It is often said that nobody does life on earth better than the French. If this is true, then the holidays must be the pinnacle of this journey, complete with gluttonous feasts and debaucherous parties to rival no others. But what comes after, when the Dom Pérignon buzz fades and the New Year rolls in? Does the accompanying spirit of new beginnings and quest for self-improvement reach French turf, or is this yet another banal pursuit that this nation is (enviably) resilient to?
“After an intense weeklong food orgy, filled with foie gras and champagne, the question of New Year’s resolutions inevitably arises,” says Stéphanie Delpon, cofounder of Paris creative agency Pictoresq. “Most of them are linked to well-being and self-fulfillment: eat better, exercise more, be more productive, don’t hold off your dreams until tomorrow . . . .” Sound vague? Delpon confirms that the French are skeptical about making drastic resolutions, often seeing them as “a load of nonsense that is recycled year after year, quickly left forgotten.” Instead, they prefer to approach the New Year as a time to realign one’s priorities, starting with the very basics:
Head to the gym. The first resolution on every Parisienne’s agenda is to finally commit to the dreaded exercise torture chamber that she is inherently wired to resent, otherwise known as la salle de sport. Since this contradicts her mojo of being “effortlessly perfect,” she chooses to approach it more as a winter morale boost and some much-needed “Zen time” rather than a quest to drop those extra brioche kilos (which will inevitably come off in the process!).
Return to the essentials. Surprisingly, French women are not as trend-immune as they appear, often falling into the same high-street traps as their U.S. counterparts. “Our closets are constantly exploding! Every year, we aim to narrow it down to the essentials, to eliminate compulsive shopping and fast-fashion purchases that we regret five minutes later,” says Delpon. Another Parisian acquaintance sets a strict shopping cap of five new pieces a season, which allows her to build out an enviable garderobe with editorial precision.
Step it up. While we may aspire to the sneaker-clad ease of Caroline de Maigret, Parisians actually resolve to step it up—literally. “Every year, I promise myself I’ll put away my sneakers and start wearing my heels, adding a bit of much-needed elegance!” says Paris fashion merchandiser Julie Palasse, stressing that heels, when done right, can transform one’s attitude and posture. But no half-measures: “Just nothing in between—Parisians go all the way!” she adds.
Forgo the apéros. While the renowned esprit français is most notable on terraces and lighthearted friendly gatherings, the first weeks of January are generally spent ignoring social life in favor of balanced, home-cooked meals. This is no way entails cutting out entire food groups or embarking upon a spartan existence of green juice and granola; instead, the Parisienne simply turns off her phone, digs up a healthy recipe, and retreats to her couch with a good book.
Which leads to the main one:
Work on yourself. With the concept of “le burnout” being on the tips of Parisian tongues, there is a definite notion of taking more time for yourself, of stepping away from technology and exercising one’s attention span with a good book. “Next year, I plan on having something to read with me everywhere I go,” says a French girlfriend over coffee, showing off a historical novel that would probably take me all of 2016 to tackle. She seems excited to embark upon this mission, seeing it as a way to go back to her true interests that are often lost in the day-to-day shuffle. In the words of Delpon: “At the end of the day, it’s not about changing who you are, but rather becoming the best you can be—a stronger, more centered version of yourself!” And you certainly don’t have to be French to do that.
Marina Khorosh is the author of DbagDating.com via Vogue. Photographed by Irving Penn, Vogue, April 2006.