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: mind the French shopping etiquette! 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)
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.
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 vendeuse||the store clerk|
|Comment puis-je vous aider?||how may I help you?|
|Vous avez choisi?||have you decided?|
|Je regarde||I’m just browsing|
|Je voudrais…||I would like…|
|Combien coûte…?||how much costs…?|
|La caisse||the cash register|
|Heures d’ouverture||business hours|
|TTC (Toutes Taxes Comprises)||all taxes are included|
|TVA (Taxes à Valeur Ajoutée)||VAT|
|HT (Hors Taxes)||taxes are not included|
|Bon marché||cheap, a good deal|
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 courses||to go grocery shopping|
|Magasin de fruits et légumes||greengrocer|
|Bureau de tabac||corner store that sells tobacco and cigarettes|
|Un caddie/un chariot||a cart|
|Une balance||a 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 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 boutique||a boutique|
|Un grand magasin||a department store|
|Un centre commercial||a shopping mall|
|Une parfumerie||a perfumery|
|Un magasin discount||an 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…|
See also: How to Make Polite Requests in French Using "Je voudrais"
10 Tips on What to Do and What Not to Do As a Tourist in France
Have you ever tried shopping in France? Was there anything that surprised you? Share it with us in the comments!
You forgot to include the famous boutique “parfumerie” stores –fairly unique to France -in your list of store types
Good call. I added the term. Merci
Excellent paragarph! I really enjoyed reading it for french class project