Sunday, January 1, 2012

Grocery shopping

One of my first days in the Netherlands I was off from work as I was still following the Finnish public holidays. Therefore I decided it is good time to go and do some grocery shopping on my own. Shopping in the Netherlands is nice, especially when coming from a slightly more expensive country such as Finland. Groceries are relatively cheap (goedkoop), and the selection is ecological, produced near and fresh. I asked the Dutch Guy to prepare one of my favorite foods, spicy paprika soup. So I set out my adventure for getting the ingredients from the local Albert Heijn. There are over 800 AH's in the Netherlands making it the largest food retailer in the Netherlands. According to Wikipedia, the concept of AH is to provide good quality food products with market prices. Suits me!

So off I went, the nearest AH is only few minutes walk from our house. This makes it also easy to adapt to the dutch way of shopping which means basically "do not plan ahead - at all". It is not unusual to drop by at the store every day to get the ingredients you might need. Or even twice a day.. or seven times, which is the record of the Dutch Guy who I share the fridge with.

My first task was to get the paprikas and onions - that's easy, the names are quite the same and they are easy to recognise (paprika, ui). I also fancied some apples, so I grabbed a few and put them to a plastic bag and felt like this is going good, I'm on the roll here. However, then the troubles started. I was looking for the number which would tell me, which button to press when weighing the apples. Of course there was none. I stepped hesitantly to the scale to do the weighing, and luckily found a picture of the right apple there with a text. However, I thought, since there are dozen different apple types, it is quite time consuming to find just the apple type you are having from the pictures- especially as there seems to be no logical order whatsoever.

Would it not make sense to add some kind of identifier on the vegetables and fruit price tag, which would tell you immediately which button to press in the scale?

There was an older lady behind me waiting for her turn, and I thought that I will now get this weighing over with and continue to my next item on the shopping list. However after pushing the button with the apple picture nothing happened. Nothing. I pressed again, still nothing. The lady behind me gave a look of pity and ironic grin mixed together and moved on to the next scale. I thought that well, maybe that is her way of indicating that the scale is not working, and I moved on to the next one after her. And again same thing happened, I press the apple button, waited for the sticker to come out but nothing. I however just witnessed other people getting the sticker out so there must be something that I am missing. Actually, when looking more carefully, there are instructions with 5 step procedure on how to do the weighing.. ehm.. all in Dutch of course. From there I understood, that after pressing the Apple-button, you need to actually press ANOTHER button which will then give you the sticker.

While feeling stupid for myself, I quickly continued onwards with the shopping. The lady behind me must've thought that there are all kinds of helpless people who come from the outer boundaries civilization and cannot use even a simple machine like a fruit scale in the supermarket..

I continued my shopping and came to the milk department. I needed to get some cooking cream for the soup and I started to feel desperate. There were all kinds of cans, pots and jars of different kind of milk products. Everything was in dutch, and of course I had no idea what so ever what is cream or cooking cream. I decided to take 3 different bottles and thought that would increase my odds for having at least one thing right. Important nugget of information: cooking cream is kookroom.

I got to the cashier relieved of surviving the shopping after all, just to find out that of course my Debit-card would not be accepted. Only dutch cards. Or good old cash. Luckily I had that with me, and managed to get out of the store with all ingredients and still some self respect left.. During the grocery shopping I'd texted the Dutch Guy at least three times to ask all kinds of questions. When coming home, he laughed at my adventures in the supermarket and mentioned in the side note that he of course needed to quote my messages to his colleagues as an example on how things can be different in a new country. So after a while I got asked by one of them on my experiences while shopping in Albert Heijn.

So please, remember all of you who come from countries where only one button press is enough in the scale:

When buying fruits and vegetables, instead of pressing the picture of "komkommer" and waiting for nice komkommer sticker to come out, you need to actually press an "OK" type of button after that. And usually - you don't need to weigh komkommer as they are sold by piece.

1 comment:

  1. We had a funny shopping experience too when we were visiting Chile. We wanted to buy some sun cream and found a suitable store. Everything was behind the counters, so we asked for a bottle of sun cream from a member of staff. How we managed to do this I can't remember - we don't speak any spanish and they don't speak ANY english, not even 'yes' or 'no'. However, the counter guy didn't give us the bottle, but a paper to which he wrote the price of the sun cream. Then we were instructed to take the paper to another guy behind another counter. That other guy took the payment and put a mark to the paper. The we took the paper back to the first guy and finally got our sun cream. I am a big fan of how they do things in Chile! :)