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Old 15.01.2020, 13:18
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The Swiss Sport of Grocery Shopping

Greetings all! I My name is Brett. I am an ExPat from the USA now happily living in Switzerland. I am truly enjoying the transition to Swiss life and discovering all the nuances of the culture and people. I wanted to share my thoughts on some of my experiences with a dash of humor. In my first attempt, I believe too many missed the tongue in cheek commentary on things that I have found interesting, fascinating or a little frustrating in learning and adapting to life here. So as a precursor to this next bit of sharing, a few thoughts.

I am an American. That does not make me America. You donít know me, but hey, I could use some friends here, so feel free to ask my views on things.
I am truly enjoying building a new life here with my Swiss wife and our toddler son. We have no plans to go anywhere else.
I am far more interested in your experiences (funny, frustrating or just plain factual) than I am in having you pass judgement on my own. But hey, Switzerland is a free country. Have at it if you wish.

THE SPORT OF GROCERY SHOPPING

Grocery shopping in Switzerland is not for the faint of heart. In fact, it could be considered a contact sport. In my past shopping experiences I came from the land of aisles the size of highways where carts were not combat vehicles and, for the most part, (except in WalMart!) people followed unwritten rules of leisure and southern politeness. I have found grocery shopping here much, much different.

I have to say I love the idea of shopping everyday, buying just what you need and living a lifestyle of far less waste. But there should be a handbook to this way of living. Here are the things I would include for someone who is new to Swiss shopping:

Always carry coins. The real deal. The ones made from metal that people in the United States forgot about ages and ages ago, except for the occasional tooth fairy visit. Coins in Switzerland area a necessity for life, especially when shopping. You need them to park. You need them for the cart. You just generally need them. And the right ones. Not the little gold ones. They arenít much help. The 1/2 franc ones are good, but I usually confuse those with American dimes and forget their worth. The big ones are your friends. That whopper 5 Franc and its smaller brother the 2 Franc, keep those around. The 1 Franc is the stalwart, always there, always useful, day in day out dependable guy to have. All in all, CARRY COINS!

Swiss grocery aisles are narrow. The carts are not. And both cart and human movement can be a contact sport. One that I believe the Swiss are well trained in from youth. There are rarely spoken words, such as Ďexcuse meí, or Ďpardon meí or Ďmay I please get through?í. There are well placed nudges, intentioned bumps and even the occasional linebacker like shove. I was shocked at first by what I considered exceedingly rude behavior. How dare you bump into me without saying a word! I was mortified when someone would step right in front of me to grab something off the shelf. I thought my Southern American grandmother would roll over in her grave if she saw how people moved with disregard to gentile manners of personal interaction. I even had one, kind looking but very serious older woman put her hand on my cart and shove it because she didnít think I was bagging fast enough. But what I have learned is that the Swiss just donít dally. In this country there are often a lot of people in tiny spaces, like the grocery store, the train station or even most recently, Christmas Markets. And they are not necessarily rude. They are efficient. And efficient means, get it done. I can respect that. Now that I understand that shopping is a combination of American football, bumper cars and the Maze Runner, I will train my young son in the necessary skills!

Always bring a bag. A good bag. A bag that can carry things. Things you donít want to juggle. Because when you daily shop things come in smaller sizes. More than once in the early days I forgot to bring a bag. I vainly tried to balance and carry my 7-10 items from the register to the car under the bruising or sometimes sad ( that poor fool) looks coming from those around me. I now keep several bags in the car at all times now!

Put that little bar onto conveyor after you have placed your items. This is one of those unwritten but highly important rules. I have been chastised in various Swiss dialects, encouraged, and even guided by one very kind old lady to put that little divider bar down. It is like an international boundary line. It says, This is my stuff. Mine. All mine. In this space. Between that bar and this bar. I own this little piece of Switzerland right now. Stay out. I want to say that I have grown. I am now very good at bar placement. I have even found myself adopting that, you really should know better look when the person in front of me forgets. I AM LEARNING!!

So even in the small daily activities like shopping there are lessons to learn, unwritten rules to discover and employ, and joys to be found in accomplishment. Eight months in, I usually carry coins, almost always have a bag, brace myself for impact and shop with a smile! Gotta go, Iím off to Migros!
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Old 15.01.2020, 13:21
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Re: The Swiss Sport of Grocery Shopping

Are you just posting your blog here?
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Old 15.01.2020, 13:37
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Re: The Swiss Sport of Grocery Shopping

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CARRY COINS!
Get thee a cart token.

The token even comes on a handy keychain, so you always have it to hand.

Just pop by the Coop customer service desk, they are free for the asking. (I don't shop Migros, but I would guess they might have something similar.)

