One thing which I was sorely unprepared for when I came to Spain was what I term “the supermarket experience.”
I had naïvely assumed that shopping here would be the same as back home, but no, I was very much mistaken. And I found this out the hard way (namely, through trial and error and total humiliation).
What, then, are some of the defining characteristics of supermarket shopping in Spain?
1. Granny trolleys are EVERYWHERE
Whilst the granny trolley is an object of derision in many parts of Australia, in Spain, it seems to be perfectly acceptable to take your carrito to the shops. In fact, they even have a little space at the front of the supermarket where you can lock up your precious trolley, lest anyone want to steal it.
2. The fruit section is an absolute minefield
Beginners BEWARE! The fruit area is not for the unwary. First, you must ascertain if the supermarket is full service or self-service. If it’s full service, you tell the fruit person what you want, and they will select it for you, and put it in a bag.
If, however, it’s self-service, you have to choose and bag the fruit yourself.
“Great!” you may say. “Too easy.” Aah, but it isn’t…
For a start, touching the fruit with your bare hands is not acceptable. Rather, you have to don a pair of plastic gloves. One of my Spanish friends, who is very concerned about wastage and pollution, bucked the trend, and picked up some fruit with his hands, only to be soundly abused by a fellow customer for being dirty and unhygienic. You have been warned…
(Aside: I trust you’re enjoying these photos! I had to try and surreptitiously take them when I was shopping, and hope that the security guard didn’t see me…)
Second, in contrast to Australia, you need to weigh and price the greens yourself. This is an easy process- there’s scales everywhere, and you just enter the code for the stuff you’re buying, and attach the sticker which is printed out. But I didn’t know this at first. So I was going to the checkout with my fruit unstickered, and being told “no.” Eventually, a checkout clerk took pity on me and showed me what to do, but if she hadn’t, I would still have been taking my unstickered apples to the counter in vain.
Third, when you’re queuing for your turn at the scales, you need to be careful of a particular type of queue jumper. These individuals are elderly ladies, who look innocent, but who are demons incarnate. Their modus operandi is to feign disinterest, and then suddenly leap to the front of the queue when they think you’re not watching. Because they’re elderly, you think “Oh, poor old thing! I’ll let her go in front.” But seriously, this sort of queue jumping is NOT on!
The most intriguing aspect of the queue jump is that these ladies know EXACTLY what they’re doing. Today, one “tried her moves” on me, and I refused to budge. She just shrugged her shoulders, and waited. But if I’d let her go in front, she would have taken her chance, make no mistake.
3. At the checkout
In contrast to Australia, in Spain it is the customer who does the bagging, not the shop assistant. So don’t just stand there, looking stupid, while they are scanning the items and chucking them to the side. This is your cue to start piling your stuff into your bags.
Well, there you have it. Now you have no excuses for not knowing what to do!