While we were in Budapest, we visited 3 or 4 grocery stores just to see if they had some fun items to bring back. Everything was well stocked – quite a relief after seeing crazy photos on the news of Americans emptying out shelves.
We got back to Stockholm, and while the grocery store in our neighborhood was basically fine, the two things that had been raided were the pasta aisle and the onions. I get the pasta, but onions? All the other vegetables were well stocked. I feel like I’m missing something.
For the first time ever, I read about an expat to Sweden who thinks Swedes are “too friendly!”
In our local paper’s letter section, a person identifying themselves as having a foreign background states:
Staff at stores, I am not your friend! Quit saying hello to me when I come up to the cash register. I am not obliged to speak to you and I don’t appreciate it. Just scan my groceries and don’t speak to me!
For the record, that’s really all they say to you at the store in Sweden. They aren’t like Americans who try to upsale or feel a need to comment on your purchases. Here in Sweden, they just acknowledge you with a hello and then tell you the total. That’s all.
Generally, all fellow foreigners I talk to complain about how cold and unfriendly Swedes can often seem. So my question is, what country is this person from where they think that a cashier saying “hello” is crossing the friendship line?
Many of us foreigners who move to Sweden like to tell stories of the horrible mistakes we’ve made in the grocery store. Two of my friends made a cake with yeast because they couldn’t tell the difference between that and baking powder.
Besides making mistakes in good and bad food products, my most memorable mistake was buying what I thought was shampoo. For one month I went around with greasy hair thinking there was something wrong with the water or air around here until I found out that my bottle that said, “balsam” translated to “conditioner.”
So when you see one of us foreigners walking around Sweden with bad hair carrying around food that you would never eat yourself, please remember how it would feel if you couldn’t read anything and hand that person the green striped milk and the decent yogurt (2 of the toughest things to figure out with a lot of trial and error).
In the months of November through April, I don’t have to rush home with the ice cream.
I was at the grocery store this morning when I noticed a new display with butternut squash. After years of seeing so many American recipes using butternut squash, it was amazing to find it for the first time in Sweden. Butternut squash is such a rare thing here that there isn’t even a translation for it. I immediately grabbed some and took it up to the counter. I don’t know why I expected things to go smoothly. My first clue should have been that I found the butternut squash display in the beer and soda section. The check-out woman had no idea what it was or how much it cost. She kept asking me what it was and I kept saying, “Butternut squash! Butternut squash! That’s what your sign says. There is no translation!” She had to ask another employee walking by who also had no idea what it was. Luckily this all worked to my advantage because he said, “oh just charge her 10 kr for it (about a dollar),” and I’m pretty sure it should have been 30 kr or more.
But this made me think about how many things I can get now in Sweden that I wasn’t able to get when I moved here ten years ago.
– Dr. Pepper – Although I’m told they tried to market it earlier, it was not succesful and didn’t show up again until 2001 and it was hard to find. Now it’s in every store, though I have never seen one piece of advertising for it.
– Pumpkins – My first couple of Halloweens, I remember it being almost impossible to find a pumpkin. I think there was one place in Stockholm where you could find a few but no one else carried them. Now all of the grocery stores carry them in October.
– Ben & Jerry’s ice cream – I think that only showed up about 5 years ago in the grocery stores and a scoop shop just opened last year. We’re spoiled now.
At the moment we’re all waiting to get our first Starbucks. They plan on opening it sometime soon at the airport. Now the airport is a bit too far to travel without a car, but hopefully this will lead to other Starbucks closer to town.
Now if they could just get some beef jerkey, rotel and velveeta, I would be all set.