Since arriving in Vienna exactly one year ago I have learned that simple every days tasks one does without thought can be entirely different in a foreign country. Grocery shopping. We all need groceries right? Since driving a car is not necessary here I now happily own a shopping cart that I fill up 2-3 times a week (FYI fridges in Europe are teeny tiny… I’ll get to that later). The wonderful thing about Austria is that the food is so fresh that the shelf life is often just a few days. The not so wonderful thing is that you need to return to the grocery store many times a week to restock. Grocery shopping here is serious business. People come with their lists in hand and waste no time. The art of mastering grocery shopping is to navigate the narrow aisles, price your own fruits & veggies with the sometimes difficult to understand scale machine and know when to yell out “open another cash please” when the check out line is very long. Once you are ready to check out you better have on your racing gloves & have your cash ready. The person at the till gets paid by the number of people they check through so these super grocery clerks scan your products at warp speed. They don’t care that Granny ahead of you is still putting her change in her purse and blocking up the little space you have to load your groceries. The people behind you “eye” to make sure that you are not wasting their time too. Total €17.59 and before I reach into my wallet to hand her a €20 note she has already anticipated my “move” by having the exact change ready. To be unpredictable sometimes I wait until the cashier has her change in hand before I announce I’d like to pay “bankomat” (direct payment/interac). I can’t help but chuckle at the annoyed look I get as she returns the cash to the till. This at least buys me more time to put my groceries into my cart.
Oh and the Viennese are notorious to “butt in” line. They seem to all own the “me first” concept (a 4-way stop sign would NEVER work here in Vienna) and feel that they are always rightfully next to check out. If you lose focus, even for one second and for example smell the flowers located beside the conveyor belt… whoosh.. next thing you know they are dumping their groceries in-between yours and the person ahead of you. Seriously. At times like these I have learned to shed some of my “polite” Canadian traits and have fought back. Don’t mess with me lady. Get to the back of the line
before I kick you in your schnitzel.