Culture Shock Part One: The Grocery Store

8.10.2011

No matter how many times you’ve been overseas, I think that you will always experience a bit of culture shock upon arrival in a new place. Even the most modern places are different and take some getting used to. The grocery store is no exception.

On our second day here we decided to head to the grocery store to stock up on a few essentials. The driver took us to Carrefour, which is basically the Wal-Mart of this area. Unfortunately, we went at the wrong time! It was the first day of Ramadan (more about this in an upcoming post) and it felt like EVERYONE in the country was there stocking up for the first Iftar.

The parking garage was packed and several cars were just stopped in the middle of the aisles. Luckily, our driver was able to navigate through the craziness and drop us off at the door. When we got inside, we discovered that we had to pay to borrow a shopping cart. Luckily, we had a few coins on us and we were able to snag a cart. I pushed Emerson in her stroller while Jesse pushed the cart around. You know how difficult it is trying to navigate a cart around the commissary on payday? Well picture that- only a thousand times worse!  It was practically impossible to get the cart through the aisles, much less the stroller. We learned quickly that the stroller and grocery shopping just don’t mix!

The store was set up in pretty much the same way as American grocery stores so we were able to find what we were looking for fairly easily. It was a bit disconcerting to see a foreign language on everything but we were able to find some American brands that we recognized.

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It’s strange how something like that can be so comforting! Newman’s Own salsa? Yes, please!

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Even if it does have a label that we can’t read!

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The craziest part of the store was the produce department. They have a counter there where you have to take everything to get weighed and marked. When we got over there, there were at least 20 people in line. We saw pretty quickly that you have to be aggressive and push your way up to the front of the line. Needless to say, we didn’t buy any produce that had to be weighed. We were just too overwhelmed with it all!

By the time we made it through the store, we were worn out and starving. They had a deli counter and everything looked delicious but we couldn’t buy anything because it is illegal to eat or drink in public during Ramadan. Even though we didn’t buy everything we wanted, we decided to call it quits. We made our way to the checkout counter and were relieved to find that the checkout was just like it is in the U.S.  We paid for our groceries and made a beeline for the parking garage.

Luckily, we survived our first shopping experience and we were much more prepared the second time around. I carried Emerson in her carrier to eliminate the need for the stroller and we actually felt a little more at ease because we knew what to expect.  I’m guessing that Carrefour will feel just like HEB in a matter of weeks. Smile

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The Carver's said...

Sounds sooo familiar much when we got to our 1st place...good thing it wasn't during Ramadan so got to prepare ourselves ahead of time. You guys should definitely try to go to the Iftars...if they are like where we were they are awesome and you get to try all that Middle eastern food...you probably won't want to be counting much points that day. I actually Miss our old home...I hope you like that part of the world as much as we liked ours. It really wasn't too bad..and specially yours I heard is 3times better. Have fun in your new place...I really enjoy reading your blog. If you need anything or have questions don't hesitate to get in touch with us. Take care and give Emerson a big hug for me.

Celene Carver

Michelle said...

WOW! I don't think I would have made it through the store at all. I probably would have just grabbed some bread, peanut butter, and jelly and waited for things to calm down! Sounds like this is going to be quite the adventure for you guys!!!

Mateya said...

Gosh I can't even imagine! You will have it all figured out in no time! :)

Mom said...

I am sure it was crazy. Can,t wait till we can come for a visit. Love you

Ashley said...

wow that sounds so overwhelming! and illegal to eat in public during Ramadon?! how interesting!!!

Gabriella said...

That sounds crazy, but I am glad you guys survived. It is all going to take some getting used to, but I am sure in no time things will get easier! Keeping your guys in my prayers always! :)

Rebekah said...

What a learning experience and just an experience in general! I can't even imagine. It will get easier I'm sure!

Natalie said...

oh my, that sounds wild!! i hope you get used to it quickly!

jessica sisson said...

I was laughing as I read your blog because it sounds all too familiar! I remember thinking the same things like...why in the world are all these carts hooked together and how do i get one! And Carrefour at the wrong time is a nightmare! Oh my gosh I hated it. We had one in Tunis and would only go early in the morning. I cant even count how many times I would put produce in my cart and then after waiting 20 minutes to check out... realize when the girl would look at me that I forgot to weigh them and have to set it all aside :( I think I left more produce than I ever took home :) The good part though is it is a pretty big store with a lot of options. I just had to ask often what something was because I couldnt read the label. I'm so excited for you guys! Cant wait to hear all about your new home! And if you ever want to vacation...we have rooms for you in Malta!! love ya! jessica

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