29 November 2017
How to haggle successfully when you're British and you suck at it

Hello fellow Brits! If you're planning a trip around the world (or even just a bit of it), you will probably find yourself in a country where it's normal to haggle.

This goes against everything we British know and like. Consequently, haggling is an awkward, embarrassing and ultimately unsatisfying act that results in disappointment for both parties, and with you slinking off to the bar to drown your sorrows and try to forget about the whole sorry encounter. (Insert your own metaphor here).

But fear not! We are here with 5 handy tips on to how to haggle PLUS a bonus, super-helpful, never-fail one at the end. Dive in!

1: Remember that it's not about "winning"

One reason Brits are crap at haggling is because we like to use football metaphors all the time, and we therefore end up thinking everything is about winning or losing.

Haggling is not like that. Haggling is about getting a satisfactory result for everyone involved.

For the shopkeeper, that means getting a decent price and for you, that means not paying too much for your stuff. Yes, everyone wins, and that is how it is supposed to be done.

2: You're expected to haggle

Do you know what, you can be a really experienced traveller and STILL forget this every time you leave the drizzly, yet comforting shores of Blighty. We do it all the time.

So it can be a bit of a shock to rock up in a market (or even a shop somewhere) and remember the song and dance you have to go through just to buy a new t-shirt because you let a girl you fancy use yours as a pillow and she drooled all over it. For first-timers, haggling can make you feel a bit cheap, especially if you're in a place where the stuff is much cheaper than at home anyway.

Remembering that it's normal behaviour for everyone can help you through it.

3: You're probably richer than the shopkeeper

You've jacked in your job (or taken an unpaid sabbatical) to travel the world, and they're selling shoes from a market stall. So it's highly likely you have more disposable income.

4: But that doesn't mean you shouldn't haggle

As we said above, in some countries, everyone haggles. It is culturally normal behaviour and as a foreigner, you're just expected to join in and do the same (or else spend loads more than you need to).

Pretty much all Brits - at least, those with a conscience - have felt weird about negotiating the price of a £5 pair of sunglasses down, especially when you're in a country where there's pretty much no welfare state. But remember that you're probably still paying more than a local, AND your purchase is going to help the shopkeeper. Remember the above, it's not about winning - and no-one will EVER sell you something for less than they paid for it.

5: The whole drama thing can be a bit overwhelming - and that's OK

There's a lot to get used to when you're a Brit abroad - whether it's your first time or your hundredth. There's the weather (where are the clouds?), the heat, the language, the food - all kinds of things!

As a naturally reserved people, Brits can get a bit overwhelmed by the whole procedure of haggling. We're not used to talking to strangers in the first place, let alone "arguing" with them.

But that's OK. It's normal for you to feel like a fish out of water! Accept that's the case, and remember that you'll soon be haggling like a pro. And read on for our next, top-secret, never-fail tip.

6: The best tip of all: use your feet, not your hands

This is by far the most useful tip when haggling.

If a vendor wants to sell you something, they know you're much more likely to buy it if you hold it. Aggressive sellers will even refuse to take the item back once you've touched it! And it's not just putting it in the palm of your hand - an item of jewellery or clothing put on any part of your body makes it much harder for you to say no.

So, vote with your feet. If you don't want to buy something at the price it's been offered, simply walk away. If the shopkeeper thinks there's a sale to be made, they'll come after you and lower the price. If they don't, either the price you've offered is too low, or - more likely - they're waiting for the next confused foreigner to come round the corner.

One reason this works so well for the average reserved Brit is that you don't have to do any more talking, or arguing, or anything. You can just walk off and leave all that discomfort behind. And if they do come after you and offer you a lower price, you'll have scored yourself a decent deal! And then you can go and enjoy a beer.


If that post has made you more confident about travelling abroad, have a look at all our wonderful career breaks here.