5 Things That Make You Crazy in the German Grocery Stores

Living in Germany, I have found many things that drive me crazy in the German grocery stores. First, I really dislike going grocery shopping… dislike, no. I DREAD it! Mostly, I dread it with my small blonde dragon who likes to throw things out of the cart as fast as I put things in the cart. No, really. She does that. So anything that makes it harder, makes me tired! There are so many things that are different, harder, and have more rules at the grocery store in Germany! Wahhhh! Why is it so hard?! I just want some milk!

 

  • Pay for your grocery cart – WHAT?!?! Yes, yes it is true! No, I am not kidding. If you go to the grocery store in Germany, the carts are lined up in a row – nice, neat and clean, and you are rarely, if ever, searching for a cart. They are not scattered all over the parking lot or missing down the street. They are all in a pretty little row. No one has to get paid, running up the cost of food, to collect runaway carts. Why? Because you have to put money into the cart to use it. The first time I went shopping in Germany, and I did not have a spare euro on hand, I was irritated and pissed off that I had to pay for a cart. Well not pay but put in a euro deposit that you get back when you return the cart to its proper place. After awhile I realized how nice and efficient it really is, and I now know that I always need a euro in my wallet when I go shopping. I am such an expert now that I even have a special token I can put into any cart and it magically unlocks. I always put my cart back because I want my euro or token back. Super efficient, cost-effective, and saves money. So, if you are new to Germany, you need to remember a euro coin in order to get a cart. Bonus – they are always under a roof now so my cart is never wet when I go to use it!
  • Bring your own grocery bags – Are you kidding me… bags are not free? Why oh why can’t you give me free bags so I have something to put my trash in at home? Sorry, not happening in a German grocery store. The stores sell large, heavy-duty, reusable bags. You buy the bags for a few cents and continue to reuse them when you go shopping. I used to get really frustrated and buy 100 bags because I always forgot to bring my bags with me. I am a little bit disorganized some days. Now I have almost mastered it, and my life is much easier. So, when moving, visiting, or shopping in Germany, always bring your own grocery bags or small basket. This practice is super cost-effective and helps the environment! If you are like me and often forget one of your 100 bags lying around the house, you can always buy another one. Think about this – all of those plastic trash bags floating around in the ocean could be stopped if everyone did like the Germans, and most of Europeans, and brought their own bags to the grocery store.


  • Recycling water bottles – Just MORE rules! I need a rule book on recycling! Another thing that used to make me scratch my head and go OMG  are the many rules about recycling. “How will I ever learn the rules?!” I thought. I also learned that the rules vary in different areas of Germany – the blue trash cans versus the green trash cans may have different meanings… but no worries – if you do it wrong, your neighbor will be right over to tell you about it. We drink a lot of bottled water. A LOT – not because the water is not clean in Germany but because we actually like the taste. My son has become European and would rather drink bubble water instead of flat water, so we always have empty bottles. In Germany, you have to recycle all those bottles! I used to have a mountain of water bottles stuffed in every corner of our house. Now, my fave part of recycling is the water bottle recycle program. Why? Because I get money for it! I throw all my empty bottles in my recyclable grocery bags and take them to the store with me. At the front of all German grocery stores are bottle recycle machines. You just throw your bottles into, it counts the bottles, and gives you money that you can use to pay for more groceries or a glass of wine later with the girls. Awesome, right? These machines are super slick and easy to use! Hey, it helps the environment and it helps my pockets. I have learned to love it!
  • No one bags your groceries – OMG I have to bag my own groceries? I’m American – don’t you know we have someone who does everything for us?! Unlike the grocery stores in America where the cashier does the work and an associate bags your groceries for you, that is not happening in Germany. The first time my kids went to a grocery store in the USA, they stood by, shocked, that someone bagged our groceries for us. In Germany, you will be sweating by the time the bagging process is over because you are doing it yourself! Well, I have a large child who helps so I am not sweating. I would always dread this part when I first moved to Germany, mostly because I was worried about the people behind me with one item. Now, I embrace it! It’s like a work out! Tip – I put everything in my cart and then bag it by the side of the grocery line or out at our car. While this takes a few minutes longer, my stuff is never squished or broken when I get home. It also saves on the eye rolls from the people waiting in line behind us. I also load like-items in my giant bags so I know exactly where everything is when I unload at home. Call me anal, but I kinda like it.

  • Closed on Sunday – NO! Tell me it isn’t so! The grocery stores in Germany are CLOSED on Sunday and nothing is open 24 hours a day! What kind of country have I come to?! Again, in the beginning, this annoyed me, and the stores were also super crowded on Saturday afternoon. Coming from the land of everything being open all the time to moving to Germany where stores actually close was the hardest thing for me to get used to in Germany. I have learned to like the fact that I can say to my family, “Oh, sorry. The grocery store is closed. Eat what we have!” The Germans work hard but also play hard, and vacation and family time is super important to them. I love this about Germany!

