Who knew grocery shopping could be so different?…

Disclaimer- If you do not know where I am or who I am with or anything about my study abroad adventures read previous blogs, it is explained in more detail there!

Now back to business.  Since I eluded to the eventful grocery shopping trip, I guess I should now explain why it was indeed so eventful.  Well we started the morning with a few small missions:  get a phone, buy a bus ticket, and get food!!! At the dormitory it is fend for yourself, and since we hadn’t had the time to go to the store yet, Jennifer, Mama, and I were STARVING!  We had been told that groceries are cheaper in nearby Austria, but at this point we didn’t even care!  We just needed something to put in our stomachs! 

So we caught the bus and rode (literally just over the bridge) into Switzerland where we quickly found a “convenient store” and grabbed some much needed breakfast.  I set my sights on a chocolate covered donut and water, Mama picked and apple pie like pastry, and Jennifer of course went with some weird looking bread thing and mineral water.  My donut had a lovely surprise of cream on the inside and Jennifer quickly learned to NEVER again buy mineral water.

Now enough rambling on about our breakfast….next on our mission was to purchase a cell phone.  Since don’t have one of the larger providers like At&t, my provider wouldn’t sell me an international plan for longer than one month, and truthfully if they did it would have been way more expensive than we could have paid anyway!  That being the case, I had to purchase a go phone with the Swiss provider Yallo, that while still pricey wasn’t quite so steep as the American prices!  While this may appear to be an easy process I have learned to never assume. The lovely Swiss girl at the desk was the best we could have asked for, but if you can picture three Americans who don’t speak a word of German trying to go through a cell phone clause with someone who speaks another language natively you can only imagine!  Long story short it took oh…about 2.5 hours!

After the cell phone was FINALLY purchased, we headed across the street to the train stop to purchase Mama’s return ticket to the airport, and mine and Jennifer’s year long bus ticket.  This again was another thing I had made assumptions on! Again the language barrier made things much more difficult than expected, but we were fortunate that the woman spoke English quite well.  We purchased our tickets, but were sent to a nearby photo booth in order to complete the process.  Have you ever tried to take a passport like picture in a German speaking photo booth? Let me just warn you….IT IS NO SIMPLE TASK.

With cell phone and bus ticket in tow we walked a few blocks in search of the grocery store/supermarket that was sure to be up ahead.  We had all forgotten/never really understood the name of the store we were looking for, but we knew it began with the letter B!  We soon found out that it didn’t in fact begin with the letter B, and was instead called Coop. Same difference right?

My confusion at the shopping cart theft protection mechanisms.

Upon arrival, we were greeted with our first cross cultural obstacle: the shipping carts were locked up!  Fortunately Jennifer had remembered that the same thing occurred in Greece, and she instructed us that by placing a coin in the slot it could unlock your cart and when you returned the cart your coin would be returned.  Ok so that was figured out, but now we had a slot and about 4 different kinds of coins and no idea which one we were supposed to use!  The lovely cheese sample lady told us 1 or 2 francs would do the job and so it did!  With our buggy in tow we set out for the adventure that awaited us.

Produce was the first section that caught our eye, and since we knew we had very limited refrigerator space our items were very limited as well!  Bananas, lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, and oranges all made the list; however, we quickly

The produce label maker...good thing it had numbers only!

learned that unlike in America where even the produce is labeled, in Switzerland you must make your own label by placing the produce on the scale and selected the proper number for the item. 

Following produce we pretty much went on a wild goose chase for whatever items we thought we needed to get us started.  Milk made the list although as you can see from the picture the choices were quite confusing and since nothing was in English I’m still not even sure what I bought!  It had a cow on it so it had to be milk right?…

We finally decided that since refrigerator space was limited our best tactic was to find things that could be kept in my room so as to not go hungry in the middle of the night!  The chip and cookie isle was certainly an experience.  Pringles seemed familiar so I tossed those in the cart, apparently paprika is the big thing for chips here, but too afraid to try it those didn’t come home with me.  Oreos, peanut M & Ms, and Special K were all purchased, and before you go on making

You tell me if you know which milk to buy?!

fun of me for not trying new things, I would have, but I couldn’t read ANY of the packages so I didn’t want to waste money on things when I didn’t even know what they were!

After about 2 hours wandering aimlessly throughout the store we thought we had grabbed enough supplies so as to not starve and made our way to the checkout counter.  You know how in America they give you plastic bags at the grocery store to store your purchases?…Well in Europe THEY DON’T.  Jennifer’s mother had the foresight to guess this and sent her with 2 bags, but I on the other hand had no prior warning.  We ended up shoving what we could in Jennifer’s bag, and having to purchase 2 Coop bags for the remainder of my groceries.

Cell phone, bus ticket, and grocery shopping all complete we made a quick pit stop at McDonald’s (and the cheeseburgers do taste different over here) and made our way back to the University.  That same evening I sent mother off on our way back to the states.  Much harder than I thought (but I will save  you the sappy details), and later that night enjoyed our second meal together with our fellow international students. 

Successful grocery trip number 1!

Since I have to mentally process so many new things each day, and there is no possible way to document each and every one of them I have decided to include a section at the end of each blog about the new things I have discovered from both my experiences and the people I have met.

1.  People from Mexico call American’s gringos or gringas (something like that) which originated back from the war when we wore green.  (they assured me this term is in by no means derogatory)

2.  People in Europe use ketchup for EVERYTHING at a barbecue.  Take a pieces of chicken off the grill-put ketchup on it. Take a piece of sausage off the grill-put curry ketchup on it. Take a piece of turkey off the grill-and what else but ketchup!

3. People over here LOVE American television-Desperate Housewives, One Tree Hill, Gossip Girl, How I Met Your Mother, Grey’s Anatomy  you name it they watch it!

4. Running up these hills will bite you in the butt the next day. And what they call a short hike actually turns out to be 1.5 hours straight uphill…

5.  Special K with “red fruit” isn’t Special K with strawberries, it is literally Special K with a variety of red fruits including strawberries, cherries, and raspberries.

A glance at the treasures purchased earlier in the day....notice the most important item front and center from home-Tony's seasoning!


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