Post-pandemic pleasure: the French recover the art of living

Alex Klaushofer
4 min readJul 18, 2020
Masks for sale in a Paris market

“We are going to get back to our ‘art de vivre’ and recover our taste for liberty,” President Macron told the French on June 14.

A month later, I took the train-under-the-water from London and found that, indeed, the Parisians are resuming their usual pleasures.

Masks are worn widely on public transport and in shops, but a sense of calm normality prevails in the French capital. The metro and trams are fairly full and the city’s markets, both covered and outdoor, are well patronised by shoppers making purchasers in that peculiarly French purposeful yet relaxed way. In the parks, small children in hi-vis jackets attend municipal daycare groups, allowing parents to work or take a child-free break.

Cafe life is back on the streets of Paris, and makeshift extensions to the pavements outside restaurants allow more people to sit outside. “Nous mangeons dans le carniveau — we eat in the gutter,” laughed a French friend as we passed several of these pandemic-inspired terraces. At one cafe, both I and my hostess — a longtime resident of Paris — were taken aback by the waiter’s exaggerated politeness. “They know they need customers,” she said. “Before, you were never sure if you were bothering them. The snotty French waiter could now be a thing of the past.”

The jury’s out on whether the epidemic has put paid to the la bise — the kiss that traditionally serves as hello and goodbye in France, no matter how casual the acquaintance — but the French have largely given it up for now.

With few foreign tourists, Montmartre was quieter than usual and the annual Bastille Day celebrations were somewhat reduced. But Parisians were looking forward to their holidays elsewhere in Europe, and my French goddaughter was already on her usual three-week summer camp in France.

After a two-month lockdown, France’s state of emergency ended on July 10th although there are still some restrictions…