So, that is my list for the things that may drive you crazy in the German grocery stores – embrace it, love it, and live with it. Remember, you left your country because you wanted a change! Don’t complain when it is actually different.

 

– Stacey

17 Comments

  • Reply April 10, 2017

    Punita Malhotra

    What a great post. Makes me think that there really are endless things while travelling that you learn and pick up and wonder about and react to...besides the 'sights' that you go in search of. Even grocery shopping teaches you something. Punita Malhotra recently posted...Soak in the most stunning Austrian countryside everMy Profile
  • Reply February 16, 2017

    wanderingchocobo

    Hahah I am from the U.S. and have been living in Germany for over a year now and totally get you. The first few months were quite overwhelming for me when I was out shopping. Especially the bagging my own groceries and making sure I had a euro for the cart. However, I have grown quite fond of the bringing my own bags and recycling. I try and live a very sustainable and green life and enjoy that it's much easier to do so in Germany than back home. Even though it was strange to get used to. Hang in there.
  • Reply February 14, 2017

    alwaysagringa

    This story made me laugh! I am originally from Michigan and we have a line of German grocery stores that everyone loves. It is called Aldi, do they have that store in Germany as well? You also have to put a quarter in your cart as a deposit, as well as pack your own groceries up. My mom used to always make us run around the store and find empty boxes on the shelves they weren't using anymore so we could use them to pack up our groceries. Hope you are enjoying your time in Germany!
  • Reply February 12, 2017

    rhiydwi

    Other than the water bottles, this sounds exactly like UK supermarkets too! Or at least in Wales (can't comment on the rest!). We always used to have to put £1 in the trolley to use them up until a few years ago when they brought in a new thing where the trolleys don't roll anymore after they pass a certain point. So unless you carry them over your shoulder you can't take them out of the store car park! We always used to be closed on Sundays too, but these days everything just shuts off at 4pm instead. It was nice to read from the perspective of someone who views what we see as ordinary as a little off!
  • Reply February 12, 2017

    Adriana Smith

    These rules remind of some of the stores in the US. It's not universally adopted by all though. It's good to see how another country operates. Allows you to put some things in perspective.
  • Reply February 9, 2017

    onlybyland

    We do that in England too with trolleys, but with a pound coin, a euro wold probably work here too though! I think all over Europe they have the bag rule, it does stop a lot of waste with the carrier bags, people reuse them more often. Hahaha, I guess it is a lot different to the US!
  • Reply February 8, 2017

    Paula Morgan

    Shopping with kids is the pits! It's similar in Sydney except that our stores are open on Sunday. We pay for bags, carts, and in Aldi we pack our own groceries. We have not got our recycling quite at that level yet but I hope we do :-)
  • Reply February 7, 2017

    saraessop

    This is fascinating. I can't believe the grocery stores are closed on Sundays and that you have to pay to use the grocery carts. But buying shopping bags is easier to understand because we have to buy them in my country, South Africa, too. It's great that you get paid for recycling water bottles. It's a great incentive to do it.
  • Reply February 7, 2017

    Phil

    I really admire the life you seem to lead. If you don't have problems other than spare an Euro as a deposit (yes, a deposit, so you don't pay for it) for your cart and to bag your stuff yourself, you definitely are among the happiest people in the world
  • I am also surprised that they have a different way in Germany. Here in my country we have someone who will put all the goods we bought in a plastic bag. Aside from that, we don't have to buy the plastic bags. They give it for free. I haven't been to Germany yet. Do you think they only have less garbage because they love to recycle?
    • Reply February 7, 2017

      BasketsLife

      I think Yes the country is very clean and they really try hard to keep the country clean by recycling .. :)
  • Reply February 6, 2017

    nomadicfoot

    It's seems such a difficult place to buy grocery. Even in India we do not have these kind of rules.
  • Reply February 6, 2017

    Marcie

    We have to bring our own bags and bag our own groceries just about everywhere in the Seattle-area. It's not that bad except when I'm shopping with both kids and forget my bags in the car!
    • Reply February 7, 2017

      BasketsLife

      Haha right that is my problem too I totally forget the bags and have groceries all over the trunk of my car!
  • Reply February 6, 2017

    Suzan

    It's a lot like Italy except the Sunday thing!
    • Reply February 7, 2017

      BasketsLife

      Yes but we have no Riposo here !! LOL
  • Reply February 5, 2017

    Gloria @NomadicChica

    You made my day! I'm from Chile and I always struggle a bit with these things in Europe. Perhaps the biggest difference is I love going to supermarkets. I still need a recycling 101 course and the water and coke deposit is still freaking me out. Great post!

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