April 14 2011
"La Pause Gourmande" is the French term for an afternoon break. You can have "une pause" ('a break') for "dejeuner" ('lunch') or for an advert break in the middle of a TV programme. This, however, literally means a 'gluttonous' or 'greedy' break.
The French have the reputation in the UK and US as being dreadfully inefficient. I've experienced my fair share of this over the years, and especially most recently studying at a French business school, but you have to ask yourself, if they're not doing X, Y or Z, what ARE they doing?
The truth seems to be that they have a much better work-life balance than us anglo-saxons. We work flat out during the day (leaving the house at the crack of dawn and often working over-time) so that when we come home in the evenings, we're far too exhausted to spend time with our nearest and dearest. If you sit back for a moment and reflect on what you actually did yesterday, for example, you may well conclude that you were running around, spinning 101 plates. Now think back to what you did last week, even last month... was all that stress keeping those plates in the air actually worth it? Now come back to today, the fact you're reading my blog anyway means I'm probably preaching to the converted, but are the things you're stressing about today going to mean anything in a month's time?
Probably not. In which case, why not give your stress levels and blood pressure every chance by adopting this little French practice of taking a 15-20 minute break in the middle of the afternoon?
If you've never heard of it before, there's a great book written by a Frenchman, Robert Arbor, who now lives in NYC, called Joie de Vivre. This is a snippet of Amazon UK's review of it:
"In a funny way, this is sort of a self-help book for people who admire the French lifestyle, and for those who believe that good food is the secret to a happy life. The premise of the book is that you will find "domestic happiness" when you learn to enjoy the most mundane details of your everyday life: "It's about making time for family, growing some vegetables in your garden, chatting with the butcher and cooking for your family and friends." Quality of life, explains Arbor, is only improved when your pillowcases smell like lavender, and you make your own hot chocolate."
The importance of taking "une pause gourmande" every day in the French lifestyle is highlighted because Robert Arbor dedicates a whole chapter of his book to it.
At 4pm today, stop whatever you're doing, step away from your computer and put the kettle on. Make a cup of tea/coffee/hot chocolate, even just a glass of chilled water, and relax. Have a biscuit or a slice of cake - or something savoury if you feel like it. If there's somebody else around, get them involved too.
It costs absolutely nothing, apart from a shift in attitude... but trust me, you'll feel a lot better afterwards as a result.
As much as I'm aware that this blog post is teetering on the brink of becoming a self-help blog for how to deal with stress, taking "une pause gourmande" is an essential part of the French way of living and has been for generations.... and going back to that perceived dastardly French inefficiency, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em!!