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Even though you are in a country with a different language, you still need to eat. And preferably have good food. One of the most frustrating experiences can be to walk around in a supermarkt (grocery store; supermarket). Different produkten (products) than you are used to, different merken (brands), ketens (brands) and – of course – a different taal (language). Also in the Netherlands. But it doesn’t have to be that way: Here is a post to help you navigate a Dutch supermarket.
The first question before even entering a supermarket is: Which one do I choose?
There are two main supermarktketens (supermarket chains): Albert Heijn and Jumbo. Apart from that, you can find many smaller chains, such as Plus. But it is likely that you will stumble upon either blue or yellow.
Albert Heijn, or AH, is the largest chain of the country by far. It is also considered the more expensive option compared to discounters such as Lidl and Aldi, or even Jumbo.
Jumbo, on the other hand, is known for being goedkoper (cheaper) than Albert Heijn, yet providing similar kwaliteit (quality) and gemak (convenience).
Regardless, all supermarkets are fine and will get you what you need!
The Netherlands has some unieke produkten (unique products) that you will be hard-pressed to easily find in other countries! For example, there is hagelslag, chocolate sprinkles that the Dutch like to put on their bread! If you love trying out new things, I can highly recommend trying these out. And – shameless plug incoming – we have done a series on Dutch foods in our Food with Alessia posts. Above is our Dutch breakfast video – of course with hagelslag! Find all Food with Alessia posts here.
Now to the biggest point of this article: The vocabulary you need in a supermarket. The Dutch love korting (discount)! And there are many ways to get it, so here are some things you find in every single supermarket.
When you enter, you can take a mandje (basket) or winkelwagen (shopping cart) – and you are sometimes required to do so. In some supermarkets, there are zelfscanners (self scanners), which you can use to scan your boodschappen (groceries), which makes the checkout faster. In others, there is a zelfscankassa (self-checkout), where you scan the boodschappen at checkout and pay – all without anyone else touching what you buy.
Browsing and offers
There are many, many acties in supermarkets in the Netherlands. One thing the Dutch love is to sparen (save, collect) points or stickers for future savings, special offers or collectibles. A great example is the rage (hype) about wuppies (weepuls) in 2006, during the wereldkampioenschap voetbal (football world cup). Albert Heijn handed out a wuppie if you spent 15 euros, and each came with a sticker. If you collected 3 stickers, you could get a megawup (mega weepul), a large version of the small ones. It became such a big hype that demand was far, far higher than supply of these wuppies!
On another note: some of those spaaracties are really useful. I bought one of my favorite knives in one of these acties!
actie – special offer
Actieprijs – special price
Weekendactie – weekend special (only valid during that weekend)
Geldig van maandag t/m zondag – valid from Monday to Sunday
Op = op – while stock lasts (literally: empty = empty)
Gratis – (for) free
Korting – discount
Combineren mogelijk – combinations possible
Kies en mix – choose and mix
Aanbieding – offer
Alleen deze week – only this week
Spaaractie – savings campaign
Bonuskaart – bonus card (free Albert Heijn customer card to get discounts)
Of course, there are some ingredients that you may care about: Whether you have an intolerantie (intolerance), allergie (allergy) or certain voorkeuren (preferences) – this list may help you.
Allergenen – allergens
ei – egg
melk – milk
kaas – cheese
boter – butter
kan sporen van melk bevatten – may contain traces of milk
gemaakt in een fabriek waar ook noten worden verwerkt – made in a factory where nuts are also processed
noten – nuts
pinda – peanut
gluten – gluten
glutenvrij – gluten-free
zonder – without
vegetarisch – vegetarian
vegan – vegan
veganistisch – vegan
100% plantaardig – 100% plant-based
vega – vegetarian (a problematic word: while vega looks like “vegan”, it most often means “vegetarian”)
gelatine – gelatin
vlees – meat
vleesvervangers – meat replacements
gezond – healthy
biologisch – organic/biological
volkoren – wholemeal
tarwemeel – wheat flour
vezelrijk – rich in fibre
zoutarm – low-sodium
verzadigde vetten – saturated fats
omega-vetzuren – omega fatty acids
rijk aan … – plenty of …
As stated above, there are the zelfscankassa’s, but also the normal kassa‘s. It is preferred in the Netherlands that you use your pinpas (debit card). But heed: Many places in the Netherlands do not support credit cards, but only debit cards, Maestro cards, particularly. Jumbo does support credit cards at the time of writing this, so that is an option there. Albert Heijn does not support credit cards – so keep that in mind!
Kassa – checkout
Zelfscankassa – self-scan checkout (checkouts where you scan what you put in your mandje
Spaarkaart – savings card
Klantenpas – customer card
Pinnen – to pay by card
Contant betalen – to pay in cash
In an attempt to reduce the amount of paper wasted on bonnetjes (receipts), many supermarkets now ask you before they give it to you whether you want it:
Wilt u het bonnetje? (Would you like the receipt?)
It will not be printed if you say no – paper saved! If you want the overview, it is of course totally fine to get it.
Spaart u punten? (Do you save points?)
Now, here you need to sometimes ask what they are. It can be nice to get some spaarpunten to save later if you stay for a longer time in the Netherlands. If not, it is save to say no: Sometimes, there are spaarpunten that actually cost money, because you can save more in the long run. It is complicated…
Supermarkets also offer other things nowadays! Some have buckets where you can hand in dead batterijen (batteries), lampen (lamps) or other electronics; Some even have a postservice (postal service) or an ophaalpunt (pick-up point) for online shops.
I hope this post helped you navigate Dutch supermarkets! Do you have additions to this list? Or other things I may have forgotten? Are there peculiarities like the spaaracties in your country? Let me know in the comments below!