Fundamentally, I don’t think people can change who they are, but habits and routines can adapt along the way. Since moving to France, my overall shopping habits have shifted a little bit at the grocery store, while shopping online and even out and about at shops in town. What specifically has changed about my shopping habits in France and why?
Shopping habits in France
Do you love shopping? Hate it? Or does your love/hate depend on what you’re shopping for? For me, grocery shopping has always been fun no matter what side of the Atlantic I’m on. Clothes shopping? Online or in the USA pretty much exclusively. Farmers’ markets? France wins. Ikea? USA. It’s SO MUCH MORE CROWDED in France.
Let’s get to the specifics of how my habits have changed overall…
All about my shopping habits in France and how I’ve changed my ways:
I’m no longer brand loyal.
For things like laundry detergent and other household items, I don’t have a favorite brand. Why? I guess it’s because I don’t have a history with French brands dating back to childhood like I do with American items. Back in the US, once I was on my own I’d still buy the brands I grew up with and refuse to use anything but Tide in my washing machine or Dawn dish detergent.
In France, that’s no longer the case and I’ll grab whatever is on sale or whatever seems like it’ll get the job done. I’m much more equal opportunity now when it comes to brands. They’re all surprises to me and I hold no biases!
American habits I lost after moving to France >>
I am really discerning when it comes to cosmetics and skin care products.
Back in the US, return policies for cosmetics at places like Sephora and Ulta were excellent. If a product didn’t work for you no matter what the reason (even after you opened the package, used it and trashed the receipt) — you didn’t like it, it gave you a rash, etc. — you could return it and get your money back.
But at Sephora in France? Products cost more to begin with and second, unless the product was defective or you return it unopened, you don’t get your money back. It made you break out? You didn’t like the consistency? Not the store’s problem! So now I make extra sure I like the product I’m buying by getting a sample ahead of time or only buying the brands and products I am already a loyal fan of. Customer service just isn’t the same here in my experience.
I food shop more frequently.
I live right nearby a grocery store as well as our weekly farmers’ market. I hit up the grocery store probably 4 times a week, sometimes just grabbing a few things here and there out of convenience. Back at home I’d make a big list, hop in the car, spend an hour in the store and leave with a much lighter wallet. Here I walk to the grocery store, tend to buy fewer items more frequently and then wheel them home in my granny-style shopping caddy. My shopping habits in France are pretty much the opposite of what they were in the USA.
I buy less.
Even with the euro being down against the US dollar, I don’t find myself buying random things here and there like I would in the US. Maybe that’s because there’s no Target here, which is a good and bad thing, and the store hours are limited, but I think the overarching reason is because things tend to be more expensive overall — and I’m more careful with my cash. Also, big blowout sales are less frequent at just 2 times per year.
I wouldn’t say I was a frivolous spender back home by any means but I’d find ways to spend my money because I feel like there was just more to do in suburban NJ and NYC than where I live now. Now if we want to talk about my wine budget, that’s a different story!
Shopping trolley on wheels: Old lady style or granny chic? >>
Discount stores all the way!
I used to love clipping coupons back when I was in the USA and scouring the weekly circulars to get the best deals at the supermarket. I also loved going to wholesale clubs like Costco or BJ’s where you could get large quantities of your favorite items for a great price. Browsing the deals was so much fun and as a kid, I’d always be appreciative when my parents would buy me a big box of gum. Or ring pops! (remember them?) Costco and stores like that don’t exist in France (update for 2017, Costco does exist in France!) — except for restaurateurs — but there are a bunch of discount stores that have great buys. Maybe my shopping habits in France aren’t that different after all.
Supermarkets like Lidl and Dia can save you some cash. At the moment, my favorite is a place called Noz. Noz is a destockage place and isn’t fancy at all, but they have weekly deliveries of food and housewares and you never know what you’ll find. I even managed to find Amy’s Kitchen products for about 1/4 of the retail price. And just yesterday, I found little Ben & Jerry’s frozen yogurt cups at half their normal price. I go to Intermarché most of the time since it’s a 5-minute walk from my front door, but discount stores have their place in my weekly rotation as well. You never know what you might find!
I browse more.
Even after being here several years, there’s always something new to discover — a new store, a new brand, a new town. A simple grocery store trip can easily take half an hour if I go to a new-to-me store because I delight in walking down aisles just for fun. The world/exotic food aisle is always a must because once in a while, you can find American products. There might be something new and fun hiding just around the corner. I’ve made it my duty to be an informed shopper and have no qualms about walking down every aisle. If I have the time, why not? My new favorite product might be just a few steps away. 🙂
What about your shopping habits in France? Has a major move changed how you shop?
Taste of France says
I do whatever I can to avoid the supermarket in France. Husband does the shopping, has an encyclopedic knowledge of the price of everything everywhere, and also enjoys it. I want to get in and out, and until the recent development of self-checkouts (highly controversial!) I would spend more time waiting in line to pay than I did shopping.
On the other hand, time stands still when I’m at the Saturday market. It is a pleasure. I do a tour just to see who has what, what’s new and all, then I go around again and buy.
I agree with your assessment of which side of the Atlantic does which things best, BUT I miss the giant-size bottles of things like shampoo, which is quite expensive in France. I am turned off by the proliferation of useless stuff at megastores in the U.S., but I do miss some of the clever things you can find at, say, Target.
As for store brands, check out Que Choisir, a kind of Consumer Reports, which often recommends them over name brands.
Hi there, yes the lines are terrible Saturday afternoons and I’m with you then — I do whatever I can to avoid grocery shopping Saturday afternoons. Why are self-checkouts controversial? Where I am, seems everyone loves them and even non-tech savvy people try to use them, so seems they’ve been well received. Anything to cut down on the main lines!
Yes, giant size shampoo and conditioner from Costco would be great to have here since I go through a lot of hair products. I will have to keep an eye out for Que Choisir — not familiar with it at all. Thanks!!
I have totally changed the way I shop… and i have a love/hate relationship with it. I like the fact I got every 3 days or so, means things are fresh. And if we unexpectedly go out to dinner or plans change, I don’t have a bunch of food wasting in the fridge. I don’t like that it takes like 3 times more time than it used to… I feel like i spend way too much time in the grocery store within a week. It was nice just going to the store once, loading up for the week, having a solid meal plan. Also less chance for temptation…
Yea it really does take more time and I feel like I’m always there but I like it. Unless it’s a Saturday afternoon — that is hell. I can’t imagine what it’s like at the hypermarkets in the Paris area. Probably takes 2 hours with a good 45 min at the register line. Yikes! Hope you had a good weekend!
I found this interesting
Yay, I’m glad! 🙂
I like the French supermarkets (super marche). They are very similar to the ones in the US, with many different products, of course. Prices in general are much higher in France than in the US. Thanks for your tips.
Rhonda Popp says
Hello there folks, I have finished reading this post and really impressive for me. Appreciated.
David Baugh says
I am not shopaholic, however, i can use your moving experience in France.
Thank you Diane..!