Things that are part of normal living can become daunting in another country. Shopping in Germany is a bit different than in the states, and this is especially true at grocery stores.
In your own country, you can go on auto-pilot and make your way throughout the store without much thought. In another country not only do you have to deal with the language differences, but you are also presented with a lot of different items that you never even knew existed.
This article will break down the things to consider when shopping in Germany, and how to be prepared before you go.
Bring Your Own Bags
One of the main differences you’ll find is that you need to bring your own grocery bags or be prepared to pay for a plastic one if you forgot to bring them with you. There are many different options to carry your groceries.
Many people walk or use public transport to get to the store. To lighten the load, many people have rolling shopping bags. The wheels are similar to what you see on your luggage, and there are a few bags attached for your stuff. It’s a great way to stock up and not have to haul large shopping bags back home with you.
Bag Your Own Groceries
This is arguably one of the most stressful things about going to a grocery store, and that’s not hyperbole. Cashiers (for some reason unknown to me) ring up groceries at lightning speed. And if you can’t keep up, they’ll likely already be done and waiting for payment and there’s a line of people behind you.
I learned that you should always put things on the counter in the order you plan to bag them i.e. heavy items first and light/fragile things at the end. Just expect it to take a few times and accept it’s still likely you’ll never be able to keep up. You’ve been forewarned.
If you want a shopping cart, change is a must. Shopping carts require a one Euro deposit generally, and then when you return your cart you get your money back. I’ve found myself digging through the seats in my car for the required pfand (deposit) needed for a shopping cart on many occasions. Eventually, I bought a little keychain that held one Euro, so I always had one on hand.
Weigh Your Produce
Fruits and veggies in most stores need to be weighed before they’re bagged.
Recycling and Returning Items
Most grocery stores have an area where you can drop off your empty plastic bottles and batteries. The plastic bottles are inserted into a conveyer belt type of machine and you get a small deposit back for each bottle. Some go as high as .25EUR, so don’t throw these out!
Note that not all bottles can be returned, so be sure to check the label for the recycle sign.
Bring a Translator
As an expat, it’s a good idea to either have your iPhone handy or be sure to translate your grocery list before you leave. This goes especially for things like spices and items that you might have a hard time discerning from one another.
Don’t Go on a Sunday
All German stores are closed on Sundays so make sure you get your shopping done beforehand. If you’re in a pinch and forgot to buy food, the gas stations are open and have enough ‘food’ to hold you over for a day. Or, you can go out to a restaurant and eat – most restaurants are open on Sunday but closed on Mondays.