Grocery Shopping in Berlin

Buying groceries in a foreign country is always an adventure. Today was no exception.

I walked to the grocery store to buy some bananas to soothe my travel weary tummy. Issues arose the minute I walked through the doors.

First problem: Can’t find the food. I recall Patrick saying groceries were on the lower level, but how the hell do you get downstairs?

After walking around in circles for 20 minutes, I locate the down escalator. Except–surprise!–it’s not an escalator at all! Same metal, no stairs. I almost slide off.

I manage to reach the bottom level without grave incident, only to discover the  baskets and carts are upstairs. Fantastic.

I hit my stride about five minutes into shopping. Just moseying along happily, fascinated by German labels that say things like “bio” instead of “organic”…

Then a voice crackles through the loudspeaker. I understand the word “10” and assume the store is closing in 10 minutes. I run to produce, trying to finish shopping and get out before they close.

Now, the thing I dread most about shopping in other countries is checking out. I worry I won’t have enough cash, will miscount foreign currency, or have my credit card declined.

But for once, all seems to be going well. That is, until the check out lady rings up my bananas.

She says something in German. “I’m sorry. I don’t speak German,” I say. She then communicates, through a series of elaborate, yet Germanically efficient hand gestures, that I was supposed to weigh my produce before checking out. And that the scale’s downstairs.

I’m appalled by my rookie mistake. Especially because the same thing happened to me in Chile a few years earlier.

I glance behind me and see that the line is growing. A really, really hot guy steps into the queue. I start to sweat. I have no idea what to do.

Mercifully, Checkout Lady asks another attendant to weigh the fruit and print a barcode for me. Everything’s going to be OK. I have enough cash, and I manage to remember how to count.

Then, just as I start to walk away, the woman in line behind me snatches the receipt right out of my hand, and starts talking animatedly to Checkout Lady.

I’m totally confused. Hot Guy smirks, amused, as if to say, “That’s what you get for being monolingual, stupid Amerikanerin!” I recognize “bananas”. Apparently, I was charged incorrectly for my three bananas. I’m directed to the customer service counter.

An older gentleman behind me in that line says something to me. I smile and say, “Ich spreche kein Deutsch”. Usually, the fact that I learned “I don’t speak German” in German curries some favour.

But this guy’s a tough crowd, and proceeds to laugh in my face. Literally. Considering that Berliners don’t even crack a smile when you pass them on the street, the way they flout personal space rules is truly surprising.

I am refunded €2 for my bananas. It was so totally not worth the public humiliation. Later, Patrick tells me that the store is open another two hours.

Photo: _Bonnie_

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3 comments on “Grocery Shopping in Berlin
  1. Anonymous says:

    Oh that’s terrific. I mean, awkward… but terrific for our enjoyment! Grocery shopping in other countries is hard!
    While in Prague I dropped a bottle of champagne but it didn’t break but a security guard hassled me about it. (fair enough, I guess)
    While in Vienna I was yelled at for not weighing my fruit too! We’re just spoiled in the US, I guess. (Or maybe we just save sticker paper…)

  2. el aleman says:

    For the record, it’s “ich spreche kein Deutch”. :-)

  3. sally says:

    you ass!
    maybe that’s why he laughed i my face…

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I'm a smart, sassy, globally-mobile freelance writer, content creator, brand journalist and nonprofit storyteller. The world is my office. Email me to find out more.
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