(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.)
Take the American shopping experience and put it on steroids….that is Dubai!! Add all the different cultures that make up Dubai and in particular their food shopping…where are the cucumbers and what is that hairy thing, or the thing that looks like it has growths. Your shopping in Djibouti sounds very sane!
I want fresh baguette delivery! Malaysia has the Roti (bread) Man – but everything is loaded with sugar and plastic wrapped. 🙁
I hear ya. First time back in the US, shopping for cereal, I just stopped, stunned at all the choices. There was no way to choose. (I still have a problem and it’s been 5 years back stateside)
I was happily forewarned by my friend who had recently been home on leave, “Don’t freak out and embarass yourself when you grocery shop because some of the stores have scanners that talk, they announce the item and price!”
Also was completely flummoxed in the enormous feminine products aisle. I had stopped by the store with a friend, so just turned to her and said, “What do you use?” Saved.
The size of things got to me, too. Everything was value size or super size. What if you just want a little bit?
I was warned before going back to the US about being overwhelmed by the grocery store or Walmart & just tended to stick to the same items & brands I bought when I used to live in the US. It cuts down on decision fatigue. The thing that got to me was the huge turnover in the stores. If you are in one area long enough to shop in the same store (like Walmart) repeatedly, they are constantly rearranging & restocking. Where does all that stuff go? Also surprising was the amount of new types of candy that came out in the just over 3 years I was away. I like the convenience, low prices & variety of shopping in the US. I missed the village community feel of the market, though. Nothing quite like it. 🙂 I can be biking & one of the ladies will call me over while she is on her way to her food stand to let me know she has papaya or something else I like to buy. You don’t get that at Walmart. 🙂
Back in the States, trying to fit in and act like we know what we are doing, so my husband and I decide to use the self check out. After setting off the flashing red light signaling our need of assistance 3 times we get asked by the store worker “where are you guys from?” Basically why can’t you figure this out? These have been around for years? Are you from Mars or something?
I have been that girl, too….simultaneously thrilled to bits and crying on the inside (from culture shock and indecision) in the anything-aisle. Seriously. Happens almost every time I walk into a store. And yes….I missssss my “drive through” markets! So much easier with four littles in tow!
Loved your post!
Last time we were in the states, I didn’t even go into a store the whole time. I knew it would be overwhelming, so I avoided it. 🙂 I’m thankful to everyone who made that possible.
About the “no drive through” part, I have a similar Russia story: a decade or so ago, when they opened the first Western style grocery store in our small town, I was overjoyed. And the older generation was dismayed. Now they actually had to walk around the store and find things for themselves. Horrors! These days, I pretty much agree with them. It’s a lot faster to run up to a kiosk or old-style store and rattle off a list, than it is to wander around in a modern grocery store and find stuff for myself.
What a strange and wonderful world we luve in! I sit here looking at a pixture of your mom picking out scarves in Djbouti, others are commenting on their varried shopping experiences in other corners of the world, and a whale breaching in the Auau channel between Maui and Molokai has grabbed my attention for the third time while writing this!
In addition to my previous comment. It occurred to me to have added that how strange it is, really, that I’m communicating all this through an inanimate object that is “deciding” for me what I’m really intending to say and how to spell it! Aloha!
Living in the US, I looked forward to my shopping experiences in Djibouti. I LOVED going to the market and having fresh baguettes every day. I’m overwhelmed by all the choices here in the US, and I was born here – I can’t imagine how it must feel for someone who has lived elsewhere and then returned. These are things that most people wouldn’t think twice about, but if I ever run into someone looking overwhelmed I will be sure to assist!
And now I’ll be dreaming about fresh baguette delivery…