Information about Tunisia

Shopping in Tunisia

Markets - Supermarkets - Prices - Haggling - Annoyances



Shopping

Beside the small shops that can be found everywhere (called "Hanout"), there are, in the bigger cities of Tunisia, also more or less large supermarkets, with names like "Magasin General", "Monoprix", "Bonprix", "Carrefour" or "Promogro".

In all supermarkets, there are full shelves, which result, however, often from the same article being placed there a few hundred times  - the selection is thus smaller than it appears at first.

Imported goods are rather rare and usually available only at high prices, specifically cheese and pork products.

Overall, however, there is a sufficient amount of food available and one just needs to change the diet a little bit. Goods, such as rice, noodles, potatoes, sheep, cattle, chicken meat and fish, as well as in-season vegetables and fruits, are available everywhere at any time.

The once low prices of Tunisia are, though, history. Today, it is not unusual that fresh products are offered for higher prices than in european countries. Many products are, at least around harvest time, still less expensive - but the times of "an inexpensive life" in Tunisia are definitely gone.

With beverages, one can find everywhere mineral water (often also with carbonic acid, "Gazeuse"), fruit juices, milk, Coca-Cola and Fanta.

Alcoholic beverages are in Tunesien disproportionately expensive, in particular, if it concerns imported goods, which are also only available in special shops (usually, except on Fridays, in the local "Magasin General"). One can find there in particular beer (native brands), Gin, Whisky, Liquer, Vodka and Wines (also native, red, white and pink).


Negotiating/Haggling

In travel guides, you will often find the remark that haggling is recommended, especially in the markets (Medina, Souk) because "this corresponds with the arabic mentality and is a big fun for the salesmen".

Unfortunately, this is only a carefully maintained legend, because the reality is different.

Each native knows exactly the price of a good in its home area and, when shopping, they will exactly pay this price and the salesmen will exactly ask for this price.
However, as soon as a dealer recognizes that a person is not "local" (which is very apparent with most tourists), he will ask for a price, which is three, five and even tenfold higher than the normal price.

In the process of "haggling" he then eases the price substantially, often by 50% and more, so that the tourist believes that he got a good deal - but he, nevertheless, will still pay double or triple the "correct" price of the merchandise.

So, when "haggling", the result is, right from the start, certain: the buyer pays more than the good is worth, and the "fun“ of the dealer is not rooted in the process of negotiating, but in the joy of obtaining an higher profit.

A real "haggling" usually only takes place when one buys multiple goods, or when some form of transport or installation is needed - otherwise, purchases of natives are very much unspectacular, just as a purchase of a western person in a western shop would be.

It is helpful to buy where the natives buy, and it is even more helpful to understand at least somewhat the arabic language - so that one can hear which price the natives paid, and/or which price was offered to them. This is particularly important for purchases on the weekly markets ("Souks").

There are also various tourist shops, in which "fixed prices" are offered - which is certainly a progress in relation to the majority of the businesses, but even in such "fixed price shops" one needs to maintain caution, because these fixed prices are made only for tourists (as being said above: natives know the prices exactly and would not need a fixed price list).

In typical souvenir shops, one won't see any natives anyway - the mostly low quality goods and cheap souvenirs, nowadays increasingly being produced in China, which are offered there are made-for and offered only to tourists, natives wouldn't buy or even need or fancy those.


Annoyances, Harrassing

In the last years, there are growing complaints of tourists about the increasing aggressiveness of the salesmen, by whom one is often pursued or pushed/pulled into the shops.

Also, a "No" or silence is understood by the salesmen as an invitation for even more aggressive acting or unfriendly comments (often in arabic language, so a tourist wouldn't understand it).

One should stay absolutely unimpressed by this and ask firmly not to be touched by the salesmen. An angry face expression helps a lot when doing so.

If a dealer does not relent, then one should call him with a loud, angry voice to order - what is being said exactly, and in what language, does not really matter, the important thing is just to rise public attention by talking loud.
 
The same hint applies also when women are being harassed - the louder and stricter a refusal takes place, the more effective it will be!


See also:

Wares and Gold in Tunisia




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