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WTF America?

Kate Northrup ParisMike and I recently returned from three beautiful days in Paris.

Here’s what I noticed about this storied city:

Here’s what I also found out:

Everyone in Paris takes July and August off. It’s standard for companies to give 7-10 weeks of paid vacation to their employees.

We spoke with some friends who are expanding their business in France and they told us that it’s completely impossible to move forward with anything business-wise for all of July and August. People are literally offended if you call them during their vacation. It’s sacred time.

Having spent only  three days there, and in holiday mode to boot, I’m aware that these pieces of information do not likely cover every aspect of Parisian life, and that there may be some grimmer realities going on adjacent to the practices and cultural norms described above.

Nonetheless, these practices and norms do leave me with the following important question:

WTF, America?

Part of the reason I left NYC after living there for six years was that I craved a slower, more intentional lifestyle that didn’t include constantly striving.

I wanted to recalibrate my inner compass for enjoyment and lifestyle rather than achievement.

Yet, here’s my confession:

Yesterday I got into a bubble bath at 5pm, after a day of rain-soaked sightseeing.

It felt profoundly luxurious.

And here’s what I realized:

I work for myself, and I have a solid foundation of residual income that comes in whether I’m working or not.

I can freaking take a bubble bath any time of any day that I want.

Therefore, Mike and I have agreed to incorporate a few choice Parisian lifestyle habits into our own life.

Walking down the street looking up instead of at my phone, having coffee to stay rather than to go, stopping to take a bath, and enjoying what’s happening now can all be summed up in one word:

SANE.

No matter where you stand on the old reincarnation question, I think we can all agree that this one life we’re currently living is precious.

So often, we’re too busy going for the next thing and we forget that our precious life is happening now.

No matter how great our lives are, we can always be more present in them.

Want to add a little flavor of Paris to your life too?

Practice being present with what’s now instead of planning what’s next. (Tweet it)

When what’s next germinates in the fertile soil of what’s now, the present and the future both get a whole lot brighter.

Have you ever traveled and gotten some wisdom nuggets to bring home with you?

What lifestyle tidbits from other cultures have you incorporated into your own life? What have you noticed?

 

 

  • Sasha says:

    Come back soon to learn more about the parisian lifestyle! Thanks for this great article, which is very astute and right on!

  • Cyndi Briggs says:

    Holy smokes – one year ago today I headed to Paris with my mom and returned with the exact same revelation. My “bubble bath” moment was having coffee (caffeinated!) and pastry at 4pm on the Rue Cler without worrying about not sleeping that night or feeling in a rush to be somewhere else. Lovely. As I sip coffee now at 9:30 am in my home office, not needing to be anywhere, I am happy to report that many of my Parisian learnings have stuck. Hope yours do too!

  • samantha says:

    this was so perfect. thank you for sharing your experience. xo

  • Maureen says:

    I love your perspective!

  • Kate says:

    Hey Kate,
    I was gutted I didn’t get to catch up with you in Paris, I’m about 5hrs away, and the notice was a little short – But I love your observations! I’ve been living in France for 6 years, and somethings that bug the hell out of me are some of the things I love about this place, like, almost no shops are open on a Sunday, and the bank system is so awful that if you withdraw money from your account it doesn’t show up as gone for at least a few days…..these things mean I need to keep super good track of my moulah, and I am forced to hang out and do stuff – not shopping – on a sunday with my family. While these things drive me crazy, they also support me so much, and I love them. I also dropped my phone down the loo (by accident) and because I was waiting for insurance, I was without my iphone for 10weeks, which turned out to be blissful. I’m now back online, but I’ve started a few new practices, no checking my phone while I’m in bed (how bad is that- that I would check my phone in bed!!) and no phone time, while I’m not actually on talking on the phone while kids are awake. I noticed such a difference without my phone, life felt so much more relaxed – if I was late, I was late, I didn’t need to txt or frantically ring anyone! And Sundays, well they’ve become sacred…..oh and here’s my theory on the gluten, sugar etc, I notice that when french people eat, they sit down and enjoy their food, they stop when they’re full, desert isn’t a treat, it’s part of their everyday diet – so they don’t need to gorge themselves…..
    love your post – hope to see you next time, you could come chill out in Biarritz perhaps?
    warmly
    Katexx

  • Dianne says:

    Hi Kate!

    I absolutely love this blog bost and I SO get it! I felt the same way when I visited France a few years ago. Why or why can we not fully embrace that lifestyle and FULLY enjoy the moments to maintain our health. It’s completely eye opening for sure… I actually wrote a series of posts around this as well, that you might enjoy and relate too. http://bit.ly/11ihSEl Hope you enjoy and relate to them.

    Thank you so much for the amazing work you do in the world.

    Warmly
    Dianne

  • D.S. Watts says:

    Us woodspeople figured this out years ago. I would recommend more time in the woods. It’s cheaper than flights to Paris.