The token fits in most carts, except some of the 'side slide' type, for instance Hornbach.

No need for so many coins.

You're welcome.
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Old 15.01.2020, 13:41
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Re: The Swiss Sport of Grocery Shopping

Aisles are narrower here as people in general are not as FAT as in US... so they can still fit next to each other!
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Old 15.01.2020, 13:44
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Re: The Swiss Sport of Grocery Shopping

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Get thee a cart token.

The token even comes on a handy keychain, so you always have it to hand.

Just pop by the Coop customer service desk, they are free for the asking. (I don't shop Migros, but I would guess they might have something similar.)

The token fits in most carts, except some of the 'side slide' type, for instance Hornbach.

No need for so many coins.

You're welcome.
Exactly. I keep a plastic one in my wallet, rarely carry coins. I own a cheese shop and not many of my Swiss customers carry or pay with coins. Often, when someone has a bill from me for 19.00, they will give me a 20 and tell me to keep the change as they don't want coins!
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Old 15.01.2020, 14:10
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Re: The Swiss Sport of Grocery Shopping

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Are you just posting your blog here?
What ever, I'm enjoying it.

When they shove my cart at the check-out, thinking I'm too slow - I just shove it right back. It keeps the security distance to me typing the credit-card number into the thingy.

As to the divider at the check-out, I have developed my own rule: People have to put it after their goods. So if one doesn't, they have to deal with having to pay for some of my stuff.

Wheeling your cart through the shop is not all that much different from driving in Switzerland, is it? Except in the shop it is not right before left but ladies and elderlies (those should not be grouped up, should they ) first.

The missing free bags were stopped before Greta. Just saying.

I notice you have not experienced the someone running off with your cart moment or finding all kinds of items in your cart you would never, never eat.
The first one is very annoying when you have almost finished a very big shopping spree and you can't find for the live of it find the person who took your trolley. They could be found at the check-out though, spotted by their surprised faces.
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Old 15.01.2020, 14:58
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Re: The Swiss Sport of Grocery Shopping

Hi. Not a Blog. Just thoughts on things I have learned since moving here. Things that I would have found helpful and interesting when I was a new arrival.
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Old 15.01.2020, 15:01
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Re: The Swiss Sport of Grocery Shopping

I find a lot of dallying at the checkouts here.
It’s like they’re somehow surprised that they actually have to pay for their stuff and pack it away somewhere to allow the next customer to get in with theirs.
They only start fumbling for their purse or wallet once the cashier has told them how much it is and they take ages to extract their loyalty card and then find the right money. Once all that’s done they carefully put their receipt and coupons away, replace purse or wallet in the appropriate place and only when all that is done to their satisfaction do they start to think about picking up their groceries.

It can be a painfully slow process.

Last edited by Belgianmum; 15.01.2020 at 16:06.
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Old 15.01.2020, 15:09
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Re: The Swiss Sport of Grocery Shopping

I can't say I've ever found significant differences in supermarket etiquette between Switzerland, its European neighbours or even the UK and US. OK, the US has yet to catch on to the whole coin/token for your trolley thing, but that takes about one shop visit to work out and is hardly a big deal, is it? You can always ask in the shop and they'll give you a little plastic or metal token, which will work at most other shops too.

Yes, the bigger the shop the more space you have, both in the aisles and at checkouts, and that can make the whole experience more relaxing, but that varies just as much between the big Co-Op 15 minutes drive away and our local Volg in the village as it does between those countries.

People are pretty much the same everywhere, IME.
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Old 15.01.2020, 15:15
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Re: The Swiss Sport of Grocery Shopping

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I find a lot of dallying at the checkouts here.
Itís like theyíre somehow surprised that they actually have to lay for their stuff and pack it away somewhere to allow the next customer to get in with theirs.
They only start fumbling for their purse or wallet once the cashier has told them how much it is and they take ages to extract their loyalty card and then find the right money. Once all thatís done they carefully put their receipt and coupons away, replace purse or wallet in the appropriate place and only when all that is done to their satisfaction do they start to think about picking up their groceries.

It can be a painfully slow process.
Or... they painstakingly pack away their purchases while the cashier and the rest of the queue wait for them to hand over their cash or pay by card.

