You can learn the easy way or the hard way. Personally, I’m always a fan of finding the easy way.
People watching is one my very favourite things to do in France – and one of the simplest ways I’ve found to learn about the French people.
Whether we are in the big cities or the smallest villages, I can – and do – spend hours everyday watching the locals go about their day. From my selected vantage point – usually a café or a bar – I can take in so much.
I’m equally content watching women, men, children, waiters. And the dogs provide an ever passing stream of entertainment. In all honesty, I’m really not fussy about who makes up the passing parade.
Via the very simple act of watching alone, I’ve learned so much. About the people, the culture and the way they live their lives.
The Secrets Of French Women
Now we all know that French women have a brand that’s hard to beat. They are renowned the world over for their ‘je ne sais quoi’ – that ‘special something’, that ‘I don’t know what’. And whenever I come to France, I’m on the lookout for ‘their secret’. I’ve got to tell you, my desire to understand brings a real focus to my people watching experience.
Rereading that it sounds a bit creepy, but it’s true. I want to pick up all the details. How the women carry themselves, where they shop, what they wear and how they interact. Now don’t get me wrong, I fully comprehend that there is a fair bit of myth that makes up the brand of French women but my endless watching tells me there is also more than a grain of truth to the story.
This Visit – Here’s What I’ve Observed So Far
- French women have excellent posture. They really do hold themselves well. No slouching, no shuffling. Some of them even seem to have a little bounce in their step – but all them walk quickly and with purpose. I’ve come to the conclusion that their good posture is one of that the things that makes French women seem quite ageless. And their speed probably has something to do with their slim figures.
- Apart from mascara, sometimes a smear of lipstick and occasionally a lick of eyeliner, it’s virtually impossible to tell if they are wearing make-up or not. Seriously, I’ve become like a stalker when it comes to trying to solve this make-up/no make-up mystery. I know, I know – I’m being kind of creepy again – but it’s just that so much is written about the French woman’s commitment to skin care and her light hand with make-up, I just had to verify it for myself. What I can share is that if they are wearing make-up, they apply it very deftly! They all look so good, I have to believe there is a little enhancement going on. But there is nothing full, heavy or mask-like about any make-up they might be wearing.
The Biggest Secret
But the biggest thing I’ve been noticing on this trip is the confidence of French women. It really is a different confidence to that of the women in Australia, Asia and other places I’ve visited. There is a self assuredness to the women here. I’ve watched closely. They don’t seem to care what anyone else thinks which, whether we care to admit it or not, is very different to how women react in other places.
I was fascinated by one woman the other evening.
She was maybe ten years older than me, dressed in pale jeans, a jade jacket and the cutest shoes. She stopped into a bar for a single glass of white wine and a cigarette. It seemed that she was truly enjoying being on her own, taking in the atmosphere, not hiding behind her phone or technology. She didn’t appear at all self conscious, and if she was worried about what anyone might have thought about her being alone, drinking wine and smoking in the late afternoon she did not show it one little bit. This woman genuinely appeared to be loving her life.
This phenomenon of confidence appears to start at a very young age. Teenage girls of all shapes and sizes grace French streets and all of them appear very comfortable with themselves. It was amusing to watch these girls calling the shots with the young men who trailed along behind them. So different to the girls at home, hanging around hoping for the boys to notice them.
So Now That I Know This, What Will I Do Differently?
It is one thing to learn all of this through my incessant people watching – but education is only of value when it is actually applied. Things I’ll be trying when I get home include:
- Well, although I don’t wear stacks already, first up I’ll be toning down my make-up. I’ve already ramped up my skin care regime, thanks to some new purchases in a Parisian pharmacy (more on that later) and I’ll be taking steps to go for a more natural look. Luckily for me, I’ll head home to the Australian summer which might be a little more forgiving. It’s interesting how even writing that sentence makes me wonder how I will feel with even less make-up. I’ll have to let you know how I go.
- I’m going to watch my posture. Scott takes a lot of ‘surprise’ photos of me, so I know my posture isn’t too bad…it’s not often he catches me slouching – but there is always room for improvement. I’m also going to try walking with a bit more purpose…I tend to be a bit of an ambler. And the extra exercise I’ll get certainly can’t hurt me.
- In terms of the confidence thing, I think my I’ve become more and more confident the older I’ve got. Sometimes I wonder if I just care less than I used to! But to challenge myself, I’m going to stop on the way home one night at a busy bar and order myself a wine (thanks, but I’ll skip the cigarette). I won’t be allowed to play with my phone or laptop – the test will be around how comfortable I am in my own skin doing exactly what I want to do. As with the make-up, I promise to let you know how I go.
Are you a people watcher like me? What lessons have you learned – if any – from watching people on the streets? People watcher or not, do you have any insights into the secrets of French women? I know. So many questions. But I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.
And until next time – au revoir.