La Parisienne: A lighthearted take on the 1O golden rules to behave like a Parisienne and French vocabulary related to character
I might be in trouble writing this post! I am a Parisienne (OK not 100% as I only have been living here for 20 years) spending half of my time with foreigners. After all, I am a French tutor. With my hybrid status, let’s say I am a “sort of Parisienne” and not thoroughbred! I’ve lived in Paris long enough to list 10 golden rules to behave as a Parisienne woman. In this week’s post, I’ll give you an overview in terms of style, attitude, culture, behaviour of what it really means to be a true Parisienne. I also introduce French expressions and vocabulary related to the character of “La Parisienne. “
Ladies, Here are my 1O golden rules to behave like a Parisienne
1 Less in more
2 Don’t smile too much
3 Comment the last exhibition as the “must be seen” now!
4 Smoke, or at least pretend to!
5 Knowing all the best addresses in Paris
6 Being able to speak for 30 minutes about your cheese shop or your food market
7 Be moderate with your plastic surgery
8 Being independent: French woman want their own income
9 First and foremost, you are a woman before being a mother
10 Being able to use a safe kit of 10 essential words in French
1/ Effortless Chic
Less is more
In term of clothes, the golden rule remains “Less is more” or just an inch, a small dose. The Parisienne woman has natural beauty down to a fine art. Very little make-up and a fresh-faced complexion. A great video explains the Parisienne look here
Bed hair is way cool! Hair should be “undone” exactly as though you have just woken up and finger combed those tresses. Yes, it takes effort to look like you have just hopped out of bed!
You want your look to seem unstudied—even though we know it’s not. For inspiration, take a closer look at actress Jane Birkin and her daughter Charlotte Gainsbourg.
Parisienne women love to wear black: black pants, black coats, black bags. It is well known as le noir. “Le noir c’est chic, le noir c’est simple” (Black is chic, black is simple). Each wardrobe of a Parisienne woman contains at least one petite robe noire (Little black dress).
Parisian style ought to be simple. Parisienne women like neutral colours like beige, navy blue and reject style exuberance. In a way, they are quite conventional. The sales assistant Marine Peralta of Anne Willi shop explained me a few weeks ago that in professional situations, French women don’t want to reveal their singularity and prefer discrete clothes.
To sound like la Parisienne
“Ce soir pour la soirée de Paulo, je vais porter ma p’tite robe noire. Le noir c’est simple, c’est bien”
“Tonight, for Paulo’s party, I am going to wear my little black dress. Black is simple, black is nice “
2/ Don’t smile too much!
You might be surprised to learn that smiles are considered a limited resource in Paris. Happiness could be perceived as a high dose of candid naivety. Weird, isn’t it?!
It’s an unyielding mystery: how is it that France, known all over the world for its “joie de vivre,” can be plagued by so much doom and gloom? From a lack of confidence in the future and a rejection of politicians to scepticism about the educational system and the welfare state. This gloominess has pervaded all aspects of French life.
However, things are changing at the moment. The new President Emmanuel Macron wants to restore optimism, and so he should! Before being elected he claimed, “I will carry on with optimism and enthusiasm” Let’s hope that he will manage to change a character trait that is inherently Parisian!
To sound like a Parisian
Now, whilst a newcomer to Paris finds the city so enchanting, put on your game face and try not to laugh when saying:
“Ouais ca va, mais j’en ai marre de Paris. J’ai envie de prendre l’air”
“Yeah, I am fine, but I am fed up with Paris. I need a break.” NOW, you are sounding like a true Parisian!
3/ Comment the last exhibition as the “must see” now!
For a Parisienne woman, her “thing” is art, culture and politics. Parisian’s love to spend part of their week-end at the latest exhibition that you cannot miss and must be seen to be perceived as “civilise” (civilised). Don’t forget that French are conversationalists and they can spend hours debating on any topic. You might hear at the moment: “T’as vu Rodin au Grand Palais?” (have you seen Rodin at Le Grand Palais?) as Le Grand Palais marks the centenary of Rodin’s death with an exhibition that reveals his creative world. Caroline De Maigret YouTube video is hilarious, especially regarding the “must see” exhibitions and fashion shows. Click here to see it!