  • Isn’t it amazing how amazing it is to see people actually talking to each other in a restaurant? I noticed that, too, when I visited Paris last year. I also noticed all the thin people. It must be all that walking! (Which I love BTW.) I think I could be very happy living in Paris. :)

  • Trisha says:

    WTF indeed! I’ve always appreciated other cultures with the ‘easy does it’ lifestyle, and have often had fantasies of running away and living there! Yet, we can create our own oasis I know, and I do create that environment more than I think I do sometimes. For example just the other night my 17 year old daughter had an unusually busy schedule. She stated at dinner,’I’m glad we’re not a busy family, geez, I don’t know how they do it!’ Now her father and I are not lazy people, we work hard and are striving after big dreams,and so are my girls, yet in the house we do downtime really well. One practice we noticed in Mexico is there, “We’ll finish building it when we have the money.” We kept seeing so many unfinished homes, and were told of the way they think. Applying that now in our own life is helping financially. Again the ‘easy does it’ practice. Great post Kate!

  • When I was designing my prêt-à-porter collection it always drove me nuts that basically all of Italy & France would shut down for 2 months during the Summer. I had a collection to launch in the Fall and needed my suppliers & contractors to produce it!

    Now, not only do I get it but I want it! The slower pace, the lifestyle & the naps mid afternoon…

    The enjoying of life!

    And yes, the gluten. However my very French baker (who makes the best croissants) assures me that his very French white flour (imported all the way from France) contains no crap and less than 2% gluten :)

    • Cathy says:

      Caroline, I’ve noticed that Ihave no wheat issues in Europe. Je veux le nom de ton boulanger!

      • Paula says:

        Does anybody else think that the lack of gluten issues in Europe may have to do with the lack of genetically modified plants used in agriculture here or approved for import?

        • Sarah says:

          This could make sense! It’s true whenever I travel back home (Belgium), I do enjoy a lot of bread and pastries and I do not get the bloat or uncomfortable belly feeling I get here…hmm interesting point.

  • What a wonderful article, Kate! Very well written. America has made a choice to be the “efficient” capital of the world. Here, productivity is king. Well, productivity is not sane. In fact, it’s far from sane.

    Insane productivity can’t be maintained for long. While we are obsessed with calories, Europeans care more about the taste. When we count morsels, they count satiety. While we work during our time off, they realize the importance of disconnecting. It’s high time we choose to learn something from the rest of the world and just slow down before we race ourselves to insanity.

  • First of all, the cutest pic of you two! AND yes, I too constantly check my phone and I’m ALWAYS looking ahead and not relishing in the moment. In fact, I don’t even know what I did yesterday because I’m so focused on moving forward. I love the culture in Europe and work mentality…I’ve always wanted to take off in August. AND maybe I will! Thanks for reminding me of taking it slow.

  • Kathy Warren says:

    Absolutement ! You are right on Kate. I say something similar about my chosen lifestyle on an island off the coast of Maine. It forces me, much to my constant delight and relief, and occasional frustration, to live deliberately and intentionally.
    As we move into our busy summer season and our summer folks arrive to NO CELL SERVICE ;-) it is quite transforming for everyone even with our busy summer social rounds;) I pray for America to get better at this. We are killing ourselves for chaos of our own creation, we were made for more than this and I think the time for that revolution in LIVING NOW is NOW !

  • I loved this post. This totally reminds me of my visit to Paris a few years ago. Although I was in quite a bad mood for majority of my trip there (regrettably) I on some level still observed the beauty this place oozed and I have no problems going back there again – maybe even to live for a while ;)

    Thank you for this beautiful reminder of being present.

    Elise xx

  • Angelina says:

    When I was working on my documentary series when my girls were young, I was always so surprised by how often we were invited to peoples homes just because we were visiting their country. We would strike up a conversation at the market and the entire following day would often be dedicated to us when we arrived at their home. In Iran we were entertained and fed for 6 hrs straight by strangers, in Bali taken around the island and fed by people who make as much money in one month as Ithe average American makes in a few hrs, in Japan, given royal treatment by strangers feeling honored to share some of their culture with us simply because we were guests in their country. We met in the neighborhood shrine in the morning and they canceled their entire days plans to cater to us.

    I was always struck how this would never happen in the US, because everyone, including myself, is always in a rush. We,re always in a hurry and mundane and material things take priority over people.

    On the gluten, sugar thing. When we returned from Germany after eating sausage with nitrates, sugar and white flour nearly every day for the 4 mos we were there and came back to the US, it’s like we all had IBS for the first few weeks here. I am convinced their is something far more sinister going in with the food in the US than meets the eye. The GMO, chemical component cannot be ruled out. Our food here in the US is of really poor quality. it’s the hardest thing to adjust back to after traveling. …and pretty depressing when you’re trying to explain to your six year old why they are bent over with stomach pains when eating the same apparent food they were just enjoying overseas. :(. I concur, WTF America?

