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Grocery shopping


My first trip to the grocery store left me in quite a despair, realising it would take me the entire day if I where make it on my own.

Israel has supermarkets just as we know them from Europe. Big, small, sleazy, proper, expensive and cheap ones.

You will have no problem finding what you need for your everyday life.
In spite of that, there are a few things that are different, – things that took some time to get used to, and things that we are still not entirely used to.

Let me start with the first thing that is different; the lack of customer service. In places like this, the work mentality is just different from what we know. The staff seems superficial, and not particularly interested in doing anything more than what is necessary. There is no “the customer is always right” or “smile, say hello and offer your help”.

Different mentality

Sometimes we say “let´s do this quickly, and get home before rush hour”, but it really never works. With a “no rush” policy, the lines are enormous. The workers take their time, working slowly and even checking their phone, while people are waiting. Once we waited 20 minutes to get our ground beef because the meat worker was taking a break for himself outside. He was called over the speakers several times until he finally got back to his place.

In the cashier, it is mostly woman working, and they really love to talk. We have experienced several times, packing our groceries while being questioned about our whole life story, how we met, why we moved to Israel, where we live and what we do. They especially enjoy, if they also can have a small conversation with Sela, who is never shy to give a charming smile.

So, back to my despair. I do not read Hebrew and the letters make absolutely no sense to me. Ariel can read Hebrew, but for someone who doesn’t, there are not that many products with English description.

I’ve had quite a lot of unpleasant surprises, like that time I opened what I thought would be a nice tuna salad, and then the smell tells me its crab salat with garlic.

Or when I realised the detergent I bought is actually chlorine, after the wash came out discoloured and spotty.
After some months, I was able to remember the design of the different products, and I could slowly find the things I was looking for. If I didn’t have patience before I moved to Israel, I´m for sure getting a lot of it now.

Good variety

Generally, there´s a huge variety of products in the bigger supermarkets. You have organic departments, glutenfree and sensitive food products. There is usually a large vegetable and fruit department, and the content change with the seasons.
We do our grocery shopping at Supersal, you can compare it with stores like Rema 1000, Superbrugsen, Aldi and Tesco.
Shufersal is the leading supermarket in Israel. They have fresh food counters, where you get freshly cut meat, fish, cheese and bread. The standard is high, and they also have a membership, where you can earn bonus points and get special prices on some products.

Things the Israeli supermarkets should import

In Norway, you have those 1-2-3 base-soup bags, which is really helpful when you need dinner fast. There is generally not that many “easy dinner” options, which I´m not sure is a good or a bad thing.
I might have moved to the wrong country, considering bacon is on top of my “food I miss” list. Unfortunately it wont be a very popular addition to the Israeli supermarket, considering not many people eat pork here.

I´m also 100% sure that Denmark is one of the worlds happiest countries because of its liquorice and its rye bread. At least those things made me extra happy while living in Denmark.

My favourite products from Israeli supermarkets

  • Ptitim: They look like small pasta balls. It´s quick and easy, and you can mix it with most things. And children loves them!
  • Olives: Here, olives are not just olives. You can get olives with lemon, chilli, paprika. And so many different levels of sourness.
  • Hummus: you can buy hummus in so many different varieties, chilli, lemon, paprika, to mention a few. For 12-15 shekel you have 500 grams of delicious hummus.
  • Labaneh: This is salted and strained yoghurt, a delicious thick cream, that´s often used as a spread on bread together with olive oil and Za’atar with is a popular spice in the middle eastern cousin.
  • Pita bread: In most supermarkets, you get freshly made pita bread, still warm from the oven. Pita bread is mostly eaten together with hummus and as falafel, but also as an evening snack with other spreads or meat.

Even without much customer service, going grocery shopping in Israel is always an interesting experience. Mostly because of the people you meet. I was walking with two diaper packages in my hand, and a lady comes over and says; “you shouldn’t buy those here, you can get three for the price of two in the store next door”.
People also notice that your not Israeli, and are always very curious the hear where you’re from and what the meaning behind your name is, so it sometimes makes me feel like a celebrity, which I find quite funny.

We decided to drop the expectations of a quick grocery shopping, and rather use the opportunity to have a nice evening together. When we finally get out of the supermarket after a long shopping spree, we feel that we deserve an award. Sometimes we drive by this one place where you get really tasty falafel, with loads of extra´s on the side. Sitting and enjoying every bite, you realise that it was all worth it.

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Birgitte Eisenberg

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