Did you know that shopping at a weekly outdoor French market is a way of life in all of France? Weekly, locals have been flocking to their village markets ever since the 15 century. This ritual is not only done to socialize but to obtain the freshest of foods in season. Another reason is to show support for their local farmers, cheese makers, bakers, olive growers, fishermen and chicken farmers.
The market also serves as an important communication network for the village. How else would you find out who has a new job, who is getting married/divorced, who is having a new baby or who has left this world?
Regardless of the size of the market, a French market is a feast for your senses-sight, smell and taste. Each vendor displays their product in the likes of a still life drawing.
For the first time shopper exploring a French market (Marche) the experience can be scary or uncomfortable. There are rules of French society that you should familiarize yourself with before trying to navigate the market. Keep these simple rules in mind:
- First of all, go early for the best selection. Some people prefer to go late to grab a bargain but not me.
- Always bring a large basket or a trolley to hold the many small paper bags you will be given by each produce vendor.
- Always greet the vendor first thing with, “Bonjour Monsieur, or Madam”. This rule not only applies to market shopping but to all French transactions. Remember to say “Merci” and “Au revoir” upon leaving.
- Line up, keep your place and be patient. Remember this is your time to ask questions and to enjoy this French lifestyle experience. You might even be lucky enough to obtain a recipe or gather tips on how to prepare your purchases.
- DO NOT TOUCH THE PRODUCE. Fresh produce can be easily bruised and the vendor will be happy to pick out your choices simply by you pointing to your selection. You may try the cherries, apricots melons or oranges, but only after the vendor has given you PERMISSION.
- Enjoy samples and try before you buy. Many times the Fromanger (cheese vendor) will be happy to provide a slice of their many cheeses. Did you know the French have approximately 1,000 different cheese choices?
- Always have cash on hand. Very seldom will a vendor accept credit cards.
Shopping at a French outside market is truly one of life’s little pleasures. Once you know the rules your experience should be a memorable one free of any unpleasant issues.