  • Emma Herdman says:

    A timely post, I needed to stop and be present just last week my mind and body hit overload, I am now sitting in my porch looking out at the Scottish countryside, listening to the birds, watching the wildlife taking it all in and breathing, telling myself not to worry all will be well. British culture is go go go and we need to stop and be xx

  • Julie says:

    Hey Kate,

    Sounds divine, can’t wait to go myself in September… The Parisienne’s will be back from vacation by then :)

    How many weeks leave to you all get in U.S? I live in Australia and we receive 4 weeks paid leave and about 10 public holidays every year, so pretty nice, however, here in Australia the mobile device obsession is pretty bad!! There is no way to live and enjoy the moment when we are all too busy planning the next event only to tweet, Facebook, Instagram, Pin it or text it… Arghhhhh… Serenity now..

    I agree, look up, look around, put the mobile away and enjoy the moment!!

  • Well, I’ve never traveled, but I did read “French Women Don’t Get Fat” and for months afterward tried to emulate the lifestyle described therein. I love the idea of savoring life, truly enjoying my days, taking pleasure in even the mundane, connecting, *being*.

    What happened? I guess I forgot all about it. It’s easy to do that when you’re surrounded by people who most definitely do not work that way.

    It’s sad, really, seeing couples together in a restaurant…staring at their phones and not each other. Or, worse, when they’re staring at their phones and not even talking to their kids. Sure, they may have a perfectly good reason. But it’s just an example of everything we miss out on when we stop paying attention to what really matters.

    Thank you for this post. In honor of it, I’ll be buying myself flowers today. Just because. :)

  • Lynda Diane says:

    Kate, I simply love this post, thank you for sharing! A few months ago I decided Sunday was a no electronics day. No phone, no tv, no iPad, no computer…nothing, nada. Sundays are filled with being with me, enjoying nature, reading a book, being with friends and family. Since I gave myself permission to do this I have been able to discover more about myself, what do I actually think and feel, it has allowed me to really connect with myself and others on a more intimate, personal level.
    It has become a day of recalibration, it sets the tone for the week of ahead. Learning to push that ‘reset’ button has improved the quality of my life.

    • Kate says:

      This is SUCh a smart idea Lynda. I do this about 2x a month but would love to increase the frequency. Love it!

    • Cathy says:

      I do the same, Lynda, and I love it. It’s amazing, though, how lost I feel on some days without it…which is part of the self-discovery.

  • Allison Crow says:

    What a beautiful reminder. Something about this post, struck me at just the right time:

    “I craved a slower, more intentional lifestyle that didn’t include constantly striving.

    I wanted to recalibrate my inner compass for enjoyment and lifestyle rather than achievement.”

    This post was another reminder from the universe – that I can slow down, and be present, slow WAY down…and everything will still be achieved.
    Thanks Kate. (ps loved seeing the pics on ig).

  • Sophie says:

    Hi Kate!
    so interesting to read your article about Parisian Life!
    well I’m not in Paris, but in Lyon, which is 2-hr-train south from Paris – …and I’m French (but don’t eat frogs, thank God!) It’s true what you observed, and I did not really realize it before! one could say it’s a kind of “art de vivre” – (way of life)

    I’ve lived in New-York, in the UK, and in Belgium, and love travelling- each time I could notice the differences and appreciate them; I love NYC and I noticed also people were nice; if you happen to show an inch from a map, people come to check if you need help! I remember I was in London for new year with my car and could actually drive slowly, no one would drive over you – which could be a normal day in France –

    I remember meeting French in L.A. and they were comparing LA and the French riviera…. :(

    anyway, what I like is the mix of all these “arts de vivre”, never compare, and be grateful to have the opportunity to see different things…

    take care

    Sophie

  • Gina says:

    I love this — thanks so much for posting!
    You hit the nail on the head. It seems like it’s all about slowing down and being present.
    When I was was staying at a small family in on an island in Italy I would take walks up to the inn’s farm and literally see my dinner ingredients right there growing from the ground. To see, feel, smell and touch where all this real and delicious food was coming from really changed the way I viewed eating,cooking and nutrition in general. Less is more and fresh is best!

    • Kate says:

      That is such a beautiful way to experience food Gina. Mike and I just signed up for a CSA here in Maine and I’m so looking forward to nourishing myself with local produce that I can go see where it was grown!

  • Loved your observations about Parisian life. I lived in Italy for 8 months and traveled all over Europe. What struck me the most was the emphasis on connecting with friends and family. It is such a high priority to spend time in conversation, interacting and being present for one another. I feel there is more loneliness of the soul here in America, simple because we do not make it a priority to take enough time to nourish ourselves with connections. That is why you see in Europe cafes where people sit and linger in conversations. Your awareness brings to mind my desire to carve out more time on my weekends to reach out and savor the relationships that inspire my heart. Thanks Kate.

  • Sophie says:

    Oh I forgot !
    If you happen to come to Lyon, (“capital city of the food” ;) – please let me know and I shall be delighted to show you the town!
    xxx

  • Stephanie says:

    Hi Kate! I came across this blog via Facebook and had to laugh – everyone loves visiting Paris but living there is quite different! I’m a coach, writer and entrepreneur from SF who’s been living in Paris for nearly a year now. Getting my business off the ground in a country that has no idea what self-help or self-development is is quite difficult. Not to mention, I love the slower days but it also means a lack of productivity when it is required. After nearly a year there I don’t wonder the country is in such economic crisis – no one wants to work…ever! I love reading so many blogs about visiting Paris but there are so many great blogs from Americans living in Paris that are much more accurate to the lifestyle. It’s not all croissants and cafes!

