Step out of your comfort zone at German grocery stores

Photo by adrianhancu
Photo by adrianhancu

Step out of your comfort zone at German grocery stores

by Julia Cahill
Stripes Europe

Shopping at the German grocery store can be intimidating. When you don’t speak the language or understand the pricing system, the idea of the commissary as a safe haven is totally understandable. The only problem is that you're missing out on one of the best parts of living in the European Union.

Don’t get me wrong. My sponsor has been stationed in Germany for three years. It took my family sometime before we were all as comfortable in a German supermarket as we were in the commissary. Once we began to shop on the economy, Germany began to feel less like a duty station and more like home.

Shopping off base versus on
The difference between grocery shopping off base and on is a direct result of the differences in food culture. Generally, it's common practice for Germans to go to the supermarket every couple of days to replenish their fresh foodstuffs due to the size of refrigerators and the lack of pesticides and preservatives in the foods. Foods like produce, bread and eggs tend to go bad much faster than in the commissary but also are unmatched in flavor and sometimes run slightly cheaper. Even though it seems like a little more work than just popping by the commissary, it's worth the extra investment of time. Going to the grocery store can be your first avenue into truly immersing yourself into the German cultural experience. 

When purchasing fruits and vegetables, make sure to check if the price is per kilogram or per Stück (piece). If it happens to be priced by weight, you may have to weigh and tag your produce in the store before you get to the register.

Normally, your bread should be identifiable by the cashier — so don’t worry about tagging it the way you might need to in the commissary.

Eggs and dairy
Eggs aren’t refrigerated and neither is milk off base; if you’re looking for either they should be near one another and the other dairy products.

Don’t forget "Pfand!" Pfand is a portion of the price you pay per most bottles or containers for the container itself. You can get your Pfand back as store credit if you bring the empty bottle or container back and put it through the special Pfandrückgabe machines. 

My final piece of advice? If you’re lost or confused, simply ask for help. There’s always someone around that knows what they’re doing, and most of the time they speak English. You might have to mime a bit if they don’t, but there’s no way to adventure without stepping outside of your comfort zone. Why not start with the grocery store? 

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