Having said that, I was in Morrisons in the UK on Xmas Eve and the woman in front of us handed over about 427 coupons before paying, saving about £1.20 on her pre-xmas shop.
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Old 15.01.2020, 15:16
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Re: The Swiss Sport of Grocery Shopping

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Are you just posting your blog here?
I don't mind these wordy posts, with adequate punctuation and a bit of humour. It beats the threads from USER NAME WITHHELD containing neither humour, information, insights or any point at all with the exception of letting him air his mental diarrhea.
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Old 15.01.2020, 15:21
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Re: The Swiss Sport of Grocery Shopping

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OK, the US has yet to catch on to the whole coin/token for your trolley thing, but that takes about one shop visit to work out and is hardly a big deal, is it? You can always ask in the shop and they'll give you a little plastic or metal token, which will work at most other shops too.
.
I'm thankful for the use of this system, it prevents the US experience of trying to find parking spaces only to find they contain an empty trolley. Those extra 20 steps to move it into a rack are 20 too far for most people, the same people who probably complain that there's no parking close to the store because of trolleys left everywhere, or are they carts?
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Old 15.01.2020, 15:27
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Re: The Swiss Sport of Grocery Shopping

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Hi. Not a Blog. Just thoughts on things I have learned since moving here. Things that I would have found helpful and interesting when I was a new arrival.
You made me laugh...You go, you! So much enthusiasm. A way to wake up a sleepy midweek EF afternoon.

I am not a big fan of shopping, at all. Zip in a small local Denner almost daily for fresh veg/fruit and dairy, done in a few mins. Try it, it is so much more enjoyable! I'd say in general, shopping is not a favorite past time here as it is in a consumer driven society like in the US. People get done and bust out, ski, go for a run.

How are you doing on hobbies?

Eta - aaah, just saw them. Good for you.

PS - maneuvering a backpack in public transport is like maneuvering a cart in Migros. You'll nail it before you know it.
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Old 15.01.2020, 15:42
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Re: The Swiss Sport of Grocery Shopping

"I am now very good at bar placement."


Sir, mind the bitterness around, you made me laugh!
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Old 15.01.2020, 16:01
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Re: The Swiss Sport of Grocery Shopping

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I find a lot of dallying at the checkouts here.
Itís like theyíre somehow surprised that they actually have to lay for their stuff and pack it away somewhere to allow the next customer to get in with theirs.
They only start fumbling for their purse or wallet once the cashier has told them how much it is and they take ages to extract their loyalty card and then find the right money. Once all thatís done they carefully put their receipt and coupons away, replace purse or wallet in the appropriate place and only when all that is done to their satisfaction do they start to think about picking up their groceries.

It can be a painfully slow process.
I sort of like it, life here is not as hurried as in the Netherlands.
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Old 15.01.2020, 16:03
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Re: The Swiss Sport of Grocery Shopping

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I sort of like it, life here is not as hurried as in the Netherlands.
I always felt it was the other way around.
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Old 15.01.2020, 16:06
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Re: The Swiss Sport of Grocery Shopping

I don't think CH shopping is all that different to UK shopping. Though buying food every day is one of the hell circles.

Can't find the image of a Toblerone being used as a checkout divider. V amusing.
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Old 15.01.2020, 16:11
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Re: The Swiss Sport of Grocery Shopping

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I sort of like it, life here is not as hurried as in the Netherlands.
I don’t mind it either but it is rather at odds with the OP’s observations.
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Old 15.01.2020, 16:12
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Re: The Swiss Sport of Grocery Shopping

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I don't mind these wordy posts, with adequate punctuation and a bit of humour. It beats the threads from USER NAME WITHHELD containing neither humour, information, insights or any point at all with the exception of letting him air his mental diarrhea.
Agreed, OP, it is nice to read a well written post, even from native English speakers often they are so badly written. I guess for the Europeans here (and especially the Brits) for some your essays might come across a little as "why is this not like America!" to which often the reply is "you're in Kansas anymore Dorothy".

But just carry on, sometimes it's nice to read something about this country from a newbie to remind us that in some cases, this country is sometimes a bit different. Even if I find personally, it's not as different as your posts suggest you find it
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Old 15.01.2020, 16:53
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Re: The Swiss Sport of Grocery Shopping

You need to come and experience the posh parts of Switzerland! I saw once in Manor a woman who had hired some poor guy who was carrying a giant crate of every luxury item she was selecting, from Caviar to whole lobster...
Why couldn't she get a trolley? Perhaps she thought some of the fur of her fur coat would get caught in the coin slot or something?


As for the checkout, I hate it when people are pushing their items, crushing yours in the process, when there is obviously no space left on the conveyor. I once took the "next" bar (or, it sounds so much better in French: "client suivant"!), put it right under the nose of the rude guy behind me and said: "See this, it shows you have to stay behind it!" and proceeded to let it slide on the floor at least 5 meters back!! Some Swiss were actually laughing, he didn't say anything, probably too shocked by my rude behaviour.
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