If Only We Were At Walmart
Trip Start Oct 25, 2007
61Trip End May 15, 2008
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If Only We Were at Walmart
Steve and I finally moved into our apartment yesterday and after two weeks of eating out, we were both desperate for a home-cooked meal. So once we settled in, we walked to the grocery store down the street to stock up the shelves in our new kitchen. When we got to the store, culture shock set in once again when we realized that German grocery stores are drastically different than the stores we are used to back home!
As soon as we walked into the store, we realized that grocery shopping would be quite a different experience for us here as we had to walk through a gate before we could begin shopping. We are still not sure why this is so, but there must be a reason. If I had to hazard a guess it would be so that shoppers could only come in one way and exit another. Whatever the reason, the fear of "not knowing" kept me from entering grocery stores until I went with Steve because I was afraid of what might happen. Since I had already gotten kicked out of a bakery, I didn't want to add a grocery store to the list as well.
Things settled down for me once we walked through the gate but became more confusing for us when we went to get a shopping cart. For some reason, the shopping carts were all jammed together and when I tried to break one loose, nothing happened. The harder I pulled, the more the cart stuck. Steve watched in frustration as I desperately tried to yank them apart. Well, if you know Steve, he is very lacking in the patience department and so he came over and immediately acted as if I were doing something wrong. When he couldn't figure it out either, he suggested that we just give up and get a basket instead. Yeah right, like all of our groceries were going to fit into a little basket!
Anyway, after a couple of minutes of trial and error, we soon figured out that in order to break the carts loose, you hard to insert a coin. That's right...in Germany you have to "rent" a shopping cart before you can even begin to shop. So we inserted our .50EU (which is about the equivalent of 75 cents in the US) and with our cart in hand, we began shopping.
Once I got over my initial outrage over having to pay to use a cart, I became quite fascinated with how nice these carts actually were. They were top of they line. They weren't the rusty carts with the broken wheels you would find in almost every grocery store in Holland. They didn't squeak or stick every time you turned. They were smooth...gliding across the floor as if they were scating upon ice. Since there are no parking lots in Germany, the carts are never taken outside which is probably what keeps them in such immaculate condition.
At first I found these gliding carts to be fantastic until I nearly ran into a fellow shopper because I didn't realize how fast they went. Steve immediately grabbed the cart from me and said, "I'll drive, you shop". Since Steve HATES shopping, I gave up control of my exciting new toy to make things as painless as possible for him. So while I walked up and down the aisles looking for groceries, he stood by with the cart.
For the first few minutes things went pretty smoothly. I found jelly and noodles right away, and Steve even found Pringles. But it went downhill rather quickly when the search for the rest of the items on our list turned into more of a scavenger hunt than anything else!
Grocery stores here in Germany are not set up like the ones back home. Items are not shelved with any type of organization which makes it nearly impossible to find things. It almost seems like they put things wherever they feel like it. At one point I found myself searching the entire store for fifteen minutes looking for peanut butter and I never did find it. I only gave up looking when Steve gave me that look which said, "If you look down one more aisle again, I'm leaving without you..."
As far as "variety" of groceries goes, Germans apparently do not know the word. Back in Holland, when you go to buy spaghetti sauce, you have 15 different brands to choose from and numerous kinds. Here you are lucky if you can find spaghetti sauce at all! If you want to buy cereal here, you really only have four choices...Frosted Flakes (called Frosties), Fruit Loops, Sugar Smacks, and Raisin Bran. This was a huge disappointment for me considering the fact that I am a cereal freak and have ten or more different types of cereal sitting in my cupboard at home!
German labeling is another huge obstacle we faced when trying to select our groceries. Since we can't read German, we have no idea if we are really buying the right things. For example, when I was trying to pick out milk...they had two different brands but both of the quarts were labeled 1.5. I'm guessing that to be short of 2% but I still don't know for sure. Anyway, while I was trying to figure it out, Steve impatiently says to me, "It's milk, just pick one. Get the one that's more expensive, it's probably better".
I faced a similar situation with him while trying to choose coffee. As I scanned the shelves trying to figure out the German labeling for which was which, Steve comes over and says, "What's the problem? You either want decaf or you don't. Just pick one." I love him dearly but this is the reason why men and women don't go grocery shopping together...men are just way too impatient!
After a very frustrating hour of shopping together, Steve finally called it quits and said, "Let's go, we are leaving NOW! Whatever we don't have, we'll come back and get later". Recognizing his irritation, I decided to throw in the towel. So with our cart full of groceries, we proceeded to the checkout lane. Here is where it really gets interesting...
Once we got in line, Steve placed all of our items on the counter and things were going quite smoothly until we got to the bananas. The cashier handed them back to Steve and said, "You must weigh". He looked at me, and I looked at him and we both thought, "You have got to be kidding me!" At Walmart they do all of this for you. Fortunately, Steve only had to walk down to the end of the lane to weigh them but the look on his face was priceless. He was so mad! I tried really hard not to laugh but I just couldn't help it. An angry American carrying a bunch of bananas...it was so funny!
Wait...it gets even better. As the cashier continued scanning our items, we noticed them piling up at the end of the counter. Clearly the cashier was not putting them in the bags. We realized that in Germany, you have to bag your groceries yourself. Not a problem, Steve and I both grabbed bags and began filling them up with our items. Once everything was rung up and we had paid, I told Steve we should get another bag because the three we had were a little heavy. He went to grab another bag and the cashier said, ".40EU Bitte". I looked at him in shock and said, "We have to pay for grocery bags too?"
While we were loading our bags into the cart, I told him to put the fourth bag back...that we weren't paying for the extra bag. Judging by the look he gave me, it was clear that I should just be quiet. So I kept my opinions to myself while he paid for the extra bag. With our bags in hand, we left the store and made our half-mile walk back to our apartment. Along the way I exploded into a tirade about how unjust the German grocery shopping system is. I know it is something I will have to get used too but I am irate that it cost us .50EU to rent a cart and another 1.60EU to buy four stupid grocery bags.
Just imagine for a moment that you are going to buy groceries at Walmart and every time you walk in, you have to pay 75 cents for the cart and another $3.75 for the bags to put them in (more if you need more than 4 bags). It's robbery. I wrote earlier about how expensive the clothes are here and how I couldn't figure out how everyone could afford to buy such extravagant things. Well, now I know...they ALL work at grocery stores!