The first week we were back was full of nights without sleep and zombie like days. Jet lag was really getting the best of most of us.
Being home over the holidays was so nice, despite my continuous illness and its related consequences. While there, I was discussing the less than glamorous moments of my expat life, like the adventures in grocery shopping. So, to reassure all my readers that not every moment living here is pretty in pink, I thought I'd give you a run down of what it's like grocery shopping in a city where you don't have a car.
Here's your scenario---
You live about a 15 minute walk from the nearest "real" grocery store and about 20 from your preferred option. There are a couple smaller shops that have some things, but they really only work for necessities. Each weekend you grab you trusty roll-y cart and head out to one of the nearby stores. Since it's January, you've been wearing all your winter gear, including a knee length quilted puffy coat with fur lined hood. Getting to the store is the easy part; just put your headphones in and enjoy the walk. Unless it's raining and you're wearing rain boots, carrying an umbrella, and dodging cars that are driving on the sidewalk. (Yep, that was this weekend...and I have the bruise to prove it.)
|the necessary footwear for this season|
|perhaps my best purchase ever...|
though lately I've been having nightmares about a wheel falling off
on my way home from the store when it's full of groceries
Anyways, at the store you stock up on necessities, just like you would in the States. But, you can only purchase what you can carry (or roll) home. It's not recommended to drink too much of the tap water here since it has extra high levels of calcium, so you buy bottled water. (I buy plenty of pineapple juice and prefer the Pepsi Light over the Coca Light. Different continents, different formulas I suppose.)
|I buy 2L of water for Euro .18-- pretty cheap, I think,|
compared to the cost of bottled water in the US
|one of my faves...my mom is even a fan;|
Santa brought her two boxes this year!
When you're looking for your milk, you have refrigerated options and long lasting options. (At first I wasn't interested in the milk that didn't need any refrigeration. It totally freaked me out, but now it's just so much easier to keep some on hand since the refrigerated milk only lasts a few days.) Oh, the eggs aren't refrigerated either. Hmmmm...
|the not refrigerated section of milk-|
whole milk is blue, skim is green, part skim is pink
|my preferred choice of milk (not refrigerated) but it's|
only sold consistently at one of the three stores I frequent
You always pack your roll-y cart from the heaviest to the lightest items, so all those liquids go in first and then you meander around for the other odds and ends you need. Each store carries only some things, so maybe a 2nd trip will be needed later in the week to a different store. Over in the fruit and veggies section you must don a plastic glove and use that to bag any of your purchases. Don't forget to weigh and label those purchases though.
|directions reminding you to use a glove and then weigh your purchases; |
each item has a number that you press on the scale for the correct price
|now, lest you think the whole experience is bad...|
this whole aisle on the right is full of wine, sold by region of Italy,
and is generally 5 euro or less
Off to the cashier, which is pretty standard, except for the fact that you must bag your groceries. This would totally be no big deal in the US. Americans, for the most part, are surprisingly patient in comparison to many Italians. When you are bagging your groceries, the next person in line is practically pushing you out of the way so they can get started. And, of course, you must put the heaviest stuff in first again or everything will get squished.
|here's one load up the stairs...two more to go|
Finally, it's time to walk home. Now you're lugging the cart full of water, juice, milk and food for a week, maybe carrying a bag on your shoulder. You walk the 15 to 20 minutes home while starting to sweat, drag the cart to the base of the stairs to your apartment, and proceed to empty some of the groceries into a smaller bag. See, you can't carry the whole roll-y cart up the stairs at once. You unload the first load, rip off your coat and hat, and go back for more. So three separate trip up 28 stairs and finally your "trip to the grocery" is over.
Phew...until the next week.
Have a great expat grocery store experience? If you're American, have you ever considered leaving the car at home and doing your weekly grocery shopping on foot? I'd love to hear your stories in the comments!