Supermarket shopping in Bavaria: Plan with military precision and pack like you’re playing Supermarket Sweep.
Supermarket shopping in Bavaria is like nothing I’ve known in the UK. There’s a bunch of unwritten rules and a handful of things that are just plain odd to a Brit. It takes planning, good observational skills, excellent spatial awareness and a surprising amount of dexterity to escape unscathed here in Germany.
Supermarkets in Bavaria
Where do I begin…
- Plan The Shop | You’d best start by doing some meal planning. Supermarkets are generally open from 7 or 8am to 8pm, Monday to Saturday. They’re not open on Sundays nor on state wide holidays. The exceptions in Munich are Munich Airport and Munich Hauptbahnhof. These main transport hubs have shops, supermarkets and pharmacies that stay open til late and open on Sundays too!
- Plan Which Shops | I routinely find myself hitting multiple shops to get everything I want. Rewe, Edeka, Tengelmann, Hit, Lidl and Aldi are some of the main supermarkets available near Munich. You’ll probably want DM, Rossmann or Müller for health and beauty items or cleaning products though. Whilst there are some bits and pieces in supermarkets, they can be more expensive and choice is often limited. Remember you’ll only be able to get things like painkillers at a pharmacy!
- Grab Your Bag of Empty Bottles & Go Shopping | Don’t forget to take your bottles back to the supermarket and collect the pfand! (See: Recycling) Make sure to bring your reusable shopping bags (or plastic shopping crates) along as well.
The Supermarket Experience
In no particular order…
- Did They Just Steal That? | People will take their own baskets into a supermarket here and wander around the store, dropping items in before going to pay. When I first saw it, I watched amazed. The Brit in me was in shock: Are they stealing that? Why’s no one stopping them? What’s going on?
- Watch Out! It’s Bad! | Whether it’s just the supermarkets I have access to or whether it’s a common problem, I don’t know… but stock rotation seems abysmal. I’ve regularly seen employees put fresh produce on top of old. There’s no Best Before dates either on your bags of peppers or carrots. You’ve got to use your eyes and you’ve got to give fruit and veg a bit of a squeeze.
- Watch Out! You’re In The Way! | There’s very little sense of (what I would call) appropriate personal space in Bavaria. If someone’s decided they want something in your vicinity, they’ll happily push past you to get it without saying a word. They might even be irritated you were in the way, but turn around and they’ll seemingly have forgotten what they came here to do, have stopped and blocked an entire aisle with their trolley!
- Watch Out! You’re DEFINITELY In The Way! | Narrow aisles make it harder to stop and browse here – I’m almost always in someone’s way! I’ve given up on the leisurely supermarket shop… Now it’s more of a ninja move. See a gap, dart into it, have a quick glance at the shelves and move on. Of course that’s the Brit in me – because you’ll find natives are quite happy to block entire aisles and even a loud “Entschuldigung bitte!” won’t move them. Perhaps they hate my accent?
- The Queue | You’ve made it around a supermarket, got a basket full of things and have headed to a checkout. There often seems to be someone trying to push in, around or just go a bit faster. In general, patience with a queue is not a common character trait here.
- The Importance of Packing | Unpack your basket with a plan. You need to consider how you’re going to efficiently repack it into whatever bag you’re going to use. Don’t forget your pfand receipt! Paper bags, reusable plastic bags or cardboard boxes can be bought at the checkout.
- The Game Show Challenge |
- The cashier will scan and push your goods through as fast as humanly possible. It’s an Olympic sport. It’s a time trial. It’s stressful. And no, I’m not exaggerating. Have a plan. Pack quickly. All those years of playing Tetris was just training for this moment!
- As soon as the last item has gone *beep*, the cashier wants money off you. If you can’t keep up, that’s your fault. Even if you’re still frantically trying to pack, as soon as you’ve paid, the cashier will start scanning the next customers items. Yes, yours will still be there and they don’t care. Sometimes they’ll shove your things out of the way to make room!
- If you’re in the way of someone else, you’re going to know about it. There’s definitely a cultural element to this though as Germans just don’t seem to mind being in other peoples way. Though they don’t like it when someone is actually in THEIR way. I’ve lost track of the times people have stood at the till, blocking my access, inspecting their receipt as my items fly down in front of them. I’ve literally had to push in front of someone doing this so I could start packing. It feels wrong! It’s rude, it’s thoughtless, it’s impolite! It’s against my thirty years of training in how to form an orderly queue and deal with these situations!
- Payment | You can pay by card if you have one that’s accepted in store, but you’ll need to sign for it. Chip and Pin isn’t commonly used. Transactions are frequently conducted in cash. Exact change is often preferred! Hand over a large note and you’ll buy yourself some extra precious seconds to pack whilst they sort out your change.
Shopping in a German supermarket often feels like an activity you’ll want a stiff drink for. When you manage to successfully keep up with a cashier scanning items at record pace though, you’ll feel like you’re finally ‘getting it’! Don’t forget to congratulate yourself on a job well done!
Disclaimer, of Sorts: This is based on my personal experience and mine alone. Yours can and will vary, as it’s all about personal perspective, expectation and interpretation!