|No cheese and salami samples here|
Eh, anyway. I'm going to publish it here on my blog to see what you think.
Update: a third group read it the day after I posted here - they seemed to like it a lot.
My husband, two teen-aged children and I spent a week in Germany last summer. Rather than act like typical American tourists, I thought it would be fun if we lived like Germans. I scoured the Internet for a vacation rental apartment instead of a hotel. Apartments have kitchens. And kitchens need groceries. And grocery shopping is one of many activities I do on my own. So while everyone else recovered from jet lag in our vacation rental immediately after our arrival from the states, I went a’ grocery shopping.
From the outside, the grocery store looked as though it barely survived World War II. And on the inside, it did not resemble the modern American grocery store to which I am accustomed. In fact, it lacked accoutrements such as organic broccoli or cheese and salami samples in the deli department. But that was okay. "When in Rome", right?
I quickly learned that grabbing a cart was not the same, either. Turned out I had to rent one – for a Euro – but couldn’t comprehend how to exchange one of the paper Euros in my wallet for a coin that equaled just one. If there were posted, written instructions for doing either – changing a bill for a coin or renting a cart – I didn’t understand German.
Oh, well. I figured I’d just carry my purchases. If I needed more, I could always come back with my kids or husband for an extra pair of arms - after they got up from their nap.
I used pictures on the cereal boxes to figure out what kind to buy. Choices were limited to corn flakes with or without bits of chocolate flakes or dehydrated fruit, shredded wheat with or without bits of chocolate or granola with or without chocolate. Since neither my husband nor my children were with me to cast their votes, I picked one that seemed most like Frosted Flakes and a corn flake-like cereal with strawberries.
Milk was next. By my logic, it should have been in the refrigerated section. But after scanning the shelves for what seemed like a fortnight, I didn’t see any milk. It was time to ask for assistance.
Revealing myself as a tourist to a woman who looked like she shopped in a German grocery store every day, I asked if she spoke English.
“A little bit.”
Since she only spoke “a little bit” of English, we went back and forth on the milk’s fat content and its location, stored in cartons, on a skid, in a non-refrigerated section but still presumably safe to drink. After I selected milk with the least amount of fat - apparently, there is no such thing as a skim-milk-drinking-German - I bagged a few apples (at least I recognized those) and grabbed a small carton of orange juice from the refrigerated section before my arms were too full for anything else.
I went to stand in the only open line, listening to German all around me. Once I was close enough to the conveyer belt, I heaved my groceries, thankful the cartons were no longer digging into my skin.
Finally, it was my turn. After my groceries were scanned, the cashier told me how much I owed – in German.
“Do you speak English?”
She shook her head as though I had just asked her a question in a foreign language - which I had.
Luckily, I caught a glimpse of the total on the cashier’s screen, then picked through my wallet until it seemed I had enough and handed her some bills. She gave me change then rang up the next customer, even though my groceries had not yet been bagged.
Either she forgot, or there is no such thing as a grocery bag in Germany or refrigerated milk or free carts or Germans who prefer their milk non-fat.
I have to carry all these items home? In my arms?
“Uhhh,” I said, lifting my fists back and forth in front of me, as though I were acting out the name of a movie called I Need a Bag in a game of Charades.
The woman behind me said in broken English that I could buy a bag.
For a Euro.
Frenzied, I looked through the change that had just been returned to me. Fingering the coins in my hand: was this a Euro? Was this? I finally handed the cashier what I thought was a Euro, my purchases annihilated by the onslaught of groceries behind mine on the conveyer belt, and somebody handed me a bag.
I promptly deposited my groceries in the bag, returned to our apartment, put the warm milk and cold orange juice in the fridge, relieved and even a bit exhilarated that I’d made it through my first attempt at living like a German. All by myself. What a champ.
Wait ‘til you hear my bottled water story.
Tell me your, um, German grocery store experience.