Sunday, June 5, 2011

Top ten 'just different' things at European/Belgian supermarkets

As the famous saying goes, its not good, not bad, just different, there are many bad different things about Belgian/European supermarkets:

10. Cakes of chocolate are all sold in two-packs. Well, the non-fancy brands anyway. Doesn't matter if its a small block or a big block, they all come in joined two-packs. Why not just make bigger cakes of chocolate and save a lot of packaging? I don't get it.

9. People at supermarkets here are intensely rude. Like, will blatently cut in front of you and not care. Its like they can tell I am a New Zealander and will be too shocked/well mannered/unable to speak dutch/german/french to voice my outrage. And they are really snotty about those divider things that you use to seperate your stuff too. Like when there is half a metre of space between your stuff and my three closely-grouped items, I think that the checkout-chick gets it. There's no need to glare at me and trust a divider my way.

8. The packaging at European supermarkets is intense. Everything is pre-packaged. Rather than pick a handful of apples yourself, they come packaged in fours. Carrots, mushrooms, meat, fish - all prepackaged and double-wrapped and triple-sealed without enough plastic to kit out the entire population of Peru with polar fleece jumpers.

7. Inconsistently, they have an intense bottle deposit system here. They have these kind of reverse vending machines, where if you return beer bottles you save heaps, like not just a couple of cents but major money. Enough to substantially reduce your next crate of beer. Incentive to recycle or incentive to keep drinking?

6. Instead of carry baskets, baskets here have really long handles and wheels and you pull them along behind you on the ground. Lazy right? They are unwieldly and get in everyone's way, and children love to be dragged along behind them and use them as racing cars. I'm sure any one else that's tried to use those things with a kid or two in tow will agree that they turn getting a couple of things into an hour long battle with said kid.

5. The rewards systems here are old school. Remember fifteen years ago, before FlyBuys and Onecard, when you used to collect stamps and save them up to swap them for a set of plates? The biggest supermarket chain here still does that. Our house is littered with strips of those damn stamps. You're fifteen years behind us Belgium, that's sad. Maybe I should pitch an electronic card system to them and see if I can make megabucks. Although people don't even carry eftpos cards here so it might be a hard sell.

4. If you buy certain items they give you foil-wrapped packs of some stupid battle-card game thing that is way too complicated for me young kids to actually figure out, and comes equipped with stickers that small boys like to stick all over the house in locations where the baby can then peel them off and eat them when her nanny gets distracted by facebook is looking the other way. And those damn cards....there are literally hundreds of them lurking in the house, I throw them out everytime I see them, but they must be breeding or something because the baby is constantly finding them and eating them, they must be the biggest foodgroup in her diet. I swear the people that thought this would be a good giveaway don't actually own children. And to the kind people in front of us that obviously don't have kids and keep giving Arin your cards, I know you're only trying to be nice, but its about as nice as you giving me a papercut on my eyeball.

3. You need to pay a deposit to use a trolley. A one-euro deposit, that you put in this little doo-dah that chains all of the trolleys together. The first time I went to the supermarket in Germany I spent ages trying to work it out, and I still don't understand the logic behind it. Does a euro really stop people from stealing trolleys? And anyway, they make these fake euro plastic things that work too and give them out for free. Next time I get given a free plastic-euro thingy, I'm gunna steal a trolley just to prove how pointless this system is.

2. They have single beers for sale in chillers by the checkout. And not like, those refrigerator things with all the different kinds of soft drink lined up, but huge dump-bins just filled with single beers. In case you're thirsty and want to pop one open as you walk into the car park. Did I ever mention you can also buy beer with your meal at MacDonalds? Ah Belgium...

1. Belgium, and Europe, has much lower standards when it comes to acceptable queueing behaviour. Like here, people routinely get a trolley, put three things in it, line up and then run around the supermarket like a madwoman grabbing the rest of their weeks-worth of groceries while their trolley inches up towards the front of the queue and eventually everyone else has to wait until she comes running back and breathlessly apologises. Well actually only I have to wait, because everyone else has also just left their trolley in the line too. Stupid ingrained queueing manners preventing me from also saving time queueing.

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