Navigating a German Grocery Store

One of my biggest worries about moving to Germany was how I would transition into daily life. How would I pick up my packages? Would I find a gym, friends, good restaurants, a hair stylist, a dog groomer, good shopping?

Silly as some of these may seem, it was quite a change to go from the convenience of the US to the sometimes painstakingly slow day-to-day life of Germany. I’ve gotten the hang of some of things and am still figuring out others, but one thing I’ve figured out pretty well is the grocery store!

Grocery shopping is definitely different than in the States, but I have been able to find most things I’ve needed/wanted. (Yes, I have looked up how to say something on Google and shown it to a worker more than a handful of times!) So, here’s how to navigate a German grocery store.

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Some small things to note: the grocery store (and most things) aren’t open on Sundays, so Saturdays are insane! I typically go to the store after going to the gym, in work out clothes. NO ONE DOES THIS. Even if it’s 7 AM and they haven’t showered, people do not go anywhere in yoga/work out clothes. Oh well. This trip, I went on a Saturday, after the gym, in work out clothes. The trifecta.

First things first, you grab a shopping cart. Duh. The one difference is that you have to “pre-pay” for a cart. Does anyone remember the store Biggs? It might just be a Cincinnati thing, but you put in 50 cents and that unlocks the carts. When you bring it back, you get your coin. It’s minor and has already become a habit.

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Next, you stop by to recycle your plastic bottles, cans and glass of beer. We had to do this in Michigan, too. You bring all your bottles, see if they are accepted for 8 or 10 cents return and then you get a receipt to get a “discount” on your grocery bill.

The grocery store I go to has about 4 of these and there are ALWAYS long lines. Some people stock up their bottles so they get over 50 euro back! That’s insane. This trip, I got over 2 euro.

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Even though there are multiple entrances into the grocery store, there’s only one entrance to the actual store. The first thing you see is produce. And the produce department is HUGE. The fruits are first and then the vegetables.

The biggest difference is that you, as the customer, have to weigh some of the produce. A label prints with the price that the cashier scans at check out.

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Here I am weighing my apples. The best thing, about 5 apples cost just over 2 euro! It also helps with my German, since everything is in German! Obviously.

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It certainly adds time to the trip at the beginning, but makes check out that much easier.

Next, I go DOWNSTAIRS for meat, cheese, pasta, that sort of thing. And I go via a cart escalator. I know people who live in cities will not be impressed with this, but I think this is so cool! When I lived in Chicago, one of my grocery stores had this, but the cart went in it’s own lane. Here in Germany, you go with your cart.

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The rest of the trip is basically like shopping at Kroger. There’s a cheese counter, a butcher, and a dairy section. Some random differences: a lot of milk isn’t refrigerated, there are more bratwurst available than I ever thought possible, some cheese isn’t by the rest of the cheese, butter doesn’t come in pre-sliced sticks, the tortillas are above the frozen food section and I can’t find syrup to save my life!!

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The entire top two shelves are just bratwurst. And that’s not all of the sausage! Insane.

One huge annoyance is that these stock carts are everywhere and in the MIDDLE of the aisle. I don’t remember these carts being as annoying in the States, probably because the aisles are so much bigger. You have to leave your cart, walk to go get milk and then apologize to the three people who had to move around your cart because you left it. Ugh.

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Afterwards, I head upstairs to grab some packaged foods, like Doritos that Vinn eats everyday, and alcohol.

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This is all beer on the right hand side of the aisle. If I had to guess, there are probably 8 aisles of beer. I seriously can’t figure out the order, if any. Luckily, I head to the other side of the aisle…to the wine section…more often!

The check out process is almost exactly the same as America. Except, the cashiers sit, you do your own bagging, and you have to bring your own reusable bags, unless you want to pay for plastic bags.

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And the cost? It’s absolutely cheaper here in Germany. I bought the most groceries I’ve ever bought, a bottle of run (for homemade tiramisu!), cleaning products, Brita filters and a very expensive bottle of olive oil and only spent 123 Euro! This same amount of groceries would cost over $200 in Michigan. This is the most I have spent on one trip to the store in our 6 months here.

And there you have it, it’s been 6 months and I finally feel comfortable at the grocery store. I hope you enjoyed this post about daily life in Germany.  Let me know in the comments if there are other German things you’d like to read.

What do you always buy at the grocery store? 

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