For as long as I can remember, Derek has been obsessed with going to grocery stores in other countries.

grocerystore-5877Just look at the excitement.

I shrugged it off at first, I mean, we needed to get provisions so I always tagged along. But as most converts to things will tell you, gradually I started to see the light. Now I think it is incredibly fun and interesting to see the inner workings of buying food while visiting outside the US.

Think about it this way – most places you visit, the fancy museums, swanky restaurants, or paved walkways are how country wants you to view it’s image. If you really want to learn about a country, visit it’s grocery stores. It’s such a fascinating look at the daily lives of the country’s inhabitants. You can see what types of things are important to them and how they work. Do they charge you for plastic bags? (Are they just cheap, or are they into recycling?) Do they let you weigh your own produce and print price labels? (The trust!) Do they find pickled herring a totally normal and everyday type of snack? (Netherlands…you hold a special place in my heart, but you sure are weird sometimes.)

Shocker: This aisle with every pasta shape ever was in Italy

As an American, this was so ridiculously trusting of the store. 

It’s also just super interesting to see what the price/cultural differences are. Should you pick up a bottle of wine from a grocery store in the US, your dinner guests might be a little disappointed with a $7.99 bottle of Chateau Dianna. But if you are in Italy, I’d be totally pleased with your 4 Euro bottle from the supermarket and likely it will be delicious. Milk and eggs are things that are always always always refrigerated in the States, but I’ve seen grocery stores abroad where some of the milk was refrigerated and some of it wasn’t (both ways?!). In places like Denmark, it’s apparently a cultural no-no to talk, or be loud in grocery stores.

Just to be clear – that is a two-liter plastic bottle of white wine. And it’s probably not that bad. 

Normal beer can for size reference. That is a two-liter plastic bottle of beer. 

Recently, we’ve been in Italian and Croatian grocery stores, and the biggest, most obvious difference was the size of them. As Americans, we are used to gigantic stores that have everything you need in them, plus 20 extra aisles that you can get lost and frustrated down (why do we need 10 foot displays of Coke cans in the shape of a Transformer?!). A lot of the markets here are smaller and have the basics.  You may need to supplement with a few other stores, like heading to the produce stand to get the latest and the freshest fruit. Heads up – in many countries in Europe, the fruit stand workers will pick the fruit for you, it’s considered very rude to touch the fruit yourself. This also means that they might give you shitty fruit because you are a foreigner. You’ve been warned.

Fresh fruit stand! Make sure to wash all fruit. I lost a few days due to food poisoning from some unwashed mandarines…severe lack of judgement. 

Overall, it’s just really fun to look at all the grocery items and guess what they are. Not sure what kind of cheese that is? Buy it and eat it! Not a clue what that flavoring of chips means? Eat it! Derek and I have discovered some truly amazing foreign food this way. But be warned – we’ve also had our far share of disasters as well.

It’s like a pumpkin and a tomato had a baby

Paprika chips in the US would be gross, paprikchips in Croatia were pepper and delicious.

Cat food? Nope. Seafood. For humans.

Happy eating!


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