It’s been said that if you want to get to know a foreign land, you should observe its people in their everyday habitats. Arguably there’s no better place to do this today than at the grocery store, where tastes and eccentricities are laid bare under the unforgiving glare of strip lighting. Here we’ve compiled 40 curious things about shopping in Europe that reveal more about the continent than you’d ever have thought possible...
40. You do your own bagging – often at speed
In European countries including Germany and the U.K., you’re usually expected to bag your own groceries at the checkout, with no help from the cashier. In fact, these store workers tend to make the task even harder, by speeding through the scanning so that your purchases pile up at the end of the conveyor before you’ve even had time to shake your bags open.
39. Bread choices
With 3,000 varieties of bread to be found across the country, it seems that Germany takes its loaves pretty seriously. And the freshly baked aisle in the nation’s grocery stores is a reflection of this. Home to a vast array of crusty delights, some of the more classic offerings include the brötchen (bread roll) and the landbrot (farm bread.)
38. Unrefrigerated eggs
If you’re looking for eggs in a European grocery store, it’s unlikely you’ll find them in the refrigerated section. In countries such as Britain, France and Germany, eggs are kept on the shelf. That’s because chickens on the continent are routinely vaccinated against salmonella. By contrast, in the United States eggs are washed instead. This removes a cuticle coating on the produce, which means they need to be kept at a low temperature.
37. Chocolate-lover’s dream
It seems that many European grocery stores provide more chocolate choices for their customers than their American counterparts. For instance, the U.S. dedicates just 2.87 meters of average aisle space to confectionery, compared to 15.6 meters in the U.K. What’s more, many American ex-pats believe that chocolate tastes better than it does back home, which may have something to do with differing regulations on the products.