    Glad to see you enjoyed it and I look forward to checking out your website!

    • Kate says:

      I love that other perspective Stephanie. I bet running a business there is super frustrating. Thanks for sharing another way of looking at it!

  • Karin Pinter says:

    Yep, that’s how we roll over there.
    Now imagine someone (eg. moi) growing up on that side of the ocean and then arriving in the US – major clash in terms of lifestyle and work habits (because they seem to be reversed here).
    I’ve just recently started to apply some of those lovely European habits again and I’m thoroughly enjoying life at its most basic, which creates such a massive flow on all other levels (personal, financial, etc.).
    And yes, it is an entirely different eating experience and mindset. Think of the flow you saw there, and the contrast with here where most people generally get together every now and then for dinners on Thanksgiving, Christmas and other specific festivities. Over there, life is celebrated more consistently, and this translates across the board.
    I’m so glad you enjoyed Paris. Vive la vie!

  • Jan says:

    How true! I live in California and had a French neighbor who thought Americans work too hard and too many hours and take too few vacations. I went to Paris many years ago and loved that they do enjoy dining Alfresco, walking, bicycling and museums. It is a lovely way of life. I currently live in Southern California however at the end of this month I am moving to the Central Coast where life moves slower. I am looking forward to it! Thanks for this great post. We all need to slow down and stop looking at our phones!

  • Paula says:

    Yes! (to the travel wisdom nuggets question). Traveled to Spain where they take naps in the afternoon. Lived in Ireland where they say 1-ish for what time to return from lunch or 10ish for what time people will meet for tea rather than stressing about being to an appointment on time.

  • Trish says:

    WTF is right. The food they eat in France is totally different than the food we eat. For one, France does not allow GMO food. That speaks volumes to me. We never had the choice here to decide to allow it or not, it just slid into the food system. Nice to know there is a better place to live.

    Glad you enjoyed your trip.

    • Kate says:

      Yeah the GMO thing is a BIG deal. We’re in the middle of trying to get a law passed to require it to be on labels here in the state of Maine.

  • Anita says:

    Hi Kate! Was great to meet you in London and I’m so glad you enjoyed Paris. Agree with everything you have said here and I think the UK could also take a big leaf out of this book too. Eight weeks holiday would be AMAZING! I love the idea of coffee to stay (I’m always rushing in and getting it ‘to go’). Thanks for the reminder to slow down a little :-)

    • Kate says:

      Loved meeting you too! Yeah, I found London to be so similar to NYC, but I loved it nonetheless!

  • Becca says:

    I noticed the SAME things when I was in Paris recently. It was SOOOOOO brilliant. I love how you framed this. My mom and I also incorporated Parisian ways of life into our regimes once we returned to the states. Living in NYC I think these ideas are so important to recognize because things move way too fast here sometimes to integrate all the good and also to be in a healthy, sane, present place. THANK YOU!!!

    • Kate says:

      Glad to know that I wasn’t the only one who saw the stark contrast. We’ll have to hold each other accountable on the slowing down front!

  • Joanie B says:

    Thank you thank you thank you for this Kate! once again, it seems you are preaching EXACTLY what I’m needing to hear at exactly the right moment. I actually lived in france for six months (about 5 years ago), and had completely forgotten how luxurious they are with their time! And how much healthier they are for it! Americans get so caught up in constantly striving for what’s next, that you’re totally right, we often miss what’s right in front of us. I’m putting this blog post on my bathroom mirror to remind my self to slow the *%& down! thank you kate! I’m glad you had a wonderful vacation- don’t let the glow disappear too fast!

  • Dilyana Karaivanova says:

    Dear Kate,

    Coming to North America was a real shock for me. As I have never changed most of my routines like not drinking coffee in a paper cup on the go, or even not willing to join the army of people rushing every morning or evening to the Metro, the atmosphere here is completely different and you are not able to explain it to most people, because they do not know and not even believe that there is something else that exists. I wake up and go to sleep with the only one tought for many years now to go back to Europe and to enjoy the real life there. I am working on my residual income and this is the only one thing that holds me here, which is of course very sad…
    Thanks, Kate, for sharing your experience! Your article gives me the hope that I am still normal, no matter what some of my NA friends think!

