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Cultural Mystery – Why French Sellers Don’t Want to Sell

“Did you find everything?”

“… Not exactly. I hope you can make something with white onions because that’s all I bought.”

“How come?”

“I’m not sure. Apparently, stupid tourists deserve to starve.”

I didn’t wake up at dawn for the local market but it was far from over when I got there around 12:30 p.m. My mission was to buy a few ingredients for dinner—easy enough, we’re flexible.

I walked by the crêpes stall and I asked for six galettes. There was a big pile of them right in front of me.

“These ones? No. Sold them, already. You should have ordered!”

I didn’t think Tharon’s market was an order-and-pick-up kind of market. I mean, it pretty much defies the purpose of a market, doesn’t it?

Then I tried to buy a roasted chicken but seven customers were already arguing over the two chickens left.

Never mind, fish it would be.

“Can I have some sardines? About 12.”



His terse reply caught me off guard. It was too early in the day to explain a fish seller that his job description literally involved selling.

There was a fifteen-minute lineup for charcuterie and I couldn’t even see what was left because the stall was mobbed.

I walked around the market, looking for food. My options were takeout “Chinese”—i.e. fried rice without any spices because French people don’t like spicy food—and wine.

“Bread. The bakery gotta have bread. Where is…”

Oh, fuck me. There was a queue outside the door and I could see people leaving empty-handed.

A bakery without bread at noon. Seriously.

“… and that’s when I thought ‘fuck locals and their stupid limited-edition food’ and I walked home. Where do you want me to put the onions? And also, it is me?”

“I don’t think it’s you,” my mom replied. “Adèle reported having the same problem last week.”

My sister and her boyfriend just spent two weeks in Saint-Michel. Apparently, they tried to buy some meat at the market and they were told that the piece of beef they wanted was too small and the butcher wouldn’t sell it to them. “I sell big cuts for four or five people,” he said. Since my sister and her boyfriend didn’t want a big piece of meat, they left without buying anything.

In the evening, I wanted to grab a cup of coffee at the biscuiterie Saint-Michel. It was 6:50 p.m., the café was closing at 7:30 p.m. and there were still customers eating and drinking when we stepped in.

Bonjour, un café allongé s’il vous plait.”

“Pas possible.”


“I don’t serve coffee, too late.”

I would never walk in a restaurant half an hour before closing time because I’m perfectly aware that cooking and serving food takes time. On the other hand, it’s pretty easy to fill a cup with coffee and hand out a small pack of sugar—and I was taking it to go.

“Let’s go across the street, the place just reopened last week. They make crêpes, waffles, sandwiches… and I’m sure they have coffee.”

They did, although the new owner complained about the day’s “rush hour” while she was making coffee.

The shop also featured a poster below the cash register reminding French citizens of the law to remove full veils. I elbowed my mom. “Because I’m sure thousands of dangerous Muslim women stop by every day,” I whispered. “Super friendly approach.” Seriously, what the hell? It didn’t help that the shop owner was a Marine Le Pen lookalike.

I can’t understand this attitude towards outsiders. Saint-Michel and the nearby towns aren’t exactly the French Riviera. Even during summer, it’s not full of tourists and local small business owners live off tourism anyway!

I’m baffled.

Le Cormier
Le Cormier
Le Cormier
Le Cormier
Le Cormier
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French woman in English Canada.

Exploring the world with my camera since 1999, translating sentences for a living, writing stories that may or may not get attention.

Firm believer that nobody is normal... and it’s better this way.

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