How we Pulled it off Living in Italy: Guest Post on Shopping in Europe
How we moved to Italy. Guest Post on Shopping in Europe vs the US
This part is called: Shopping in Europe vs the US
PART 14: I thought it might be interesting to share how we pulled off living in Italy for part of the year. I will post some steps we took.
We are in Galatone, Puglia, until the end of September, then back again in the winter.
Our theme is: Guest Post on Shopping in Europe vs the US.
One of the interesting things about living in Italy is the people from interesting and different backgrounds that we get to meet and be in contact with. When we share our experiences and our insights, our lives can grow richer and we can see things from different perspectives.
I thought it would be interesting to share this guest post about shopping in Germany as compared with the US (and with shopping in Italy in last week's blog post).
"A few thoughts about shopping in Europe.
"Yes, we prefer buying our bread at the local bakery, our meats at the local butcher, and veggies and flowers at small local stores or farmers' markets.
"Almost all villages have farmer's markets at the main square once or twice a week. And within a 5-10 mile radius, you will find an open farmers market every weekday as the communities in the same area hold their markets on different days. Germans, for example, like to know where their food comes from. If we have the choice, we prefer veggies from a local farmer instead of buying tomatoes grown in a greenhouse in Spain, picked while barely ripe, refrigerated, and shipped a thousand miles to the bigger grocery chains. Of course, local farmers can not compete with the discount prices of bigger supermarkets. So those big stores also have enough customers.
"Buying locally can be expensive, but in my opinion strolling through a farmers market is a nicer shopping experience than just grabbing stuff from shelves in a mega-store. But I also buy some of my groceries at the big stores.
"To us, it's also important that the employee at the smaller store knows us and our preferences. That also includes the time for personal small talk about the family or what we are planning to cook.
"Small talk in small European stores differs from small talk in big American stores. More about that later. Not sure if Italy has the same shopping cart system as Germany. But over here, you need a one Euro coin to release the cart from the designated holding area. Alternatively, you can use a plastic chip that attaches to a keychain on your bundle of other keys. I've never seen this system in the US, and most Americans find it awkward when they experience it in Europe. But it keeps customers from leaving empty shopping carts right next to their car after stashing their goods in the trunk. Everyone wants their Euro (or the chip) back and rolls the empty cart back to the designated holding area. It also keeps people from walking off the property with the cart. You get the coin back by inserting the metal stick on the last cart in the row into the receptacle of your cart. But you probably experienced this system already somewhere in Europe.
"Shopping carts in Europe are also not even half the size of American shopping carts, probably because we go shopping for groceries multiple times a week.
"Fridges in German kitchens used to be tiny compared to American fridges. But that is slowly changing. Our fridge is almost American size. My mom's fridge is still just one-third of the size of our fridge. I still wonder how she managed to feed a family of four with such a tiny fridge.
"Shopping for clothing in big department stores is also slightly different in Germany compared to the US. Many German tourists to the US get freaked out when they enter a department store; an employee runs up to them asking: "Welcome to Such-and-such! How are you doing? Can I help you find anything today?" Germans tend to want to be left alone to browse the shelves in big stores and only look for an attendant if they can't find what they are looking for. They find friendly American small talk from an attendant annoying. And when they get to the cashier and get the common: "Did you find everything okay today?"... many of us start a long speech about what they didn't find and what they were looking for but didn't find and that what they found was more expensive than at another store. The quality could be better for that price and yadda yadda yadda. All of this usually leaves the employee at the cash register speechless.
"We don't understand that it's just a friendly small talk phrase, not a real question or invitation to a long monologue. LOL However, even in Germany, things are changing. Some stores, like the big Douglas Perfume chain, now pay a commission to each employee. So, once you enter those stores, it takes less than 3 Seconds before an employee greets you with "Hello. Can I help you find anything today?"
"Buying food (or other items) for Sundays needs preparation in Germany as almost all stores are closed on Sundays. Maybe that's the same in Italy? Over here, you can still buy the basics at small Kiosks, gas stations, or train stations. But you could not do your regular shopping on a Sunday."
Watch for my book coming around the 1st of the year: "Stories from Puglia: Two Californians in Southern Italy".
More next time.