    • Kate says:

      I’m so glad the post was helpful for you Dilyana and I wish you blessings on your journey home :)

  • Dear kate,
    I love this post, almost for reverse reasons than the comments above. I’m American and have been living in France for over 26 years. Yes you are correct, there is a much grimmer reality to life in France than those first impressions. i currently dream of one thing, moving back to the US, back to California if I can – and your post opened up my eyes to the reality that I’m also probably wearing some rose tinted glasses about underlying realities of a culture I don’t know that well anymore. What I LOVE about Americans is the kindness, the positive energy, the openness. It is true though that a basic cultural value in France are meals and conversation is sacred and respected. I hear a lot of Americans say that they feel a slower pace present when they come to France…and yet the question is probably very individual. People can strive, and work pretty crazy hours here, they are also in love with their phones. Thank you though for the heads up. Makes me realize that the US really is about action, striving, moving forwards, staying positive. Those are the cultural values that I see and like (aside from the over striving bit) from this point of view that I want keep well integrated. I’m also looking to slow down the pace right now, slow down the inner drive, and allow life to unfold more gracefully. Thank you for your post. Kind regards, Andrea

    • Kate says:

      Thanks Andrea – glad my post gave you a new perspective and helpful reminder. And it’s so true – there is striving and rushing everywhere, and it’s not always a bad thing! So long as it’s not at the expense of quality of life, right?

  • Paula says:

    A little further east here in northern Germany I’ve come to the following (very) basic contrast between the U.S. and (let’s say “Western”) Europe:
    Europe: more emphasis on people, community, relationship
    The good: missing a visit or at least a call on anyone’s birthday is unthinkable, basic health insurance is (mostly) a given, most towns and cities have city center with a town hall or church and open air markets where many different people actually gather and mingle, many companies try to accommodate family issues and don’t balk at the six weeks of mandatory vacation, cooking and eating are communal EVENTS
    The not so good: missing a visit or at least a call on anyone’s birthday is unthinkable, too much public and neighborly interest in private affairs
    U.S.: more emphasis on the individual and competition
    The good: it’s easier to be left alone to do your own thing if you want
    The not so good: people don’t care as much about what happens to others, society is “rougher” somehow, there are fewer town centers and places for people of all stripes to gather, many companies don’t care about their employees as people at all, everything (cooking, raising children, buying anything) is a competition, not a happy, shared occasion

    But here’s what may happen next: many of the negatives associated with individualism are coming to a European town near you (at least in Germany). I hope this cultural creep does not change “Old Europe” too much, but visit soon, so you don’t miss it!

  • Love this post Kate, and it was EXACTLY what I needed to read at this VERY moment. You have some very fabulous insightful notes of you own, and not just your observations. Particularly love this: “more intentional lifestyle that didn’t include constantly striving” and also “I wanted to recalibrate my inner compass for enjoyment and lifestyle rather than achievement.”

    Thanks luv….you rock!
    xo, Tina

  • Elle says:

    I am absolutely going through the same revelation in my own life! As an entrepreneur I spend way too much time pushing myself and not nearly enough time enjoying myself! I made a new commitment to my own pleasure two months ago and my life has completely changed as a result. I love your findings, and I love Paris.

  • Lisa says:

    Absolutely, when I went backpacking in Australia when I was 30 (for which I had to quit my job since… who travels to Australia for 2-3 weeks? ~ ok I didn’t have to, it was my choice). It struck me so much that many of my fellow European travellers were there on their vacation time and were there for 6-8 weeks. Even in Australia the minimum is 4 weeks and I beleive something like every 10 years they can take 3 months.

    That made it hard when I came back, I initially to get back to work did contracts so that I would have long breaks between each one. Eventually I migrated back to full time permanent position when trying to move to a new field. Now I have my 3 weeks vacation and next year I should move up to 4 weeks and I find myself miserly with my days off just to stretch them as far as I can.

    Because Australia otherwise wasn’t significantly slower I didn’t notice a difference in pace. But as a small town girl living in the city, I notice the difference there in North America.

  • Sarah says:

    Great post Kate, I absolutely loved it!

    I was born & raised in Belgium and it’s true Europeans in general know how to take their time to eat, stop to enjoy their friends & family’s company and YES vacation is SACRED. hihi. And though, I love the openness of mind of North Americans, it’s good to be reminded of what I cherish the most about my European upbringing & heritage: namely taking the time to enjoy a good meal and great company (amongst other things of course :p).

    So thank you for the reminder to take the time to be fully present and enjoy every single moment in the NOW. :)

  • Cathy says:

    Kate (and Kate),

    Just like falling in love, the things that we adore about a place when we travel can become the parts that drive us crazy later on…and of course provide us with some of the biggest lessons in the end.

    That said, I think I can live without the hectic pace of NYC. Hmm, then again, it does provide a certain impetus to push us forward when we might normally not.

    On a recent trip through Chicago, I was curious to note that while O’Hare is a very busy airport, the people move at a much more relaxed pace than in NYC.

    And then, being in Boulder, I was fascinated by how grounded I felt with those deep and ancient mountains rooting me to my foundation in ways that rarely happens at home. It was a good reminder that the earth is down there, even if not visibly, and that I can reconnect any time I feel the need.

  • I totally relate! Going to Paris was THE factor in realizing that seduction is not just a technique, it can be a slow, easy way of life. This realization eventually gave birth to my current business and is now my credo. And I just enjoyed a wedge of brie, my favorite french snack. Merci Paris! Merci Kate!

