can be hours long and include many courses, but the portions are significantly smaller. The French don't usually eat on-the-go -- in fact, they prefer to eat when they have lots of time to truly enjoy their meal. Even their desserts, which resemble works of art, are eaten delicately.
2. Take some time totally recharge and treat yourself.
Tourists might be surprised to find many stores closed on Sundays. A century-old trading law prohibited stores from opening on Sundays until early 2015, when the law was relaxed in city centers and shopping malls. Labor unions and Catholic lobbies have maintained that the French should have a day of rest, which might seem a bit outdated in the modern world. But they've got a point -- relaxing is good for us.
3. Work less.
Besides working for companies that have terrible vacation policies, many Americans don't take their allotted days off. But taking a vacation (or even just a break from work) is not only good for you, it could make you perform better at your job. French citizens receive more paid vacation days than any workers in other countries. The average French worker gets 30 days per year. Many people, Parisians especially, take off the entire month of August while others take the month of July to vacation and recharge.
4. Make smart fashion investments.
French women tend to keep their style simple and chic with solids and basic patterns like stripes that flatter nearly everyone. They invest in ageless statement pieces that will last them years instead of buying into trends that pack their closets with clothes they won't wear the following year. They also prefer flats to heels, a decision that will pay off for their feet in the long run.
5. Celebrate sexuality.
The French accept that sex and sensuality are parts of being human, and can teach Americans a thing or two. A 2008 report, Study of Sexuality in France, found that French women are "increasingly assertive in their sexual habits." The same study also found 90 percent of French women over the age of 50 were sexually active compared to an estimated 60 percent of American women. Oh la la, indeed.
6. Tell it like it is.
The French have a reputation for being curt and direct. But they simply say exactly what they're thinking. This approach can sometimes be a breath of fresh air. The French speak their mind, which can lead to deeper conversation and less small talk.
7. Focus on what you're passionate about.
The French live each day with joie de vivre and make sure to focus on what's important to them. They find ways to turn every event -- even enjoying a cappuccino -- into something meaningful. In conversations, they prefer to talk about lifelong dreams and passions, something we all should be doing more of on a daily basis.
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