How to get the most from markets in France

People like to be served quickly, and, because the produce and pricing is what French people have grown up with, they know what they want almost as soon as they see a stall. This is why, when you are deciphering what’s available, and deciding what you would like, the market traders will ask “yes madame?”, just as they would in the UK. This presents a problem, however, if you are unsure of etiquette and of what you would actually like to buy. Whether you were hanging around near the stall, or in the queue, the pressure to decide and know what to ask is enormous, and panic-buying can ensue. After years of going to French markets, I am only just feeling comfortable in this situation, and my only advice is: Hang back as far away as possible, until you really know what you want, and what you want to ask. If you are asked what you would like, but do not yet know, shake your head, and possibly move your hand once through the air, in a downward cutting motion! If you subsequently get to the front of the queue, and are then unsure, even if you have spoken to the trader, just step back, let the next person go first, and calmly make your decisions.

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