  • Rachel says:

    What a great reminder. It is so true. I am with you! As each of us take the time to make our lives more sane, and slow down and enjoy, we encourage others to do the same. Perhaps we will usher in the days when America takes off July & August, too! Being a school teacher much of my life, I don’t get how people can work all summer! Thanks for sharing your wisdom from your French adventure!

  • Jessica says:

    True words Kate, funny how I am Italian and I was actually craving the metropolis lifestyle. Born and raised in a country where the pace is slow, finishing your sandwich gets priority over an important meeting you are running late for, and where timing is oh-so-relative, I feel fantastic after 5 years in London. Don’t get me wrong, I am proudly Italian and haven’t forgotten how to take it easy and savour the present moment, but having the opportunity to dive into a creative and fast paced reality is exactly what my Italian lifestyle was lacking. :) lovely post, thank you for sharing, I love how different cultures can teach us something new if we approach them with an open mind and heart.

    Jessica

  • Nyk Danu says:

    Such a great post and so true! I noticed a while back I was walking and texting or walking and emailing…..WTF it had to stop …now as soon as I hit my side street the phone goes away,I slow my pace & take the time to look around at all the little beautiful magical moments I would miss if I was “plugged in”. Birdsong, flowers, squirrels playing, neighborhood cats & even a duck bathing in a puddle are all the moments I would have missed otherwise. It’s a small thing but I walk that street 2-4 times a day so it adds up. So good for the soul! ox

  • Darrell Kirkendall says:

    … I wonder if your beautiful attitude would be the same if you lost that steady residual income you mentioned??

    • Kate says:

      Well Darrell, that’s a great question. If something in my business changed and my income went away, I would apply the skills and knowledge I’ve developed in this business and apply it to a new venture to create residual income again. Once you know how once, you can do it again. And my attitude is just me, not money :)

  • Darlene says:

    Bravo, Kate! I couldn’t agree more!

  • I love this Kate! Thanks for sharing. I can’t wait to visit Paris. A great reminder that we need to unplug and relax regularly.

  • Laura says:

    Life is definitely slower paced here in France (not just in Paris) but in a socialist system, people pay really high taxes and they have a social safety net that Americans don’t have. Americans always feel they have to strive, to be ‘on’ because they don’t want to get behind, and possibly end up unemployed or worse. As an American living in France, I miss the energy and positive attitude that prevails in the US. People here seem carefree perhaps, but the people I know work long hours, rarely go to cafés, and don’t even take their full 5 weeks of paid vacation because of the demands of their employers. Also, the French have a more negative outlook on life in general, and take enormous amounts of anti-depressant drugs apparently.
    But, yes, your post is a wonderful way of pointing out that people should try to enjoy life’s small pleasures and stay in the present more!

  • Sue says:

    Hi!

    The art of relaxation and contentment :). I live in Europe and really want to share more about the French way of life.

    This comment isn’t intended to be negative – just to remind that there is good and bad everywhere and you do yourself a disservice by comparing a romanticised image of one city, and comparing it to the jaded reality of your own.

    Cafès are busy at all times of the day because they have a government- enforced 35hr work week. Sounds blissful, right? But this is because there arent enough jobs, so the government said citizens had to share their job with someone else. Most of the population has more free time but much less income – they’re not on their phones all the time because they can’t afford the bill :0)

    Yes, there’s a beautiful Cafè Culture in Paris – many of the patrons are:
    – tourists in French cafès
    – business people having meetings
    – business people on their day off
    – unemployed people
    – exchange students studying in Paris

    This 35 hr week also costs employers more – along with the logistical difficulties of multiple people dealing with shared tasks.

    There’s a profound racial tension amongst French people and immigrants – violently so and particularly rife in Paris. It can be down right dangerous and heartbreaking there.

    I agree that the French make more time for family, friends and life (5hr evening meals are common) but just like anywhere else, they have financial trouble, daily woes – and yes, there are lonely people living in box apartments who rarely see family or friends.

    Just to emphasise my point, I’m not being negative – just that we do ourselves a disservice when we only see the good in one place, and compare it to the bad of our hometown.

    Xx

  • Effie says:

    WTF America is right….I lived in Europe for fourteen years and the big difference is that here, “we live to work” and in Europe, they “work to live”…we can strive for that European live-in-the-moment life here too, it just takes more effort….they enjoy their lives, not so caught up in phones and stuff….we can do it here….life is short, live it to the max every day!

  • I love it. I’ve never been to Paris so thank you for sharing this wonderful image for me to hold onto. I live in a really rural area here in the states and I have to say that I love it. It’s low key and very low pressure to do, do and do some more. I can just relax if that’s what I choose to do.

    That being said I do feel like I miss out on the opportunities that a big city has to offer. Things like social gathers that don’t take place at a bar, mastermind groups, personal development speakers, marketing events, etc.

    Either way, I really enjoyed reading about how people act in Paris. Because even though I live in a small town, I do still see all the rushing around and busyness of people in a hurry. So I do believe that that is an American thing.