To sound like a Parisian:
“Tu as vu Rodin au Grand Palais?” – Have you seen Rodin’s exhibition at Le Grand Palais?
“C’est une superbe expo!” – It’s a wonderful exhibition!
4/ A politically incorrect suggestion- Smoke
“Bonne cuisine, bon vin et cigarettes” (Good food, good wine and cigarettes). This has been the accepted trio of France ever since Gainsbourg and Bardot graced TV screens, smoking Gauloises.
Why do French people seem to smoke conspicuously more than the Brits, or Americans? My students visiting France frequently list smoking as the first culture shock they experience when they arrive in France. Only 26 % of French women smoke (at least one cigarette a day) in France. If you want to be a hipster as well as a Parisian, try vaping! Or not, and forgo number 7 on my list- cosmetic surgery!
To sound like a Parisian:
‘Est-ce que vous avez du feu s’il vous plait?’ – Do you have a lighter please?
“J’ai besoin d’une clope “(familliar) – I need a “fag” or a “ciggie”.
5/ Knowing all the best addresses
There are secret locations, well-kept addresses that exude an aura of exclusivity. Parisiennes always have good addresses that they will unveil if you insist: boutiques, food markets, inventive restaurants and other hidden treasures. If you wish to solve the mystery, you should have a look at My Little Paris: the best kept Parisienne secrets. Click here:
To sound like a Parisian
“Est-ce que tu connais la meilleure épicerie bio du 14è? “
Do you know the best organic grocery store in the 14th?
“J’ai une adresse géniale pour les vêtements vintage”
I have a great address for the vintage clothes
6/ Being able to speak for 30 minutes about your cheese shop or your food market
The latest restaurant to open near you, the best food market selling organic products. Get a Parisienne started on topics related to foodies and you will see that it can last for ever. French love to talk about food, so, if you are invited to a meal, it is appreciated to comment on the different dishes served. French people can speak with passion about their best pâtisserie, boulangerie, fromager and from personal experience, it can last at least 2 hours! Read more on all things foodie related here in one of my recent blogs.
To sound like a Parisienne
“Tu dois gouter les petites tomates cerises bio de la nouvelle épicerie au coin de ma rue, elles sont vraiment tops! je suis totalement accro”
You must taste the little organic cherry tomatoes from the new grocery store at the corner of my street, there are great! I am totally addicted to them!
7/ Shhhh – Plastic surgery, don’t tell anyone
“Anticipate, prepare for the future, but never totally correct. “This could be the motto of each Parisienne.
In her book Mireille Guiliano French woman don’t get facelifts, the author offers practical, no-nonsense advice on living and ageing gracefully. Guiliano believes attitude is most effective in appearing and feeling younger. Referring to attitude as a “magic pill” to looking younger, Guiliano says French women approach ageing with a different mindset than women from most cultures, and that is what makes the difference – not clothing, nutrition or face and skin care. By only “attitude”. But does attitude itself only eradicate traces on ageing on your skin? For Olivier Gerbault, a plastic surgeon in Paris, French woman have as many facelifts as in the States but with differences. First, they don’t tell. And nearly all French woman wants a very natural result. They don’t want to look surgical. In Paris, plastic surgery goals are to maintain natural beauty and individuality, rather than to follow some current beauty ideal.
-To sound like a Parisienne woman
“Tu as vu Charlotte Rampling en couverture du Monde, sans maquillage? Elle assume totalement ses rides, son âge, c’est courageux. Elle est magnifique!”
Have you seen Charlotte Rampling on the front cover of Le Monde, with no trace of make up? She totally accepts her wrinkles and her age. It’s brave. She is gorgeous!
8/ Being independent: French woman want their own income
For its 30th anniversary, French magazine Femme Actuelle published a study by the French Institute of Public Opinion (Ifop) on the differences three decades make. Nowadays, only a fifth of French women find it acceptable to be financially dependent on their husband’s income compared to 52 percent in 1991.
Regardless of age, most of French women can’t imagine not having their own income. Some 89 percent among the under 25-year-olds and 78 percent among the under 50-year-olds wouldn’t want to rely on their husband’s money. The employment rate of French women is just above the European average. The most active Europeans live in Denmark, the Netherlands in Sweden and of course in Germany.
To sound like a Parisienne woman
“Il ne faut jamais compter financièrement sur son mec”.
