Will the French Way of Life resist the pandemic?

Béatrice Peyrani

By Béatrice Peyrani22 avril 2021

In a speech aiming at supporting hospitality professions, President Macron designated Covid-19 as the number one enemy of the famous “French way of life” (Art de vivre), showcased at length during the pandemic… a very fluid concept.

The French art of living, which was damaged during the pandemic, represents billions in revenue for France. The country is, among other things, Europe's leading producer of the tableware industry. (Shutterstock)

EUR 990 M

The 2019 turnover of the tableware industry in France

EUR 70 Bn

The 2019 turnover of the hospitality industry in France

11 000

The number of employees working in tableware in France

According to buying power and family tradition, Art de vivre rhymes for some with gourmet dinners served along grand cru wines in Lalique glasses on Dior placemats, with vintage Hermès cutlery and finished with a digestive Cognac. For others, this vision remains unattainable, and they rather define the French Way of life as enjoying a great red wine between friends on the terrace of the next-door café, far away from the Champs-Elysées filled by 70% of foreigners.

But during this “year two” of Covid-19, the pandemic has settled the debate: palaces, restaurants, cafés remained closed for months and luxury boutiques, qualified as “non-essential”, often endured the same treatment. Therefore, when the sanitary crisis is over, what will happen to the famous French Art de vivre? Will it continue to exist in its country of origin? Or to the contrary, will frustrations and forced savings which piled up over the last few months (the Banque de France values this amount to 200 billion euros!) encourage a comeback to traditions?

Evocation of a dessert table from the end of the 18th century, including a Sèvres porcelain service and sculpted figures in Sèvres porcelain biscuit (© Pascal Rostain / Sèvres - Manufacture et Musée nationaux)

Buybacks are multiplying

Let’s start with gastronomy. In Europe, France has been its cradle (Unesco even inscribed it in the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity). Yet the French hexagon is no longer the real drive worldwide. Tokyo (while waiting for Shanghai) counts more three-star Michelin restaurants than Paris . As to the great French chefs, many as Alexandre Bourdas in Honfleur have already shifted towards the bistro trade, enabling them to stand out from the greater public chains to higher quality-price ratio, and would rather invest in busy streets than in prestigious townhouses.

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