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.