Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Grocery Shopping in Germany

The first time I went grocery shopping in Germany, I came home and cried. That I could not do something as basic as buying food because of language barrier was a concept so foreign to me. At the stores, which are smaller and way crowded than your average American grocery stores, I felt lost and disoriented, as if people were randomly bumping into me because I did not exist. The truth is, I was overwhelmed because I saw hundreds of words around me and understood nothing.

You will never understand this feeling unless you have been in a similar situation. The arrangement of food and the way food is packed is not very intuitive, even for someone of my age and basic intelligence. Too often, we rely on understanding key words, but when you do not understand words, pictures and color is not enough. I identified some fruits and vegetables alright. But milk and cheese and meat and laundry detergent and other things came in hundreds of varieties. That day, I was not able to identify something as basic as a packet of salt and sugar. Navigating the workplace was easy, because everyone speaks to me in English, papers are written in English, etc. But the world outside the workplace seemed like a battlefield. 

The second time, I wrote down some keywords using Google translator, and stopped unsuspecting customers to ask them for help. I ended up buying a dozen carrots, something I do not even like, because I could at least identify it. For example, if you want to buy mushroom soup, you would expect to see a packet with the picture of mushrooms on it. Instead, what I saw was a sexy, half-naked woman smiling promiscuously and holding a steaming bowl. Who would know what magic potion the steaming bowl contained, unless you could read it? 

Then, my friend suggested downloading the German to English version of the app called Word Lens, and it changed my life. When I went grocery stopping next, I once again spent a long time browsing the aisles, but this time, for a different reason. You download the app, hold your camera in front of German text, and it translates things for you in English. It doesn't even need wi-fi. The translations are not 100% accurate, but that only added to the fun experience. I suddenly felt like I had secret powers. I could understand almost everything. Flat beans. Snow peas. Celery. Lemon grass. Mildly flavored garlic cheese. Onion soup. Baking section. I went aisle after aisle, just holding my phone and translating things for fun and giggling away, even things I did not need to buy. I felt the excitement of a child inside a toy store, and ended up spending even more time than I usually do inside a grocery store. The app is free, but I would happily pay a price for its value. 

On a different note, I think that I have finally figured out why you need to insert a 1 euro coin to unlock the grocery carts (which you get back once you place back the cart in the right place). It could not be for making money, since you get back the coin when you lock your cart with the previous cart. I think that it is to make sure that you put back the cart in the right place, and only then you can get your coin back.



Argentyne said...

:) new in Singapore too, we have to insert a coin into the grocery cart so the staff don't have to go hunting for missing trolleys. Most people rely on public transport/walking here, so if they shop a lot, it's really tempting to take the cart with you if you live close by. Today, I shopped for a lot of heavy stuff and after I put everything in the taxi, I couldn't find the trolley queue so had to let 50 cents go :(

Argentyne said...

ast year, the Sheng Siong chain of supermarkets lost 90 metal trolleys and 180 plastic ones across its outlets on average each month.

That translates into a shocking $120,000 loss on just trolleys. And the supermarket chain is not alone.

In the past two years, NTUC FairPrice lost about 1,000 trolleys annually across more than 90 stores that provide them.

The supermarket chain said it spends about $150,000 annually on repairing, replacing and retrieving abandoned trolleys

- See more at: http://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore-news/supermarkets-counting-cost-replacing-unreturned-trolleys#sthash.4ycvBGb8.dpuf

sunshine said...

That's a whole lot of great information. Thanks, Argentyne. :)