Consumer Behavior

Living in Germany: survival guide to supermarkets

Surprised by details Germans take for granted, some newcomers are shocked by the country’s supermarket culture. Here is a survival guide to supermarkets from a self-declared grocery shopping expert from Canada, who learned the hard way

There isn’t necessarily a direct translation for Germany’s numerous dairy products, so you need time to discover what they all are. What’s the difference between Schmand and Saure Sahne, Crème fraiche and Schlagsahne, Hüttenkäse, Frischkäse or Quark? And all English speakers who’ve already learned that milk is Milch in German will be astonished to find Dickmilch among those multiple options.

Amaze your friends abroad with cheap prices
The low price of a pudding (currently €0.25 / $0.30) at a discounter store created a diplomatic uproar when an Israeli anonymously posted his grocery receipt on the now-defunct Facebook page Olim L’Berlin (literally, “Let’s ascend to Berlin”), as evidence that the cost of living in the German capital was unbeatable. Israeli politicians were enraged that people would “abandon Israel for a pudding.”

Survival Guide to Supermarkets

Certain products are already challenging even if you’re able to read what’s on the package. Take coffee, for instance: is a light, dark or French roast something I should care about? What’s the actual difference between Robusta and Arabica beans? Does it matter if they come from the Peruvian Andes or Ethiopia? And what about the working conditions of the people who picked the beans in the first place — is that Fair Trade seal enough or should it be organic and Rainforest Alliance certified as well?

And then there’s the format: No one wants to end up with coffee tabs without having the right machine for them — plus, they’re bad for the environment anyway. So is there a brand of pre-ground beans that works with my stovetop espresso maker?

Useful Tips on German Supermarkets

  • Know the different kinds of supermarkets: The different categories of grocery stores in Germany can be confusing for newcomers. A few chains are actual supermarkets, while a growing number of stores are rather categorized as discounters. The “bio” markets sell exclusively organic food. If you’re planning on cooking a Middle Eastern recipe, Turkish markets are your best bet; Asian markets provide everything you need for Oriental cuisine
  • Trade variety for price at ‘discounters’: While typical supermarkets offer a wider selection of products, discount chains concentrate their offer on fewer brands and merchandise, which can make it frustrating when you’re searching for something specific. Still, the no-frills, cut-price approach has made German discount chain giants Lidl and Aldi so popular that they now have stores throughout Europe and the world
  • Bring a coin to unlock your shopping cart: Many expats are amused to discover that shopping carts in Germany are shackled to each other. The €1-coin you need to unlock a trolley probably wouldn’t stop anyone from stealing it, but that’s not the point. Rather, the euro motivates people to return the cart to its designated spot after being used. The coin — or any token of the same size — is released once the cart is locked back up again

Read more (from Deutsche Welle) at: Survival guide to German supermarkets | Meet the Germans | DW | 28.11.2018

By Itamar Medeiros

I'm a Strategist, Branding Specialist, Experience Designer, Speaker, and Workshop Facilitator based in Germany, where I work as Director of Design Strategy and Systems at SAP and visiting lecturer at Köln International School of Design of the Cologne University of Applied Sciences.

Working in the Information Technology industry since 1998, I've helped truly global companies in several countries (Brazil, China, Germany, The Netherlands, Poland, The United Arab Emirates, United States, Hong Kong) create great user experience through advocating Design and Innovation principles.

During my 7 years in China, I've promoted the User Experience Design discipline as User Experience Manager at Autodesk and Local Coordinator of the Interaction Design Association (IxDA) in Shanghai.

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