Grocery stores reveal a lot about a place. In Germany, grocery stores are just a couple of aisles. They’re very focused. You want mayonnaise? Here, have a tube of mayonnaise. There aren’t 27 brands to choose from. There isn’t full fat, low fat, no fat, imitation. There aren’t glass jars, plastic tubs, squeeze tubes. There’s just one of each product, and you either take it or leave it. Though at first, it seemed so limiting, by the time I came home from a year in Germany, I was so adapted to it that I was completely overwhelmed by American grocery stores.
In America, we don’t have grocery stores; we have supermarkets. There are entire aisles dedicated to bread, entire shelves stocked with ketchup, more cereal choices that you could consume in a year. Even “exotic items” have options. And if you want to buy your toilet paper, light bulbs, school notebooks, and laundry detergent, do your banking, and pick up your prescription while you’re at the grocery store, no problem.
So while I usually enjoy going to grocery stores in foreign countries—you never know just what you might find, and it always provides a bit of insight into the country you’re visiting—I don’t particularly enjoy American supermarkets. Grocery shopping takes forever. I have to compare prices and compare nutrition facts. I have to try to calculate the actual savings of driving to another store that has better prices on certain items in regards to the cost of gas and the value of my time. It’s just not fun.
Thus you’d probably think that being that Jeff and I are currently on vacation—enjoying the beach at Pawleys Island, SC—I’d probably not be very happy about having to go to the grocery store. But you’d be wrong. I actually enjoyed it. First of all, the store is called Piggly Wiggly, which is without a doubt the best name for a grocery store. I saw that they were selling shirts with the mascot pig on it, and I must say, I’m tempted to go back and buy one. Secondly, though American supermarkets are pretty standardized, there are some differences. For instance, in the produce section of the Piggly Wiggly I found boiled peanuts and packages of collards and mustard greens. We are, indisputably, in the south. The Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway and the Confederate flag rafts only served to back that up. The blazing sun that left my legs and my knee in particular (odd, I know) a fiery shade of red provided final confirmation.
Anyhow, what items in your grocery store give away your location? And what is the weirdest thing you’ve found in a foreign grocery store?