  • Cara says:

    Beautiful Kate, thanks for sharing. Valuable lessons we all need a reminder of!
    Cara

  • […] to self: 1) get back to Paris ASAP and 2) practice being present with what’s now instead of planning what’s […]

  • LOL I am too stressed and overachieving to take the time to read all 69 of these posts!
    But, seriously, this TOTALLY speaks to me. My husband and I–in younger, pre-kid days–dropped everything and moved from NYC to Istanbul, Turkey for his job. We were two overworked, unevolved professionals–“yuppies”–and our lives had lost their meaning. After our first baby was born too soon, and died, in our deep grief was the seed of hope and a new future. (Jeremiah 11:29 for people of the Book.) What was going to be a two-year adventure turned into an eleven year extravaganza, a time I will never forget. Three children and a few lifetimes later, we moved back to the U.S. (to Boston) where I left magazine publishing (the glam jobs I’d once had at VOGUE and ELLE) and became a minister. What Turkish life taught me is: savor the moment. Drink tea, in little “waisted” glasses whose liquid you stir with petite spoons that clink against the gilded sides. Make eye contact. Eat well. Love one another. Be here now. I’m joining your e-list because you’re a woman after my own heart…and I love Paris as much as you do! Blessings!

  • […] 2. I am still in a slight post-travels funk. Meaning, at least a few times a day, I will be transported back to that time I was wandering through the twilight markets in the Marais in Paris. Or that time we were all at that crazy-awesome rooftop bar in Florence. Or that time when we were hanging out with my best friend and her husband drinking Aperols in Austria. And I’ll get a pang of longing to go back. Like, rightthisverysecond. Anyway, I am assuaging my longing for wandering by reading travel stories online. And this one by Kate Northrup, about what she learned while visiting Paris, hit the spot – WTF America?!! […]

  • lora says:

    OMG fabulous insight and post Madam! Its SO true – and they don’t walk and eat, eh hem!!! If I may share a funny very “Parisian insightful” moment- I was going to the gym one day and tossed on my sneakers & gym clothes (as per the norm in NY, oui?) EVERY Parisian on the street stared at me as if I was from Mars. As Coco Channel said, “Never leave your house with out looking your best” – It’s part of the culture to look and feel your best at any moment – its not about caring about what other s think, its about taking the time to slow down and feel great -how you present yourself to the world… thanks for the reminder Kate –

  • […] meant to be French? I’ll settle for living in Europe… at some point. Mmmk? This post on “WTF America” makes me want to slow down, live a little more intentionally and move to […]

  • Deb says:

    The Italians have a wonderful saying: il bien far niente – the beauty of doing nothing. I learned how to do that while sitting in the piazza in Siena. I try to remember that moment often back here in my busy life. Thanks for reminding me to remember that!

  • CC says:

    You are still there, right? Europe. Enjoy it, drink it in, love it. So happy for you. and it’s good coffee, eh?

  • […] WTF, America?! A few lessons Kate Northrup learned from visiting Paris. […]

  • Ana says:

    Ah, Europe :) .

    If you get the chance, come visit Serbia – cafe culture everywhere!

  • Cassandra says:

    I’ve lived in the Philippines for 2 months now (coming from America) and have embraced “Filipino time,” which is basically, sloooooow. No one rushes to do anything, shops close whenever they want, people don’t show up to work because they “have to do laundry.” It’s frustrating at times, but also welcomed because it means I can slow down too. I mean really, I live on the beach and work maybe an hour a day. How much better does it get?

  • Gigi says:

    Just love this, Kate! I’ve been traveling for just over a year and this is one of my favorite things about Europe. It’s sooo much more relaxed. Not only do you see it all around you, but there’s actually a different energy you feel there. Things aren’t panicked or frenetic.

    Enjoy your bubble baths!

  • ama says:

    Hi, I’m a french gal who is born and live in paris and I have to say thaht wee don’t have 7/10 week of vacation. In the french law you have 5 week a year (and only if you’re in your compagny for more than a year).
    The thing with summer holliday it’s that children have two month of vacation (juily and august) so most parent have to deal with it, that why summer holiday it’s so “sacred” here. Nobody (exept teatcher of course) take two month vacation.

    Yes paris is diferent during this period (like the rest of the country) but it’s because most people take 2 or 3 week of vacation during that period (and not 7 or 10).

    I’ts cool that you’re enjoy paris and that help you to be more present in the moment, but don’t forget three day are short for see all of such a big city :)

  • […] * Practice being present […]

  • Lee says:

    The most enlightening concepts I brought back with me are from every trip I’ve made abroad. As a military brat, I’ve been in several countries that people would say are ‘third world’ or ‘poorer’. I found all these places have a richer outlook on life than we can ever claim.

    Top two.

