Saturday, March 16, 2013
Grocery Shopping as a Cultural Excursion...or Something Like That
When I moved to Germany, I thought that this would be a great opportunity to learn more about German life and culture. I had come over as a tourist about five times before and was keen to learn more about everyday life. The cool other thing I didn't realize, however, is that I would also learn more about life in other countries and I would also share knowledge about life in the US with non-Germans.
I have been hanging out with a very nice couple from the UK and we have been going on many fun adventures around town as well as farther afield. We've had fun comparing notes about living in Germany; it's nice to meet some people who are in the same boat of adjusting to life in a foreign country.
We have also been sharing information about our own countries. I've lived in England before, so I have a basic feeling for it, but my friends haven't been to the US before. They had many questions for me, which I mentioned before. I told them about many of the "fine" US "delicacies" (very tongue in cheek here, of course!) including green bean casserole and Cool Whip.
Since seeing is believing, I invited them to join me and visit the commissary on the military base. A substantial percentage of the groceries is American products. My friends aren't eligible to buy anything at the commissary, but they were allowed to visit with me.
I laughed when they immediately gravitated to the peanut butter. That is something that's difficult to find in German grocery stores and people don't eat it much here (they seem to use Nutella, a hazelnut/chocolate spread, instead) so I don't think my friends run across it in the grocery stores off base. My friend was impressed at how many varieties the store sold.
I showed them Cheez Whiz in a can. They were so surprised by it that I bought a can for us to eat as a snack later. It's completely frightening to me, even though I grew up seeing it on the grocery shelves (and it even showed up in the house once in a while). I hope I don't take several years off my friends' lives by feeding them such a processed "treat" ;-)
We moved on to Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup, which is a very necessary ingredient for the typical American Thanksgiving dish, green bean casserole. We all agreed that even the promotional picture of the soup didn't make it look the least bit appetizing. I personally think that the finished product of green bean casserole isn't that good, either.
When we reached the freezer section, I showed them Cool Whip, which apparently isn't available in the UK. My friends also noticed some mint chocolate chip ice cream, which they have been pining for. Usually just mint ice cream is available here, so I bought a container for us to enjoy later (but maybe to eat at a later date from the Cheez Whiz; I could only imagine the stomach ache such a combination would induce!).
I was out of diet root beer so I picked up a case of my favorite brand, A&W, which I am so glad that the commissary carries. I try not to drink pop often but I do love a root beer here and there. Root beer is not available in German stores and most Germans don't like it when they do try it. Some have said that it tastes like "Mundwasser," or mouthwash. On our way home, I offered some root beer to my friends. One friend drank it before when she visited North America, so she happily accepted a can and offered a sip to her husband. I wish I could have recorded his expression; he thought it was awful. When I told him that some Germans have said it tastes like mouthwash, he heartily agreed. Man, I wish I could find mouthwash that tastes that awesome!
Isn't it funny how something that we're completely accustomed to can be completely foreign to someone else? I've always found it really enjoyable to share and enjoy differences, as well as similarities, with my friends from different countries, and this grocery store visit was a good way to do that.