Thursday, January 17, 2013

Grocery Store Adventures

Some days I think, “I can’t believe I have lived in the Middle East for 12 years, and everything seems so normal.” Baklava, belly dancing, Turkish baths, and volatile tempers sound exciting, but I’ve gotten used to them.  Other parts of my cross-cultural life are commonplace, like going to the grocery store. It’s not glamorous, but it’s still a cross-cultural experience.

Grape molasses and tahin (sesame paste) 

Here’s my scoop on shopping in Turkey:

Shopping is Simple:

The great advantage to having less selection of brands and products is that it makes shopping easier.  You don’t have to waste time trying to make sense of 35 different kinds of aluminum foil. There are two brands, so just choose one.  Theoretically, this makes it easier to get in and out of large grocery stores.

Small corner stores found on every street are a life saver for disorganized household executives like me. They make it easy to run downstairs and buy that key ingredient you discovered you’re out of while cooking. 

Shopping is NOT so Simple:

There’s no one-stop shopping here. You buy fresh fruits and vegetables at the market because you can get high quality for cheap prices. Then you go to the grocery store to buy your other staples, but you discover that your store is still out of small trash bags after three weeks, so you head out the door to Grocery Store # 2.

Buy it When You See it!

“If you see something you want, you’d better buy it, because you may never see it in the store again.”  Years ago, a seasoned cross-cultural worker told me this, and I’ve found that it’s true with non-food items, like photo frames or dishes.

Sometimes even staple items might run out, and Murphy’s Law is that it’s on the day YOU need it desperately. When you’re making a chicken salad for visitors, you run to the downstairs grocery and find they’re out of chicken. A new supply will come in tomorrow.

Grocery Store Culture is Different:

There are no grocery sackers, so after you unload your purchases onto the band, you play superman and run down to the other side of the cash register to bag your groceries.  You work like crazy bagging and loading stuff into your cart because when the checker finishes, she will probably start ringing up the next person’s order, and pile their stuff on top of yours. You count to ten and remind yourself that the checker is not being rude. She’s just doing her job.

If you have a full grocery cart, people with five items or less may come up to ask if they can go in front of you.  This goes totally against my American “I’ve-been-waiting-in-line-for-my-turn-and-I’m-in-just-as-much-of-a-hurry-as-you-are” attitude. In our Aegean city, however, this is not necessarily rude, and if you think about it, it gives you a chance to grow in patience and to let another person go before you.

What is grocery shopping like in the country where you live? What do you love or hate about it?

1 comment:

Aunt Michele said...

This sounds so typical of my grocery experiences! Getting ready to go to the store in just a bit actually and trying to be nice and patient is rough! But we do our best to be happy and friendly in all situations for Christ's sake even in wild grocery store lines!