Monday, June 14, 2010

Life in Austria. Part 4b. Shopping: Goin' to the Grocery

One of the biggest shocks when moving abroad is the first trip to the grocery store.
{Note to fellow Austrians reading..this is meant for fun, and although it is true, I mean no disrespect. We lead healthier, less complicated, wurstier lives here and we like it.)

What happened to the land of milk and honey and Cheetos and endless variety with wide aisles and 24-hour service??!

To be fair, they do have big supermarkets, the kind that we're used to, but they aren't close or convenient. (And, they still don't have Cheetos, Tiny Tarts or regular, shredded Cheddar.)

So, 99 times out of 100, we frequent the regular size grocery store..meaning the size of a Subway sandwich shop. (minus the turkey lunch meat..only ham)

One of my biggest pet peeves about how the stores operate is actually not even that they are only open Mon-Sat 8 - 7pm and CLOSED/SHUT UP SHOP on Sundays, but that they do their cleaning and stocking during the busiest hours and in the tiniest lanes you've ever moseyed your a$$ down.

Not kidding. Almost every time I saunter on over to the Billa, I am followed by someone cleaning the floor with a machine that looks quite similar to the one they used to clean the Houston Galleria ice skating rink following me around! on my I'm leaving some trail of grime. Can't you do this when you close at 7pm every freaking day? Why must you do it at 6 when the whole world is here scurrying to get their wurst before Austria has its 7pm grocery black out?

It's not like we've got loads of room here. I can barely fit down this aisle without my red basket crunching into the pasta bags or slammin' into someone around the wee corner.

And, can you stop following me? When was the last time you put on some deodie? I'm already nervous about checking out at lightning speed and getting glares from those behind me when I say "bankomat" (meaning...not usin' might take 2 seconds longer).

Look. I'm about as impatient as they come..and I'm quick as hell..but you people need to calm down. Mama needs a bit more time and not to feel stressed at the sto'.

And can you get a conveyor belt longer than my forearm? My bunch of broccoli and maybe my loaf of bread fits on there...there's not even room to use the little dividers because fitting more than one person's loot is out of hte question. And how come everyone buys 5 items max?

Do you people not eat or what? Or do you go to the grocery store several times a day? Why am I always the only one with a full bag? What am I missing here? And stop rolling your eyes. We are fatties..yes. And it's heavy. Maybe that's why you only get rolls and beer.

And for those of you at the grocery store at the train station (that is open late and on Sundays!), stop putting your scaffolding sh!t in the aisles and stocking stuff during mad rush hour (that would be 7pm since it's the only store open in the hemisphere).

I've literally moved your rolling scaffolding with my own rock-hard muscles just to get a thing of Q-Tips. Yeah, I saw you look at me, don't be movin' our stocking ladders, but what's a girl to do? WHY DO YOU CHOOSE TO DO THIS NOW? It's not like your overloaded with inventory (you're a freaking Exxon Tiger Mart for crying out long does it take to stock some gummi bears?)

Ugh..and don't get me started on how you can't even make it down the aisle without stopping 80 times to let people smudge past and how one time my red baskey knocked over some Pina Colada mixer. I looked for those ladies on their ladders on the next aisle over (to tell about my mess) and, of course, they were nowhere to be found. Surely the guy with the ice-rink cleaner will be around the corner in no time.

All this being said (ranted), I've adapted quite nicely. I know how to maneuver my way through and have learned that niceness and patience is not the name of the game around here. It's every man for himself. You need to butt someone out of the way with your cart? Have at it. Wanting to cut? Why not.

Just be sure to LOAD YOUR GROCERIES in your paid-for plastic bag FAST. Don't mess around. This ain't Texas.

And some crappy iPhone pics for a visual:

Be careful of innocent-seeming bottles of water...most are full of gas:
(be it mild or be it Prickelnd (extra gassy))

Hope you like paprika (bbq) or salted potato chips because you aren't gonna find another flavor:
(and 3,49 is considered Billiger! (cheaper))


Haribo has a monopoly on the candy market..hope you like gummi:

And, Milka's got a monop. on the choc.

but, you can find Mars brand choc. bars

Mayo comes in toothpaste tubes:

Regular, sliced bread is called American Toast:

This picture doesn't do it justice and this is a sub-par one, but the bread sections are outstanding. No wonder they don't want to take credit for our kinda crap Mrs. Baird's.

Again, terrible representation, but the meat sections are usually pretty delishy too. Except for those jelly rolls with stuff in them..eww. (Which I now know, thanks to my sister, is called 'Sulz')

Produce is always top-notch too and last, but not least:

Mexican section

I was stoked to find out they carried tortillas!

And that's all for my tirade today.


Amy said...

never again will i complain about not finding something at the grocery. we are very fortunate over here to have EVERYTHING available to us. I'm happy they have tortillas for you too, but something tells me they aren't going to bring you back to lupe tortilla days!

The Tulley Family said...

My guess is the stocking-during-work hours thing is due to unions/labor rules. At 6:59pm everyone is out the door, and they probably take their breaks very seriously too. So there's no other time to clean and stock.

Carolyn said...

Yes, Erin, probably very true and I'm pretty insensitive...but I swear it's always during the busiest times.

Molly said...

