Below are a few market tips to help the non-French speaker maneuver smoothly through the market…. (p.s. these are all based on personal experience!)
Situation 1 – You see a linen dress vendor and you’d love to try something on –
Make contact with the vendor and say ‘Bonjour’ – this is considered a common courtesy whenever you enter a store or stop at a vendor’s booth. If you find something you’d like to try on, the vendor will have a ‘cabine’ available. Be aware – the ‘cabine’ may be the inside of a truck or a small space surrounded by a canvas curtain – it’s all part of the experience! Are you ready to buy? Don’t expect to barter, but if you buy multiple items from one vendor, it’s often you’ll receive a reduced price. Remember to say ‘Merci’ (thank-you) and ‘au revoir’ (good-bye) or bonne journee (have a good day) upon leaving.
Situation 2 – buying cheese, olives and fruit
When buying cheese: If you want only a 5 Euro sized piece and not a 20 Euro sized piece ( yes, this happened to me) let the vendor know you want ‘juste une tranche’ (just a slice), using your thumb and forefinger to show how large of a slice you’d like. Give him a big ‘oui!’ (yes) or ‘parfait!’ (perfect!) or ‘c’est bonne’ (that’s good) when he shows you the amount you want.
Olives, Fruit and Vegetables are priced by the kilo. 1 kilo = roughly 2.2 pounds. When buying olives, if you want just a small amount, ask for une boule (a ball) and the vendor will give you one scoop of the olives of your choice into a bag. With Cherries, strawberries and other small fruit, ordering a demi-kilo (half-kilo) will give you an amount you can work with – about 1 pound. The produce vendors usually have small plastic baskets they will hand you to fill with whatever veggies and fruit you want. They’ll weigh your produce and let you know the price. The price is also visible on the scale, making it helpful for non-French speakers.
Many of the vendors speak English and enjoy the chance to practice it with you. If you do want help translating, find Beth and she can help.