How To Shop Like a Local

Utilitario Mexicano in Mexico City .jpg

When traveling in other cities or countries it’s easy to get carried away with thinking this might be the only chance to get this or that. Depending on the town or country that you’re in, there are certain rules to negotiating that go along with finding that one thing that your heart desires. Check out my post on what you can and can’t bring back to the USA as a souvenir.

Be thrifty

It’s not always fun to think about budget when on vacation so be prepared. Figure out a number you’re willing to spend on things to bring back and flex only if you absolutely need to. One technique I have is to keep a low balance credit card or secured credit card that you pay into during the year. Then, you’ve got that to use on your trip without dipping into your regular accounts.

Look for souvenirs that are what locals might buy. Dishtowels and unique sponges from Monoprix in Paris last ages longer than cheap trinkets that aren’t as useful. You can actually be reminded of Paris every time you’re in your kitchen. What a way to keep memories fresh…or it can be incredibly depressing depending on if you’ve gotten through the reverse culture shock period of returning to America or not.

Choose the road less travelled

So you’re on vacation and hit the tourist trap shops for magnets and shot glasses OR you could do a little research ahead of time to discover shops that curate unique local items for you all in one place. Most large cities have them. In Orlando, it could be Market on South. In Nashville it is Gift Horse, in Mexico City it is Utilitario Mexicano, and in Paris it is Merci.

Ask locals where they pick up gifts for friends or find home goods or housewares. Wander a neighborhood you love in the place you’re staying. You may come across the perfect pair of handmade silver earrings like I did at Loose Blues in the Juarez neighborhood in Mexico City.

Haggle … respectfully

In some countries it’s expected that you won’t go for the sticker price. Haggling, or bargaining, is part of the culture and should be done in order to show respect. Here’s the thing. Make a reasonable offer only if you’re really going to buy the item. It’s rude to make an offer and then refuse when that offer has been accepted. I get it. Maybe you changed your mind during the back and forth of figuring out a price. Be sure to say that and be up front about it. Otherwise, have fun with haggling. It’s a great way to take part in the culture of negotiation and working for what you want.

Remember yourself

This one I probably should have put up at the top. Think about what you’re buying. Will it work with what you already have? Is it you? You know, something that you cannot live without. It speaks to you. But does it make sense? That lamp made of an ostrich egg…will it go with your dark moody decor? Actually, it sounds like YES, it will.

Sometimes you’ll make mistakes and that’s part of the fun of a travel adventure. Hopefully it won’t be disastrous. I mean, it’s souvenirs and home decor. Nothing to get super upset about. Unless it’s discovered to be made of cat hair or filled with cocaine and then that’s another issue completely.