Monday, September 05, 2011

Temptation
















Genevans are daily shoppers it seems. With little bench space and mostly tiny kitchens, they like their bread fresh every day and purchase what they need for dinner that evening so that it fits into one shopping bag that can be carried on board the tram with minimum hassle.

Except for toilet paper, that is. These same small shoppers seem to like buying their bog rolls by the gross and I've often seen a passenger struggle to fit through the bus doors when tugging a plastic-wrapped multi-pack larger than our sofa.

Perhaps it's to reduce the public shame of flaunting one's personal brand of bathroom butt wipes to a once-a-year event.

Whatever the reason, on most occasions when I'm at Migros with my nanna cart and fold up bags I'll be standing behind someone purchasing a single croissant, two courgettes and - Whallumph! - the strength to lift and bung 144 toilet rolls on the conveyor belt.

My own method of shopping is proving to be rather difficult in this environment because I don't particularly want to spend every damn day at the supermarket and prefer to get it over and done with once a week. Or twice, if we're entertaining and want everything super-fresh.

The checkout staff aren't used to this. Nor are they used to using their arms beyond scanning each product and flinging it to their left. Don't be mistaken; I'm not expecting them to pack my bags but they're beeped through at such a rapid rate that it sees me panic slightly. An automated tennis ball machine operates more languidly than these Migros Mammas do.

I find myself bending over-and-up, over-and-up, over-and-up like an enormous pecking emu as I wildly fling everything into the nanna cart before the pile up falls over the edge. The checkout lady just sits there staring at me like I'm mildly entertaining but not actually a three-dimensional human being in front of her, sweating profusely and hearing several eggs crack in the carton when three tins of tomatoes are thrown in on top. As I'm trying to ignore the slow trickle of yolk over the half-price raspberry yoghurt six pack she'll address my arse: "Vous faire a une carte de migros?"

With sticky egg fingers I'll turn around, smile weakly at her disapproving face before wiping my hands on my jeans, rummaging around in my now pick-pocket (and Kath) unfriendly hand bag for the credit card.

Steak doesn't feature. At 60 francs a kilo and usually wrapped in single pieces we just can't justify buying it. Minced beef, I've sadly discovered, is not beef at all, but some form of hackfleisch that consists of three types of meat - one of which is usually horse. Pork gets a look-in when it's half price (26 francs a kilo) and chicken very regularly (22 francs). Proscuitto, at 9 francs per 100 grams, goes a very long way to adding flavour and interest to many meals - most of which feature a tin of tomatoes.

I'm aware that the prices are high in order to subsidise the non-sustainable swiss farming industry but can't comprehend why non-Swiss things such as shampoo, ball point pens, five-pack underpants and dog crunchies are eye-wateringly expensive as well.

And thus, this morning, I thought I'd bent-and-flung, bent-and-flung, bent-and-flung all of my groceries onto the conveyer belt before rushing to the other end to bend-and-fling, bend-and-fling, bend-and-fling them back into the nanna cart before Chuckle Trousers the Checkout Chook started catapulting the next customer's groceries into my pile when I noticed, nestled down in the dark depths of my fetching brown and pink flowery canvas cart a bottle of olive oil and three school lined writing pads.

The oil cost 6 francs and the pads 4 francs. For three very long seconds I contemplated leaving them there. Pretend I didn't see them. I'd never had my cart checked before, so why would it happen now?

But I didn't. "Je suis desolee madame," I wheezed and put them back on the conveyor belt to the annoyance of the woman behind me who'd already flopped down her vacuum sealed packet of rabbit kidneys and container of quark.

The temptation was there, though.

May the first and last time I steal anything be the last truffle left in the fridge*** and the second issue of the Official ABBA Magazine that I 'lost' after Barry H lent it to me in 1977. Sorry, Barry, but you'll be relieved to know that my evil ways are no more.




















*** it doesn't count as stealing when:
a) it is chocolate or chocolate-related
b) it's in my own home; and
c) my family are aware of my addiction.

33 comments:

Uf said...

Hi there,

as a native European (non-swiss) I really enjoy reading your blog and learning about your experiences adapting to a different country. Honestly I never realized it was *this* hard. I also never heard of Swiss-es being so snob.But I guess it figures, what with their being so on-time, so neutral and so highly polished :)

I recently came across a survey of cities ranked by quality of living and in 2010 Geneva came 3rd; but it also came 5th of the most expensive
cities for expats.
So I think the high prices reflect the very high standard of living...
At least you have breathtakingly beautiful countryside and good chocolate :)

Looking forward to hear more stories!

Hannah said...

Bahahaha!! Ghost capsicums!! Those capsicum faces are so much better than when people think they've found pictures of Jesus in their toast. For sure.

My brother did raw horse a few times in Japan, so at the very least, you could take comfort in not eating the mince raw?

