Provence is renowned for its beautiful towns, cities and villages, many of which are home to bustling markets selling everything from everyday produce to quirky souvenirs. For many that holiday in the south of France regularly and are confident enough to converse with stall holders, the thought of grabbing your trusty canvas bag and hitting the open markets fills you with joy. However, it can be quite an intimidating experience, particularly if language barriers make you reluctant to communicate. We’ve written several tips about market-etiquette in France that we hope will give you all you need to prepare for such an occasion, including do’s and don’ts, that will help you to get the best produce for the best price to make it an enjoyable experience.
Bring Your Own Basket
As you might imagine, trolleys and baskets will not be provided at markets, so investing in your own will certainly make life easier as you move from stall to stall, as opposed to trying to fit as much as you can into an array of plastic bags. Dedicate a strong bag or basket with trustworthy handles as your market bag, and not only will you be able to shop safe in the knowledge that you are unlikely to experience a bag split, but you’ll also be doing your bit for the environment by reducing your use of plastic bags.
This may go without saying, but there won’t be many stalls accepting contactless, so be sure to get out enough euros at a cash point nearby. Markets are a great way to rid yourself of the shrapnel you have collated during your holiday so far, and the market holders will appreciate the correct change whenever possible.
Go Early Or Join The Crowds
The laidback approach to the lifestyle in the south of France means that many will enjoy a mid-morning pastry before heading out to the market. Despite the fact that stalls are ready for business from around 8.30am, it remains quiet until you get closer to noon. If you’re on a deadline and want to complete the shopping trip as soon as possible, we recommend leaving early to make the most of the space and lack of queues. If not, make the most of your holiday lie-ins and join everyone else closer to noon; the bustling crowds and herds of people will only add to the overall atmosphere.
Talk To The Vendors
It’s important to trust the market stall holders. They are likely to have an in-depth knowledge about the products they are selling, including where they have come from and how they are best used, and can even recommend specific recipes and methods for you to get the most out of your shopping. If your French doesn’t quite stretch to swapping recipes with a native, don’t be afraid to let them know – they may have a great standard of English or are likely to know someone who does and can translate.
Learn The Lingo
Although vendors are likely to have a basic level or understanding of English, it always pays off to learn a few key phrases and terms to help get you by. There’s a universal way of communication, and usually, body language and facial expressions can help to convey what you mean, but there will always be miscommunications if you only stick to this method. Below, we’ve noted just some of the key terms that may be of use during your shopping trip:
- Mûr = Ripe
- Pas trop mûr = Not very ripe
- Croustillant = Crispy
- Pour aujourd’hui = For today
- Do you have any others? = En avez-vous d’autres?
Get In Line
Regardless of your culture, the concept of waiting your turn in line should be respected by everyone. Sometimes, if your fellow shoppers are in a rush or would like to make sure they get what they came for, they can forget basic manners and try to skip in front. Take mental notes of who shows up after you and try to assert yourself by saying ‘c’est moi!’, which means ‘it’s me!’ without being too rude. That said, be sure you pay attention for when it should be your turn, and that you have bags, money and an idea of what you want in your mind, or else someone might beat you to it. As with many things, confidence is key, so be sure of yourself and don’t be afraid to call out those who might take advantage of your politeness.
Be Patient At Stalls
Whilst we all object to waiting in long lines at high street retailers and big brands, you must remember that shopping in markets in the South of France is a completely different experience. Vendors are likely to have been members of the community for years, or even generations, and as such will be familiar with many of the locals going about their weekly grocery shop. If they are chatting at the front, take a deep breath and try and remember that the laidback lifestyle in the South of France is different to what you’re used to. It’s all part of what makes a truly authentic shopping experience, and the vendors will appreciate your patience.
Most importantly, don’t forget to enjoy your time perusing the French markets, wherever that may be! Turn it into an experience by going with a couple of friends and grabbing a coffee on the square before or after and it wouldn’t be a trip to the market without trying some of the delicious foods before you buy!
We hope these tips have inspired you for your next trip to the market, and you enjoy the quintessentially French experience. If you are yet to book your holiday, browse our extensive range of luxury villas in the South of France online today, and book a holiday of a lifetime for you to look forward to as the weather begins to turn somewhat greyer! For more inspiration, check out our recent blog, Things to See and Do in Provence to keep you entertained whilst you are on holiday.
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