One must never rely financially on your man
“Etre autonome financièrement, c’est essentiel”
Being financially independent is essential.
9/ First and foremost, you are a woman before being a mother
You have heard of the cliché of the sexy French mother wearing stilettos and holding two kid’s hands? The ultra-glamorous Vanessa Paradis, mother of two and the face of Chanel’s new Rouge Coco lipstick could be taken as an example among others. Let’s be honest, the Parisienne can also be selfish. She can be a loving mother, yes, but nonetheless incapable of forgetting herself. In Paris, you will meet very little Parisiennes as sacrificial mothers cooking shepherd’s pie for their progeny. Do French mothers put marriage or love life before motherhood? The answer is maybe. According the French philosopher Elisabeth Badinter, the French maman has long been party to a “woman before mother” policy, she says; it was the French who invented la crèche for children aged two and three. These days French women perform multiple roles: wife, professional, mother, juggler, and all round superhuman and they don’t give up anything.
To sound like a Parisienne
“Ce soir j’ai un agenda serré: j’ai une réunion jusqu’à 19h, ensuite je vais chercher les enfants après le cours de tennis et je me prépare pour la soirée de Sam et Lola”
“Tonight, I have a tight schedule: I have a meeting until 7 pm, then I pick up the kids after the tennis lesson and after that I get ready for Sam and Lola’s party.”
10 – Being able to use a safe kit of 10 essential words in French
La bise: (the kiss) The French do la bise when saying hello and good-bye. Both parties lean in so that only their cheeks graze. In Paris, it’s always two bises.
Le vin rouge: (red wine) Most of French persons drink red wine. As the Parisienne is a little bit “snob” (snobby) she might say “I only drink Bourgogne “or “what I prefer is Saint-Emilion”
Le psychanalyste: (the shrink) Many Parisiennes have a “psychanalyste “(a shrink) and talk about it without embarrassment.
Le p’tite épicerie bio: (the small grocery store) As the organic food scene in Paris is becoming fashionable and trendy, the Parisienne woman who loves everything natural, loves organic food. You’ll find these products in most local chain grocery shops and at all bio markets.
Le rouge à lèvres rouge: (red lipstick) If you imagine that the Parisienne women only wear red lipstick for big occasions, you are wrong. The Parisienne also wear lippie to go to the bakery on Sunday morning, just in case she comes across someone she knows.
Le croissant: (croissant) It is useless to remind you what is a croissant. Un croissant is a croissant, that’s all!
La lingerie: (lingerie)She wears nice lingerie because you never know what’s could happen! She is always a girl scout: Be prepared!
Le marché: (outdoor market) Parisiennes love to go to the market on the week-end, to find fresh produce.
Le café: (coffee or café, depending on if you mean the product or the place where you drink it) When you arrive in Paris, repeat until you get it perfectly: expresso, double, allongé, noisette and all the other diverse types of coffees you will find in a café.
Un verre “boire un café “- to have a café with friends or by yourself. Wether you drink it in 2 minutes or you spend 2 hours chatting with your friend on a terrace.
French vocabulary related to La Parisienne
Sentences to express your opinion in French
I’ve attempted to balance the vocabulary considered to be positive and the one a bit more pejorative to talk about the Parisienne. Don’t forget when you express your opinion or comment to use:
“Je trouve que”: I find that
“Je pense que”: I think that
“A mon avis “In my opinion
If you mix positive and pejorative words to talk about La Parisienne, you could make sentences like:
“Moi je trouve que oui c’est vrai, la Parisienne est chic mais elle est aussi prétentieuse”.
“For me, I find that, yes, it is true, la Parisienne is chic but she is also pretentious”.
Positive adjectives in French to describe la Parisienne
Pejorative adjectives in French to describe la Parisienne
Insouciante: carefree, unconcerned
Obsédée (by fashion, appearance.): obsessed
Pressée (always): always in a rush – pressed for time
Froid (e): cold
“When Paris becomes your classroom”
If you’re learning French in Paris, discovering the city while conversing with your private French teacher can be an enjoyable and a far easier way to improve your skills, understanding, speaking, and accuracy. Explore private French lessons Paris here
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See you soon! “a tout suite!”
Images with thanks to: Shopbob, and Fashiongum