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Yesterday evening, we went grocery shopping. While there are several different shops in our neighbourhood we tend to go to the nearby Albert Heijn because it is easy to get to and we know where everything is within the store, well usually. Grocery shopping, I must admit, is not one of my favourite pastimes in the Netherlands. It is a task I identified early on in moving here, that was likely to cause me to secure a criminal record or at the very least have a minor heart attack.
Shopping in the Netherlands starts out like all other countries, you get a shopping trolley or basket (we won’t discuss the fact that you have to put a 50 cent deposit in the trolley to borrow it for your shopping adventure) and you enter the realm of food and drink. The food and drink supply is pretty plentiful, although there is a distinct lack of variety in the breakfast cereal area. However it is the checking out area that is the biggest cause of my distress.
The first thing to mention is that everything is slightly smaller so you have a shorter conveyor belt, a smaller place to handle your money and even smaller dividers. The second thing to mention is that there are no bags available, you have to bring your own along. The small selection of use-again-bags just before the cash register are for you to purchase. Meaning you are attempting to get a normal sized trolley down a smaller aisle, whilst piling your food on the shorter conveyor belt (making sure it doesn’t enter the area of your fellow shoppers) all whilst battling with your numerous bags – already you are at a disadvantage. It is probably worth mentioning here for the American readers that there is also no packing people – you pack your own bags.
So now you have managed to get your items on the belt, the shopping assistant has started to scan them and you are ready to pack them all up but here is the clincher…..you can’t!!
That’s right, you can’t pack your items because the person in front of you is still packing their items and is standing in the middle of the aisle. Now it makes common sense that the shopping assistant would slow down or even stop and wait but this does not allow him or her to get the most people through the register per hour equalling Dutch efficiency so she/he just keeps scanning.
Taking it one step further the Dutch have even invented a dividing bar which they can slide across the small packing area creating two even smaller triangle areas, in theory allowing two people to pack at once. However, you hardly ever make it to your shopping in time to do so, not to mention the turf wars that then occur as each of you grabs for your items and tries to find room for all your bags.
‘Wow that is awful’ I hear you think but it doesn’t even end there. No, no, no the Cloggies have added an extra element of irritation – as soon as your fellow shopper has cleared off out of the way and you are finally packing at normal speed and in a normal space you hear…
…and across goes the barrier smashing all your remaining food and allowing room for the next Cloggie’s food to go barrelling down.
The whole shopping experience used to have some redeeming features, such as getting to weigh and price your own fruits and vegetables (see the very funny video below – there are a couple swear words, just to warn you). However, even that has been taken away.