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Tips on Manners for Shopping in France

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by  Tina Boomerina (Christina Gregoire)

Are you dreaming of a quick little jaunt to Paris? If so, you might want to bone up on the following French phrases and customs.

While it's true that you can get by with English (along with a bit of sign language) in the larger French cities, why not recreate yourself as someone more urbane and cultured than the typical American tourist?

tips for shopping in parisEvery small store in France has something magical within it. Even patisseries (lovely little bakeries) sell works of art made of dough.  So, pretend you are a jet-setter and practice the following phrases and courtesies for shopping in the world's favorite French city, Paris.

Simple French Phrases for Shopping in France

Every area of our planet has different customs and norms, and here are the rules that rule aristocratic France.

Always say, "Bonjour," when entering a small shop or boutique in France.  If you don’t say, "Hello," it would be like answering your phone and saying nothing…it would become a confusing conversation at best.  Don’t Worry if your pronunciation is off, but try to learn these few words and phrases, so you won't embarrass your fellow countrywomen.

    • Hello, Madame: “Bonjour, Madame.” (boh-zhoor, mah-dahm)
    • Hello, Sir: “Bonjour, Monsieur” (boh-zhoor, muhs-yur)
    • Do You Speak English? “Parlez-vous Anglais? (par-lay-voo ahn-gleh)
    • Please: “S’il vous plait?” (see voo play)
    • How much? “Combien?” (kohm-bee-ahn) This word is similar to “combined” as in “add it up.”
    • Thank you:“Merci.” (mehr-see)
    • Goodbye: “Au revoir.” (ohr-vwah)

Manners and Courtesies for Shopping

If you don’t say, “Bonjour,” upon entering a store (or when a clerk is done with his/her customer), you may end up getting no help from any salesperson. This is not because the French are trying to snub you. It's more like the clerk would not know what to do with you.

shopping tips for parisSo, if you find yourself at a loss for (French) words, it would be better for you to say, "Hello, Madame," in English, than to say nothing at all.

Don't Touch the Stuff in Stores

You should not touch the merchandise.  Ask the clerk for permission to touch any object you are interested in.  The salesperson will either get the item and show it to you or she will tell you to go ahead and pick it up yourself to examine it more closely.  This "hands off" rule is for all small shops, but customs are sometimes different in large French department stores and in K-Mart-style, self-serve stores like MonoPrix. If you're unsure what to do, watch other (European) shoppers and mimic them.

Five Simple Phrases

Here are five easy steps for getting a salesclerk’s help and making a purchase:

    • 1. Say “Bonjour Madame/Monsieur.”
    • 2. Say “Parlez-vous Anglais?”  (Do you speak English?)
    • 3. If the clerk doesn’t speak English, say: “Sil vous plait….then, say the item you desire…or gesture towards it with your hand.”
    • 4. Say “Combien?” to find out how much the item is, if you are considering it.  Have the clerk write down the amount, so there will be no confusion.
    • 5. Say, “Merci. Au revoir, Madame/Monsieur,” upon leaving the store, even if you have bought nothing.

Even if you learn no other French phrases, “Hello,” “Please,” “How much?” Thank you,” and “Goodbye,” will help you enormously.

More Articles for Chic Baby Boomer Women:

Women Over 40, 50 & 60: Parisian Style Details

Paris Street Style for Women Over 50

How to Wear a Peplum If You Have Curves

Best Sites for Women's Travel Wear: Wrinkle Free Clothing

What do you think of this article? Leave a comment at the bottom of the page. If you need more info about Paris, buy Rick Steves' Book. If you have any questions about what to wear, ask me in the comment section.

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Tina Boomerina (AKA Christina Gregoire) is a Baby Boomer born at the end of 1952. Her mission is to make the internet a kinder and gentler place for Baby Boomer women around the world. Tina's specialty is fashion for women over 50.

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