Thursday, November 27, 2008


In the United States, if one wants to buy fruits or vegetables, one goes into Kroger and buys the exact quantity of whatever produce they want, takes it to the cashier or to the self-checkout computer, and leaves. If someone buys one apple or a bushel, no one usually says anything, although if one buys one lettuce leaf he might get weird looks or a comment. The point being is that no one is really involved in your grocery buying process. No one criticizes it or is concerned with it except for you and whomever you are with.

Not so in France! Here, the seller and the customers in the store are likely to be very curious about what you are buying, especially if they don't think that what you are buying is what they think you should be buying. The fruit seller will often ask me what I am going to use the produce for, which is nice, because then he picks out whatever is best for my purposes. I appreciate that very much. He or she (they are husband and wife) always picks the best and the ripest fruit, whereas at Kroger I am all alone in this endeavor.

But sometimes, the questioning gets a little nosy and sometimes frustrating, simply because I do not have the vocabulary to deal with it, and I am wondering if they are asking me so many questions because I have done something offensive! For example, the other day, I went to buy some spinach and tomatoes to put over a pasta dish. I knew exactly how much of everything I wanted. I asked the fruit seller for just a little bit of spinach, so she pulled out an amount and I said that it was fine. Apparently, she thought I needed more, because she said, "You know that it shrinks when you cook it, right?" And I said, yes, of course. "So don't you want more?" I said no, that was enough.

Then the other customers started getting involved. There was one lady in particular who began rapidly explaining what happens to spinach when it is cooked (and they didn't even know I wanted to cook it!). She waved her hands and made noises, trying to get her point across. I told them that I know, but that it was for a recipe, and that I don't have a refrigerator in which to preserve spinach so I just have to buy it in small quantities! They replied that it didn't matter, spinach shrinks when it is cooked, so I should buy more.

Finally I made it to the cash register with exactly the amount of spinach that I wanted, two tomatoes, and a red pepper. And ran as quickly as I could from that place!

We come across this sort of thing a lot. I think sometimes people think that because we're Americans, we don't know what we're doing. Okay, to be fair, that is probably true half the time. But when it comes to things that we have in America, like fruits and vegetables, I'm pretty confident! I guess in America there are so many people who do things in so many bizarre ways that we don't even think to ask why someone would want a small quantity of spinach, or why Kylie leaves her face makeup on when going tanning, or why we don't change out of hoodies and t-shirts to go shopping. I guess for people who have been to Waffle House or Wal-Mart past a certain time of day, nothing is going to seem odd.

I've never been to New York City, but I read an article once that said that the people are rude to others there because they are treating them like family. Family members don't let family members cut in line or take too long in the bathroom, they are curious about what others in their family are doing, etc. I think it might be the same way in France. They are just more involved in the lives of other people. Sometimes that can be frustrating because it's not something I have ever experienced or that I understand very well, but in other ways I really like it. It makes you feel more involved in the community and that you're not just a little phantom that floats into the grocery store and floats out unnoticed. Sometimes it is a little intimidating to think about going shopping for anything because I never know what sort of criticism I'll face, but when in France, one's gotta suck it up!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! There's so much that I'm thankful for today. Eat lots of pumpkin pie for me!

No comments: