I don’t know what to say!
Do you dream of sampling French pastries in France or buying a baguette like a local?
What about shopping for the latest fashions in Paris?
Maybe you just don’t want to look so out-of-place in a grocery store while living in France?
Whether it’s buying souvenirs or a new pair of sunglasses, if you’re planning to spend some time in France, you’ll most likely need to shop for something. As a French learner, you might also feel especially eager to sound natural during such an everyday activity.
No matter how fluent your French is, you won’t get very far without good manners in France.
The first thing you should do when entering a shop is offer a polite greeting. A simple “Bonjour, Madame/Monsieur” is considered common courtesy and goes a long way in making sure you have a pleasant interaction.
Where should I go?
In France, it’s more common to go to smaller, specialty shops in addition to larger supermarkets and department stores. For French learners, that also means remembering the difference between a boulangerie and a pâtisserie.
La boulangerie – Bakery
La pâtisserie – Pastry or cake shop
La fromagerie – Cheese shop
La boucherie – Butcher’s
Le supermarché – Supermarket
Le grand magasin – Department store
What to say
You’ve got the basics down, but what do you do when you need to ask someone for help?
One word you’ll definitely want to remember is chercher to tell someone what you’re looking for. For instance, “Je cherche un cadeau pour ma mère” (I’m looking for a gift for my mother).
Perhaps you’ve found the perfect pair of shoes, but you don’t know if they have your size (taille). You could ask: “Est-ce que vous avez ces chaussures en taille 36?”
The budget-conscious shopper might want to shop during one of the sales seasons in France (les soldes). These sales take place during the winter and again during the summer. Outside of sales season, shops might offer something en promotion.
If you want to know how much something is, you can simply ask “C’est combien?” or “Combien ça coûte?” Maybe it’s trop cher (too expensive) or you might discover that it’s à bon marché (a good deal)? Maybe you want to try it on first: “Je peux essayer cette chemise?”
Can I order it online?
These days, online shopping is often the more convenient and less stressful option. Have you ever gone all the way to the store, only to be told that the item you’re looking for is out-of-stock and you should check online?
If you’d like to cut out an unsuccessful shopping trip, here are a few tips for conquering online shopping in French:
You might want to look out for paiement sécurisé or secure payment. Some sites might also offer a bon d’achat, or a discount if you sign up for an e-mail list or newsletter.
Online shopping has its own hassles as well, especially if you’re worried about buying something that fits well or don’t want to pay too much for shipping. In that case, you’ll want to know about the site’s retours or remboursements (returns). If you’re strategic, you could also get livraison gratuite (free delivery).
No matter how you choose to shop, your own confidence in your French language skills will be one of your best tools.