It seems to be a simple task to buy groceries. However, being new in a new environment makes it a bit complicated. The adventure starts at a supermarket’s entrance. Did you forget to bring 1 euro coin? Oh, no! Without it you cannot get a cart. What about baskets? Some supermarkets do not have them at all. On the other hand, smaller grocery stores have no carts. Sometimes, you meet nice people who let you have the cart they used, so you can avoid using a coin. If you see no ‘nice people’, be prepared to use your own plastic bag to put the groceries in, while walking around a supermarket or to carry everything in your hands.
Make sure you read labels carefully. A friend of mine accidentally bought chicory leaves instead of a cabbage. He cooked them without realizing those were not cabbage leaves. The meal tasted a bit bitter. That made him check the label of the package. ‘Zichorie’ it said. The other day, I bought cream instead of sour cream. I taught myself to be more careful and take time in a supermarket. Getting an offline German-English (or any other language) dictionary can be handy. Inside of some supermarkets in my area there is no mobile signal.
Check if you need to weigh fruits/vegetables, that you buy, or not. Some grocery stores have no food scales. A cashier will weigh food products at a checkout. Nonetheless, if you see a sign ‘Pro Stück’ that means you pay pro piece/package. If you see a food scale and price pro kg, do not forget to weigh your purchases.
Get accustomed to new brands of products. You might be disappointed to see your favorite brands/products do not exist in German area you live in. If I want to get a bottle of shampoo I liked to use back at home, I have to go to a bigger neighboring city! That’s too much of an effort for me.
Generally, all supermarkets have similar layout. I was confused when I found out the certain difference between supermarkets in my home country and Germany. For instance, back at home, I always could find a bottle of vinegar in the same aisle as salad dressings, sauces, or spices. Here, in Germany, in one supermarket I spent 10 minutes looking for Essig when I finally saw it by the entrance along with olive oil and vegetables/fruits. In another supermarket, at first I could not find frozen meat. To my surprise, the frozen meat was not in the same aisle with frozen seafood and vegetables. I had to go to the second floor to get it. Frozen pie crusts were not by frozen bread/pizza. They were by the produce section.
Last but not least, the checkout. Cashiers work really FAST in Germany. Unlike in some places in the US, there is no time for an extra smile or for a small talk. German cashiers do not wait for you to get your wallet ready. They scan items within seconds. They do not wait for you to pack the products you buy. They keep scanning and scanning. You have to pack your purchases really fast. Otherwise, they will end up to be mixed with the purchases of the next customer. If I have too many items and I cannot pack quickly, I put the items back into a cart and then pack them slowly somewhere in a corner (so others do not have to wait for me). Once, there was an elderly man in line in front of me. He pulled out his wallet really slowly (according to German standards). A cashier was nervously tapping her fingers and people behind me were sighing. I do not get it. I cannot believe people here (in a small town) have no time to wait in line.
That’s how it goes here.:)
Happy shopping everyone!