What to Expect at a Traditional Spanish Market
1 of 7 in Series: The Essentials of Shopping in Spanish-Speaking Countries
Shopping at a traditional Spanish market is a true cultural experience. Spanish markets offer some wonderful bargains (but be prepared to barter) and a unique shopping environment. So, ¡Vamos de compras al mercado! (bvah-mohs deh kohm-prahs ahl-mehr-kah-do) (Let’s go shopping at the market!)
Spanish markets may be open or under a roof, but are more informal than supermarkets. Also, in these markets, vendors are salespeople, not just cashiers, and they may approach you to sell you goods you may or may not want. When you don’t want something, you can simply say one of the following:
Ahora no, gracias. (ah-oh-rah noh grah-seeahs) (Not now, thank you.)
Ya tengo, gracias. (yah tehn-goh grah-seeahs) (I already have some, thanks.)
No me interesa, gracias. (no meh een-teh-reh-sah grah-seeahs) (It doesn’t interest me, thank you.)
Más tarde, gracias. (mahs tahr-deh grah-seeahs) (Later, thank you.)
No me gusta, gracias. (noh meh goos-tah grah-seeahs) (I don’t like it, thanks.)
No me moleste, ¡por favor! (noh meh moh-lehs-teh pohr fah-bvohr) (Don’t bother me, please!)
You may love markets where you’re surrounded by vendors and other people, and enjoy an environment so different from what you’re used to. Depending on where you go, these markets may be full of folks wearing clothes you probably haven't seen before and talking and behaving in ways that are new to you.
In most markets in Latin America, merchandise is piled in colorful mountains. You may choose from these items at your leisure.
Prices are not likely to be clearly posted, although this practice varies from country to country. In some places, where prices are not marked, you may be able to negotiate a price by simply protesting that it’s too high. The vendors are interested in selling, so they allow some discount.
When you go to the market, it’s a good idea to bring your own shopping bags or baskets to carry away the stuff you buy. Supermarkets provide bags, of course, but at the more informal markets, the vendor simply packs the stuff you buy but doesn’t provide a larger container to carry it away. Wherever this is the rule, you can find stalls that sell bags or baskets of all sizes. More often than not, you'll want to take these bags home with you — many of them are handmade and quite beautiful.