(for more about shopping in Djibouti, read 11 Ways Shopping in Djibouti is Totally Different at Babble)

Toddler-sized Peeps. Um…gross. Just gross. Has anyone ever actually bought one? Wait. Don’t answer that. Okay, so it is a stuffed peep, not an edible one. But I wouldn’t be surprised…I did see a 10-pound gummy bear. Edible.


Cereal aisles. Way, way too many choices. Give me generic Corn Flakes vs. generic chocolate rice krispies and I can make a choice faster than greased lightening.

No drive-through produce stalls. You mean I can’t just pull up alongside the Cub Foods and shout my order to the nearest man? He won’t bring me my fruits and veggies? Darn it.

All that pressure. Sales! Coupons! You need more, more, more! Except that I don’t, don’t, don’t but get sucked in anyway.

Bread comes from the store. In a plastic bag. The United States might have ice cream truck delivery, but we have fresh baguette delivery. Three times a day, to the sound of a honking bicycle horn, men hawk fresh baguettes up and down our block.

All that pressure. Be this skinny! Look this good! Massive photos outside clothing shops of hopelessly skinny, young, beautiful people.

Too many cards. Credit cards, Panera cards, Starbucks cards, Express cards. If I took every deal card offered I would have to carry a suitcase to the mall.

Can’t open the box. What if I only want one Oreo? I really can’t open the box and just take one? I have to buy the whole box? But I don’t want it all and if I buy it, will probably eat it all.

White noise. There is some kind of bizarre hum in grocery stores and malls, the dental office music, the muffled conversations. It has a manufactured kind of feel and after a few hours enveloped by it, real world sounds like birds and wind and normal voices seem fake.

Silence. Shopping in the US is not silent (see above) but the check-out counter is. The Target cashier doesn’t care that you just picked your kids up from boarding school. Doesn’t shake their hands and welcome them home. Doesn’t ask where you’ve been if you don’t stop in for a few days. You don’t ask about her studies or her new hairstyle. The conversations at a Djiboutian check-out counter might slow down the process but they increase my enjoyment of it.

Full disclosure? I do shop in the US and I actually do enjoy it most of the time. Like every two years sometimes. And I do enjoy the things people shop for and ship to us, like peanut butter and running shoes. So I’m not knocking the entire experience. I also shop in a western-style grocery store in Djibouti but not all the time. I’m just sayin’ American shopping culture can be a bit overwhelming and over-stimulating for this market-shopping expatriate.

(And these are all excellent reasons for Americans to please help us traveling moms when we return to the US and need to go to the store. I have been that woman crying in the grocery store. Sent on a ‘quick’ errand to pick up chips. I thought it would be easy. Heeelllloooo American chip aisle! No easy choices there at all, amiright? I am eternally grateful to the woman who saw me, recognized me, and asked if she could help. She put three or four bags of chips in my arms and sent me on my way.)