Parlez-vous Franglish? Read on for some simple tips and vocabulary to enjoy a visit to a flea market here in France…
When out and about at a flea market today, if you say, “Happy Bastille Day!” you may be met by blank looks from a French person. “Joyeux 14 juillet” or “Bon Fête Nationale” is the usual greeting.
As today in France is a national holiday, people enjoy visiting and shopping at vide greniers, as flea markets are known here and of course, I was up early and out treasure hunting.
Village streets are closed to traffic and villagers and merchants lay out their wares, often the contents of their attics or barns on rickety tables or even blankets on the ground. The settings are often so beautiful, even if it is a bit cloudy. A vide grenier is a great way to sample French life!
There’s always a real mix of modern and vintage; from plates and pots to toys and baby clothes to garden produce and plants, with of course the occasional pearl we’re all searching for!
Today, on the French National Day, the atmosphere is more festive, the bars and restaurants put tables and chairs out on the streets and light big charcoal grills and the delicious smell of butcher’s sausages and ‘Mechoui’ lamb, cooked on a spit, fills the air. It wasn’t a sunny day today, but this charcuterie owner had his barbecue grill going at 7am in the Morning and was doing a roaring trade!
It’s good to arrive early, but sometimes I arrive a bit too early! These stall holders were still queuing on the narrow medieval streets to get to their pitches when I was ready to leave for the next village’s vide greniers!
When shopping at a French flea market, or indeed anywhere in France, a little French goes a long way. Always say “Bonjour” and it’s polite to add, “Monsieur / Madame” and being able to use the politeness of please, “S’il vous plaît” and thank you “Merci” helps too. If feeling confident you can wish them a “Bonne journée’! The French will appreciate your attempts, however basic.
If you spot something on a stall you like, ask the price, “Combien, s’il vous plaît?“ or “Le prix, s’il vous plaît?’ (Prix is pree with a long ee).
It’s ok to negotiate, but don’t offer too low a price compared with what they have asked, the professional sellers may well laugh at you, or worse still be offended. They’re paying their taxes and putting food on the table from what they sell. The personal sellers may really need the money too, incomes aren’t high in the country. Often buying a few treasures from the same stall will reduce the price of each individual item. It’s perfectly ok to have a paper and pencil and ask the seller to write the price, numbers in French are very confusing!
It’s a good idea to bring a bag and maybe some newspaper to protect your treasures. What to buy? Just what you love, a happy memory of your visit that you will enjoy!
Here are a few of the treasures I found today, unloaded straight from the bags!
Now you’ve shopped, time for a coffee and pain au chocolat, practically obligatory. Or maybe one of those delicious sausages in crusty baguette!