March 2, 2013

Il Fait Beau

I used to disagree with any French person who ever told me “il fait beau” (it's a beautiful day). Especially in winter.

But despite saying, “mais non, il fait froid!” (but it's cold!) occasionally to my exbellemère, I would keep my mouth shut, as they all seemed pretty convinced about the excellence of their days.

It still irked me though. How could the French find so many days “beautiful?” A day needs to be pretty remarkable for it to get that accolade from me.

Maybe it’s because I grew up in Southern California where the weather is some of the best out there, but I seemed to need more from a beautiful day than the French.

I need sunshine and blue skies (although a cloud or two might be acceptable as long as they are the pretty fluffy white kind), a light breeze (but not windy), and a good temperature (hot but not too hot). I want that day to inspire me.

The beach in my hometown. How I miss beautiful, beach-worthy days.

The French seemed to find really ordinary days beautiful.

Then, after three years of hearing this expression, I finally got it. I’d been looking at it all wrong.

One shouldn't translate “il fait beau” into “it’s a beautiful day,” but instead into “the sun is out today.”

It’s as simple as that. To the French, the sun being out is equivalent to beauty. I think this has to do with the fact that the French use the word beautiful 3600 times more often than Americans do.

For a day to be beautiful it doesn’t need to be exceptional; it just needs some sunshine. The word doesn’t carry the same weight.

Once I accepted this fact, my conversations about the weather weren’t secretly putting me on edge.

Now when someone tells me “il fait beau,” I agree. Why yes, the sun is shinning today!

I no longer secretly resent the French for being able to find so many days beautiful. And after having lived in the northern gray climates for three years, I'm starting to understand why the French are so eager to applaud the sun.


  1. I'm totally with the French on this one. After six years of living in dreary, Dublin, give bright, sunny day, even if it is freezing, and I'm a happy girl :)

  2. This is SO SO true! I thought the exact same thing today. I live in the North (Cambrai) and we had a 15 degree day today. The sun was out and it was the most beautiful day! It's so strange how your perception of weather changes, especially coming from Australia where 15 degrees is usually considered pretty cold. Great post!

    1. Exactly! It's hard to go from warm weather to cold and gray, but my perception has changed tremendously as well!

  3. It is not just France. I remember leaving California for business in Omaha Nebraska. I was meet when I got off the plane I was meet by the gentleman who took me to his car saying, "I hope you don't mind, I have the top down, it is such a glorious day!" I assessed the day with a Southern Californian taste, rather like a wine master assess wine, it was kind of hazy, the sun was a little dull, and the temperature not quite right. I did not want to offend my host, but I thought to my self, back home we would just not merit a top down.


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