*hugs*

Kath Lockett said...

Hi Uf - yep, I saw that article too about Geneva being number three on the list of the world's most expensive cities. It made our brief visit to London a couple of weeks ago one where we found things such as clothes, fares and foods very cheap!

Hannah your brother is clearly far more adventurous than me. I'm of the view that I don't need to try any more meats (in fact I'm trying to eat less) and having been an owner of a rabbit there's no way I can eat 'lapin' and horse/cheval - no way either......

Have Myelin? said...

i smiled when i saw the faces in the peppers! =) goodness i didn't know it was "THAT" hard...wow.

horse meat? i don't think so.... our friends told us about eating at a thai resturant, you get to pick your own guinea pig (to eat) and i said i'd rather have them as a pet lol. they also mentioned a shrimp dish where the shrimp are very tiny but alive and when served, they are jumping about like grasshoppers!

i'd become a vegan if i lived in thailand. LOL.

interesting post, enjoyed it very much.

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Bonjour Kath,

The checkout must be a European thing then. I've seen grown men cry trying to pack bags as their grocery is hurled at them, seemingly as if shot from a cannon.

And these women are merciless. I reckon they have a competition to see who can bowl groceries the fastest.

I also hate buying bog roll. I usually wait until it is Mrs PM's turn. Why? Because these mad women have the strength to cause serious damage with a monstrous multipack bog roll settee.

Great post.

:0)

Cheers

PM

The Elephant's Child said...

Loved the capsicum faces and then my love grew. And grew. Supermarkets are awful at the best of times. And that is without having your groceries hurled at you. Aaaargh.

Your meat stories made me soooo thankful for vegetarianism. Urk.

Jayne said...

Eeek!
I am sooooo glad I'm a vego, those meat prices are outrageous!
Maybe that's why everyone is so pale and ethereal looking over there - anaemic and lack of robust energy.
Good luck mastering the supermarket - I take it there are no deli/greengrocers/butchers/farmers markets ?

franzy said...

Just take them!
Seriously, call it a Poor Service Tax and leave it in the trolley.

Kath Lockett said...

G'day Have Myelin - we've also had springbok and wild boar offered as 'specials' in the meat section. And yet, I still unimaginatively and safely reach for the (expensive) chicken....

PlasMan you may be interested to know that as many men as women go for the 'Enough to last a year-long seige' bog rolls as well. Still, at least whilst holding such a big packet they're not able to pick their noses.

Elephant's Child if it wasn't for proscuitto I think I could rather easily become a vego over here.

Jayne there are butchers and farmers' markets but they're even more expensive. I came home with half a plastic shopping bag full of fresh fruit and veg the other day and 100 francs poorer!

Oh Franzy, I was soooo soooo tempted but it could be the slippery slide down into the never-ending cycle of shoplifting hell and addiction with me ending up as a freakish mugshot on DListed... or something like that.

Kath Lockett said...

G'day Have Myelin - we've also had springbok and wild boar offered as 'specials' in the meat section. And yet, I still unimaginatively and safely reach for the (expensive) chicken....

PlasMan you may be interested to know that as many men as women go for the 'Enough to last a year-long seige' bog rolls as well. Still, at least whilst holding such a big packet they're not able to pick their noses.

Elephant's Child if it wasn't for proscuitto I think I could rather easily become a vego over here.

Jayne there are butchers and farmers' markets but they're even more expensive. I came home with half a plastic shopping bag full of fresh fruit and veg the other day and 100 francs poorer!

Oh Franzy, I was soooo soooo tempted but it could be the slippery slide down into the never-ending cycle of shoplifting hell and addiction with me ending up as a freakish mugshot on DListed... or something like that.

Kay said...

Well I guess I'll stop complaining about the checkout chick that has to chat to everyone and is soooooooo bloody slow.......

Elisabeth said...

European checkouts are like this in my experience, too Kath. I remember a similar experience in Germany and even here in Melbourne at the city Aldi.

You have to race the teller to get your purchases stowed away in your own bag. None of the slow niceties of Woollies or Coles. We have been spoiled.

Acclimatising to a new country is ghastly, Kath. But at least you've managed to retain your sense of humour. In fact, if anything I'd say it's getting better.

Tragedy breeds humour doesn't it?

River said...

Love the capsicum faces.
I'm astonished to read that Switzerland isn't the friendly place I always imagined when reading the Chalet School novels as a kid.
Here's a tip for your groceries. When flinging items into your nanna trolley, ignore the eggs completely until last. Then place them gently on top.
I've heard that in England you have to pack your own bags too, many of my customers lately are from England, USA, Europe and they're all surprised that I pack the bags.
Sadly, I may soon become one of those "buy dinner on the day" people, cupboard space in my kitchen is quite limited. I think I will forever buy TP six months supply at a time though.

Kath Lockett said...

