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Friday, July 25, 2014

How French Women Shop: The Secret Revealed! (Maybe)

What is it about French shopping habits? Why do we yearn to be French shoppers? I subscribe to the fantasy as much as the next person, even though my behavior is probably the opposite of French.

Whenever I am actually in France, I wonder if the idea of the Parisienne buying only 3--maybe 4--exquisitely chosen items per year IS a fantasy. I see loads of people weighed down by giant shopping bags from H&M, Mango, and the like, same as in any American city.

But I think I know the secret. You see I have ONE French friend, who came to the USA 30 years ago and ended up marrying an American fellow. Here is the secret.

She goes shopping ONLY when she needs something (like a nice suit when there was a dinner in her honor). It might take her a whole day (or more) to find an acceptable one, since she is hard to fit (petite, curvy). She will spend whatever (though she generally looks at mid-priced stores).

The above is not news. This is the news. Once she gets something--and this includes things for her home also--SHE STOPS LOOKING or EVEN THINKING about it.

In short, she is a DECIDER.

When I get another black top, say, I'm always wondering: is there a nicer one?

My French friend has a daughter, born in the USA. Daughter is fluent in French, but she shops like her American peers. That is, she shops recreationally and she's ALWAYS LOOKING.

Hmmmmm. A generalization--even a tabloid-type headline-- based on a single example. Not scientific! What do you think?


Gam Kau said...

I think this is how most people all over have always shopped, but the rising standard of living in the US, plus the availability of inexpensive clothing has changed the consumer landscape. Europe simply lagged behind, but I believe they are catching up and joining Americans in joyful consumerism.

Sharon said...

I haven't been to Europe in more than 10 years (sigh), but I recall a trip to NYC a few years ago. I hadn't planned to do any clothes shopping but a strap on my sandals broke and also somehow my shorts and tank tops that were perfectly fine and appropriate in California seemed hopelessly shabby and plain in Manhattan. I found a DSW for walking sandals and checked out Century 21, H&M and Forever 21 for cheap summery dresses (ultimately found the best selection at no name dress stores on Canal St. where I picked up 3 or 4 dresses for about $20 each). At each of these lower priced venues I had to fight through crowds of Europeans (including French-speaking ones) to get to the merchandise. They were also buying lots of clothes and shoes, not just a few.

My sister went there a year later and noticed the same thing.

Duchesse said...

The buying behaviour you saw is partly age and economic bracket-related. My French women friends don't buy cheap clothes because they feel it's a false economy. They do watch for sales, and all of the women I know expect to wear their clothes for years, except possibly "holiday clothes"; for that purpose, they might buy an H&M tee or beach tote.

Tourists shop, period- and French tourists in NYC are no exception.

Remember that Paris is the most-visited city on earth, so a number of people you see with bulging bags will be other tourists. But habits are changing; just like you never saw a French person eating fast food 40 years ago, now you will.

Shelley said...

My cousin's French partner seems to buy a LOT of cheap STUFF. I think it may be a class thing? I don't think that French women are all alike any more than American women are.

I know what you mean about wondering if there is a nicer one out there, probably a consequence of thrift shopping where the finds are uncertain and 'hitting the jackpot' is only occasional. Just dawned on me that this 'schedule of intermittent reinforcement' is what psychologists say is the strongest motivator, like with gambling... I try not to buy something unless it meets all my criteria (fits, nice fabric, good condition). Then I try to be content. It's not my lifestyle to shop very often unless I'm looking for something specific, which is usually a top, bottom or 'cover' in a specific colour. My definition of frugality is not buying a lot of stuff I don't need, even if I can get it inexpensively.

Gam Kau said...

Thought you might like this blog post with its references to Proust and all...