Carolyn- that was hilarious. I am dying laughing here at the office while I take a break from scanning my life away. That mayo looks NASTY. Get some jars, Graz. Love the comparison to the zamboni man.

Sara said...

dude I absolutely love your blog! Its everything I feel, but expressed with your hilariousness. I'm moving to Vienna next year, the finance grew up in germany and has to move there so I'm going to have experience the haribo and milka monopoly and the lack of real mexican food.

Sara said...

thats the biggest problem with that neck of the woods though, the gas water! When I go to germany I'm baffled by the fact that its not a "water water everywhere were gonna get wet" kinda thing. No water fountains. no non-bottled water served to you at the restaurant being continuously refilled! Its always that gas jazz. Eeek. In other places I see mustard in a toothpaste tube, I don't know if thats good or what?
Do you totally max on all the bread though??

Edelweiss Cowgirl said...

I am SO with you on the whole Austrian grocery store thing and every point you mentioned. The check out is so stressful that my guy and I always do our "big" shopping together - he sacks, I pay. That way no one behind us gets antsy. I have actually had people run past me with elbows flying to get in line ahead of me, but that may be a Vorarlberg specialty not experienced elsewhere in Austria. I was also happy to find tortillas and taco shells, but their salsa is, in a word, crap. Now I make my own. And boy do I bring back a lot of spices whenever I'm back in Houston on vacation!

Kimberly said...

Hee hee! I'll quickly add my Aussie gripes and maybe do my own post about it one day:
1. Close at 5:30 pm!!!
2. Meats are shared with dog food, and kangaroo and emu meats in the same rows!
3. Only crummy white cheddar
I'll think of more later but I feel your pain!

Rachel in Graz - not long to go! said...

Oh my goodness I just nearly choked on a cherry dying with laughter reading this!! Come to Germany, you get the best of Teutonic charm with a bit more civilisation (24 hour supermarkets) although they don't sell milk in the baker's on Sundays like here which I think is kind of thoughtful but they do speak proper German so I think we can forgive them that ;p I probably shop every other day for food here, more than I did in Germany but like I said, go to the market (except mid-morning on Saturday when you can't move for the pushchairs & toddlers). You can get mayo in jars but usually only S-Budget stuff. Mustard in a tube is ok, don't be scared! Coming from England, I really notice the lack of Indian & Chinese ingredients although Thai is catching on in Germany. Have you been to the supermarket on Markplatz, I think that is the winner in terms of being in the tinniest, pokiest building, I got lost in there the first time :s

ansley said...

I'm interested in the super dickmann's. What are those, luva?

Anonymous said...

You still have to live some time in Austria to understand our way of living!

Just a remark on gassy water bottles: Almost nobody needs bottled water here because you can drink the water from the tap - it is of excellent quality and has no added chemicals!

Carolyn said...

Helmut, I just told my brother in an e-mail that we don't need ice (for our drinks) because the tap water is so delicious and cold! I think when I go back to America I will be overwhelmed with choices...and miss my Leibnitz!

jja said...

Shredded Cheddar I didn't find also but a peace of it to shred by yourself what is no problem I guess...Graz is very small city, I don't know for Vienna but in Germany we have shops open till 10:00 in the evening.
To be honest I really dislike big shops full of cheap and not really healthy food, and many Germans dislike this too, that's why we have in almost every street some small shop nad many many organic shops.
Most of Germans won't use plastic bag since it is so nature unfriendly, I take my cotton bag every time with me or some basket...also don't like water with gas but there are at least 15 sorts of mineral water without - stilles wasser.

"Hope you like paprika (bbq) or salted potato chips because you aren't gonna"

Really? Pringles has so many flavoures.

"Regular, sliced bread is called American Toast:"

Because I would refuse to call this thing bread at all, it is kind of a white sponge without anything good for my body in there.

"carried tortillas!"

I rad usually on expat blogs about missing tortilla in german shops, but every single regular shop in my town has some.

Anonymous said...

how can you complain about milka, coming from a country where they sell chocolate that tastes like baby sick (=hersheys)? cheeky! also, check out the range of excellent swiss chocolate (lindt). water? as already said, the quality of water in graz is excellent, just order tap water in the restaurant (for free in most places). don't be afraid of mayo or mustard in tubes, the one you pictured is actually quite alright. tacos and crisps? you are absolutely right, although you can get some Kettles in bigger supermarkets (jja: pringles are pressed starch, nothing to do with real potato crisps) jules

Carolyn said...

Not complaining about Milka, although I don't much care for it. Just showing that Milka is the Hershey's here. Not complaining about tubes either..just showing the differences. Love me some Graz tap water...but when you are out traveling and people grab a bottle of water dying of thirst, they almost always spit it out after a big chug, not realizing it has gas. And I'm quite cheeky! :)

Unknown said...

Sounds like you are not in Kansas anymore....

atlantis said...

Hey Carolyn,
just stumbled across your blog and I'm almost falling off my chair laughing reading your grocery shopping entry! LOVE it!
And I can sooo relate to both sides! I'm Austrian, moved to Canada a few years ago. My first grocery shopping experience over here was somewhat traumatic too... just the other way round... ;)
Viele Gruesse aus Ontario,

Moriquendu said...

Crowded? Small aisles? Try the SPAR on Zinzendorfgasse (by Karl Franzens) around lunchtime. Anywhere else will look completely spacious after.

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- Carolyn