    South America:
    Their families are not blood. Their families are everyone they come to know and love. Children call all the older women in their ‘families’ Aunt. Food and conversation is served for every guest. There isn’t a concept of ‘mine’ in their lives like we so possessively have. Life was meant to be shared and these people do it so well. I remember on a specific vacation we stayed with friends whose house was right on the beach. When I first arrived, I would have told people it was a shack compared to those resort beach houses we have all conditioned ourselves to associate with vacation. When I left, it was one of the BEST houses the island had to offer. It had everything you ever needed to live and enjoy life. No coffee machine, no tv. Just the ocean in the background full of tasty fish, sunrises and sunsets (nature’s tv), and all the family you could need. We all say we need more time in the day, but its amazing how long a day really can be when you turn your phone/tablet/computer/device with all your ‘friends’ in it off.

    South Korea:
    I returned from my 2 week trip to Korea with a whole new outlook on life. Being part of my heritage and as my first time visiting, I was absorbed into all of the history which really brought into view how young America really was.

    I’ve never been anywhere in my life where the entire nation was so much in unison. I can count on one hand the number of ‘overweight’ people I saw. And when I mean overweight, I mean maybe by 15-20 pounds. Most of them were tiny and let me tell you…these people can EAT. And in that time period, the government has completely redone all their roads to have bike lanes. Companies have changed their start times to allow people the time to bike to work. Waterproof equipment parks have exercise equipment for free use at random points. The ENTIRE nation was encouraging its people to stay healthy and it was so refreshing. It wasn’t forced. Wasn’t mandated or required. But when your company, government and neighbors are so supporting of it, I couldn’t help but want to jump out of my taxi and join them!

    Also, food. Korea might have long business hours, but it’s not for the reasons America does it. In America, we work overtime, grab lunch to go, eat while on the run or at our desks (if you’re lucky to have a desk job) or go hungry to get every second of time in. In Korea, you have 2 hour lunch breaks. Why? Lunch isn’t just about eating. It’s about conversation. It’s about connecting with your peers and laughing. No one had their phone out. No one even had shoes on :) We are all around a table on the floor, sitting indian style like a kid, chatting and laughing about life.

    Lastly, as an American adult with a Career, I like many people feel stuck in my chosen profession. With debt being so common, getting new education for a career change is often not done and so many of us that might be burned out in our current fields are left to just deal with it. In Korea, profession swapping is common. They don’t want just workers. They want passionate workers. My uncle used to be a car mechanic. Then he became a motorcycle racer. Now, he’s an owner of a beautician shop. None of that is looked down upon and the debt issue isn’t a limiting, soul crushing factor there.

    Since these encounters, it has definitely changed my priorities in life. I was a hardcore, 60-80 hour a week employee that thought my life was a stainless steel thermos of coffee and a cell phone. Now, my life is about getting in my 40 hours and just enjoying life how I want to enjoy it, where I want to enjoy it. I’m only young once.

  • […] >> WTF America? This article made me long for the days when I lived in France. It also made me think about how any given environment influences our thoughts, feelings, and values. Were I not living in New York, would I not feel the same drive to ‘excel’ or ‘succeed’, whatever those words might mean? […]

  • Mairead Murphy says:

    Kate,
    I love this post! Isn’t everything so deliciously wonderful when you are on vacation? The most mundane of tasks seem glorious. A cup of coffee in a foreign country is an event and not just a pit stop in your busy day.

    I lived in Ireland for 4 years, and although I have been back in the States for 8 years I still miss the attitude of the Europeans. They are so much more chilled out. I OFTEN say to myself, WTF America??? :-)

    Thanks for sharing.
    Peace and Love, Mairead xo

  • Julie says:

    Hmmm…
    Interesting thoughts for sure. And yet, I find, in order to really let this gel, I need to see, feel, experience Paris myself! (with a lover, of course, and sit in the cafes, dreamy with love..)

    Smile.

    Thanks for the wise words.
    Here’s to a champion kind of new year 2014.

  • Katie says:

    I loved this article, Kate. I get bored quickly, but when I think about it, it’s because I am on Facebook or YouTube for hours and not truly being present or growing at all.
    When I was in Italy a few years ago, I loved it so much. We made new friends at a tourist attraction, and went to dinner with them at a tiny local restaurant that lasted 3 hours! It was full of laughing, storytelling, and relationship growing. I long for that now!

  • tina says:

    I love your post about this beautiful city I live in … that’s why we all wanna make money in America and wanna come spend it in Paris :-) the other way around is quite more difficult!

  • […] WTF America?. […]

  • […] 2. I am still in a slight post-travels funk. Meaning, at least a few times a day, I will be transported back to that time I was wandering through the twilight markets in the Marais in Paris. Or that time we were all at that crazy-awesome rooftop bar in Florence. Or that time when we were hanging out with my best friend and her husband drinking Aperols in Austria. And I’ll get a pang of longing to go back. Like, rightthisverysecond. Anyway, I am assuaging my longing for wandering by reading travel stories online. And this one by Kate Northrup, about what she learned while visiting Paris, hit the spot – WTF America?!! […]

  • Nani says:

    Yes, this article was written centuries ago, lol. But love it! I’ve always admired the French, the tons of bread, butter, chocolate and duck fat unapologetically consumed with great cardiovascular health and healthy body weights. I’m always dreaming about moving there for a year and blogging about it. Amen!

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