A Guide to Shopping in France: Tips and Vocabulary
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A Guide to Shopping in France: Tips and Vocabulary

Shopping in France

There are few places where shopping is more iconic than France. From the charming farmers’ markets in tucked away villages to the glorious glitz of the ultra-luxe flagship stores on the Champs-Elysées, there is something for everyone.

Shopping is one of those cultural experiences everybody should experience when traveling in a new country, and even more so in France.

Whether you are shopping for food, for clothes, or any other necessities, you may notice some differences between France and your country of origin. Here is our ultimate guide to shopping in France!

What to expect when shopping in France

First things first: as soon as you step into a store, especially a smaller boutique, do not forget to greet the clerk by saying “Bonjour Monsieur/Madame." Not to do so would be considered extremely rude and set the tone for the rest of your visit.

If the vendor is busy, on the phone or with another client, a sign of the head or a smile is acceptable. Don’t forget to say “Merci, au revoir” when you leave whether you purchased anything or not.

See also: Basic French Greetings (Complete Lesson with MP3)

Store Hours

Stores may have shorter business hours than what you are used to, especially independent retailers and in more rural areas.

Many shops close for a couple of hours at lunchtime and are closed on Sundays. Larger stores in urban areas are open longer but don't expect to find a store open 24/7 except small corner stores in big cities.

Tax?

The good news is that all prices include taxes, so you will not need to calculate how much you owe on top of the price tag!

Fees vary between 5.5% and 20% depending on what you are purchasing. However, if you are a tourist living outside of the European Union, you may be able to get reimbursed for some of those taxes, especially if you are planning to shop for big-ticket items in touristy areas.

French Shopping Vocabulary

Le vendeur/la vendeusethe store clerk
Comment puis-je vous aider?how may I help you?
Vous avez choisi?have you decided?
Je regardeI’m just browsing
Je voudrais…I would like…
Combien coûte…?how much costs…?
La caissethe cash register
Heures d’ouverturebusiness hours
TTC (Toutes Taxes Comprises)all taxes are included
TVA (Taxes à Valeur Ajoutée)VAT
HT (Hors Taxes)taxes are not included
Bon marchécheap, a good deal
Cherexpensive

Shopping for food

Whether you are planning for a delicious picnic by the river or stocking up on edible souvenirs, you will have to go food shopping in France sooner or later.

For many French people, it is a daily routine: you may have noticed that, in most homes, the size of the freezer and the refrigerator is not fit for stocking up on food for long periods. Food also tends to have a lot fewer preservatives than in other places.

Although you can find large grocery stores (for European standards) in the outskirts of the cities, most French people shop in smaller, specialized food boutiques and corner stores for their daily necessities.

The average urban grocery store offers a relatively small selection of fresh fruits and vegetables, but farmers markets are prevalent, especially on the weekends. If you do purchase fruits and vegetables in stores, you may need to weight them yourself using a scale.

See also: French Vocabulary for Grocery-Shopping

France has been making a lot of progress towards going green, and grocery stores do not offer free plastic bags anymore. If you do not carry a reusable bag with you, you can purchase one at the register. You will also see a lot of people in urban areas dragging along a small cart.

If you go into a larger grocery store, you will find the shopping carts on the parking lot. You will need a 1€ coin to unlock the cart, and you will get it back when you bring back the cart in the assigned spot.

French Vocabulary for Food-Shopping

Faire les coursesto go grocery shopping
Supermarché/ Hypermarchésupermarket
Marchéfarmers’ market
Boucheriebutcher shop
Boulangeriebakery
Pȃtisseriepastry shop
Magasin de fruits et légumesgreengrocer
Fromageriecheese shop
Bureau de tabaccorner store that sells tobacco and cigarettes
Pharmaciepharmacy
Epiceriegeneral store
Un caddie/un chariota cart
Une balancea scale
Est-ce que je peux avoir un sac ?can I have a bag?

Shopping for clothes in France

France is the world capital of fashion, so you might as well take advantage of the elegant boutiques and bring back a sartorial souvenir of your French adventures.

See also: How to Dress like a French Woman: Tips and Timeless Advice

Clothing and accessories tend to be, generally speaking, slightly more expensive than what you would find in the United States. You will need a receipt and all tags still attached to the garment if you decide to return or exchange it, so hold on to both until you are ready to commit.

Sales in France

Sales are regulated by law. They only come twice a year and last five weeks, at the beginning of January and in July, with an additional two weeks the retailer can use when he or she pleases. The sales are usually regressive: the longer you wait, the cheaper your coveted item will be, but also the most likely it is to sell out.

Clothing Stores

Clothing stores come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. In urban areas, you will find small independent boutiques and chain stores as well as small larger department stores. Shopping malls and outlets are usually located in the outskirts of the cities.

Since many independent stores tend to be on the smaller side, all the sizes are rarely exposed, and you will probably need to ask the store clerk to try the one you are interested in.

Vocabulary for Clothes-shopping in France

Une boutiquea boutique
Un grand magasina department store
Un centre commerciala shopping mall
Un magasin discountan outlet
Les soldes d’été/ les soldes d’hiver summer sales/winter sales
Première/deuxième/troisième démarque first/second/third discount
Quelle taille faites-vous ?what’s your clothing size ?
Quelle pointure faites-vous ?what’s your shoe size ?
Les cabines the changing rooms
Je voudrais essayer…I would like to try…
Je voudrais échanger…I would like to exchange…
Je voudrais retourner…I would like to return…

Your turn!

Have you ever tried shopping in France? Was there anything that surprised you? Share it with us in the comments!

About the Author Alix Barnaud

Alix grew up in the Southwest of France and studied in Paris. She now lives in the United States where she is an active member of the francophone community and never misses an occasion to share her culture.