A friend of mine snapped this photo in Cannes while we were there vacationing back in 2010. I feel it captures the French spirit perfectly. I had been to Paris a few times but this was my first time to Provence and the Riviera and let me just tell you, I fell in LOVE.

Truly, madly and deeply with everything.

The rolling hills of the Provencal countryside, the textiles, the food, the joie de vivre that permeates every crevice. My friends joked that if I could’ve, I would’ve tucked that whole region into my pocket and taken it home with me.

In fact, at the time I was unemployed and considered moving there. Saw this and thought it was a sign:

But alas I did come home, deciding I’m better off settling down back in the U.S. instead of gallivanting around France the rest of my life. But I still fantasize about living there on a regular basis.

And since we’re on the subject of LOVE, I thought it only fair to include the most amorous culture around. I’m pretty sure blogging all month on love and not mentioning the French is a crime somewhere.

So what do the French seem to know about love that the rest of us may not?

That love is about taking pleasure in every aspect of our lives. That love is a philosophy and way of life. Joie de vivre, the popular French phrase that is tossed around so much, translates as:

a feeling of happiness or excitement about life ◊ a French phrase that means literally “joy of living.” – Merriam Webster

This is evident in every area of French culture from conversation to cuisine. From boardrooms to bedrooms. It seems the French understand that life is short so while we’re here, let’s enjoy each and every moment.

According to an article in Business Insider, the French work the least amount of hours in the world but are wealthier than almost everybody, including the U.S. This points to the fact that while they may not work as much, the quality they produce is at a very high level.

If one were to divide France’s GDP per capita by actual hours worked, you’d probably find that the French are achieving some of the highest returns on work-hours invested.

Further evidence that the French seem to know a thing or two about how to live a good life.

Elaine Sciolino takes it a step further in her book, La Seduction: How the French Play the Game of Life. The longtime Paris bureau chief of The New York Times shows how the art of seduction plays a major role in both business and personal relationships. Even down to how the French enjoy their food and wine. Hey, who couldn’t use a little more seduction in their life? 😉

So what can we learn here?

That the time we spend outside of work is probably just as important as our time spent at work. That really enjoying ourselves is key to having a fruitful life. That it’s not about working harder but working smarter. And that taking the time to recharge when away from work is key to higher productivity.

So how are you choosing to live your life? Would you say you do a good job at balancing work and play? Or could you use a little improvement in your joie de vivre? What’s one thing you can do today to increase the love factor in your life?

Photos courtesy of Jessica Lin Photography