Kay, if they just *smiled* once in a while it'd be pleasant. CHAT would be unheard of!

Elisabeth it is getting better. I can honestly say that I feel OK now about being here. Seeing LC enjoying his work and Sapph happy at school is a huge part of that and our social circle is increasing.

River, you'd fit right in - buy small every day but bog rolls in BULK ONE DAY A YEAR. At least you'd have something soft to fall back on if carrying them got too tiring :)

Kymmie said...

I really love the way you share your stories. And it brings back memories of living in Papua New Guinea. Okay, not that much, but adapting to a new culture - definitely yes!

That picture is hilarious. Love those nasty capsicums!

xx

Baino said...

Haha . . a bit like shopping at Aldi, things fly off the conveyor at such a pace I have to take Adam with me to catch them! Don't fret, the price of meat here is eeking up there, lamb's the new lobster and steak strictly for special occasions.

Red Nomad OZ said...

OK, now I'm confused. Kitchens are tiny, but loo paper storage cabinets are clearly HUGE?? What kind of prioritisation is THAT??!!

Kath Lockett said...

Thanks Kymmie - PNG might be slightly more lawless than strict, organised Switzerland :)

Baino, I think chicken is the new lobster here!

RedNomad, I wonder if their kitchen cabinets are actually stocked with bog rolls instead of food....?

Anonymous said...

Bahahahaha I read this post just before leaving to catch the bus. There is a Migros between my flat and the bus stop. As I passed Migros a lady was crossing the street with a king sized package of loo roll under one arm and one of those collapsible carts on wheels behind her not full of food but -you guessed it- more loo roll. I briefly lost my new Swiss composure and broke down laughing. Thanks for the wonderful post!

Deep Kick Girl said...

Oh that was a great giggle.

Reminds me of shopping at Aldi where they flick your purchases onto a tray the size of a postage stamp at a tremendous rate. There I am carefully placing items into my (brought from home - god help me if I forget) shopping bag as my groceries pile up and start slipping onto the floor. I'm reduced to helpless giggles while the stoney faced check out dude (they are always dudes in Aldi for some reason) looks at me as if I've just stepped into something smelly and nasty.

It also brings to mind my two shoplifting experiences. Once when I walked out of Woolies in Jindabyne over 20 years ago with a TV Week magazine. My friend was shopping and I was reading while talking to her at the checkout and just walked out to the car with it. We were down the road in the car before I realised what I was doing. The other time was when I walked out of Wyoming Coles with a strip of those flat chocolate Santas as I was rushing around with some last minute shopping. I'd hung the strip over my arm as I was shopping and just kept walking with it.

The glamarous life of crime. I hope the Federal Police don't read this blog.

Kath Lockett said...

Thanks Anonymous - you've proven my observations correct - Bog Rolls Rule here!

Deep Kick Girl I'm sure that you're on the Interpol, FBI and ASIO lists!

JahTeh said...

Now Kath, answer the most important question, how do Swiss bog rolls compare to our Aussie rolls? As the owner of a large derriere, I'm interested.

Kath Lockett said...

JahTeh - they're thicker but not softer which sort of defeats the point of being thicker in my opinion....

ropcorn said...

What a funny photo! And really interesting to hear your perspective on the shopping habits of the Swiss. A lot of Swedes also buy those huge toilet paper packages (me too sometimes). But I just do it when it's on a sale though. And because toilet paper is so boring to buy, so I might as well buy a lot while I'm at it. :p

Kath Lockett said...

That's a fair point, Ropcorn :)

Dianne said...

In the Victor harbor Lifeline shop this morning buying vintage kitchen utensils. Told the lovely Pauline Read, serving, it was for the photography in my new food Blog,only 4 weeks old, so please visit and comment..TheCulinaryLibrary.com.....Your mum and I must be the only people on the Fleurieu who know what food blogs are, heard all about chocblog then, and you, from your mum!! Isn't food blogging wonderful? PS re your baking powder problem.maybe make your own.To every cup of plain flour add 2Teaspoons of baking powder (made by mixing 1tsp cream of tartar:1/2tbicarb:1/2tcornstarch or in any ratio of 2:1:1) Cheers kath, from Oz, Di Gramp, Hidden Valley, Myponga

Anonymous said...

love from freezing Ballarat.
if you figure out how to receive some frozen steak I will send you some.
meanwhile you will love reading this about swisse shopping from The Guardian
love, Annie

River said...

The good thing about giant packs of loo rolls is they double as extra seating, just toss a blanket over them.
@Red Nomad; if they're anything like me all those rolls get stored in the bathtub.
Of course, I don't have one of those anymore, which is why I've installed shelves on the wall above the loo.

Kath Lockett said...

G'day Dianne! I'll definitely visit your site and now that my mum knows what you're looking for, she'll be your 'champion' in helping you find it!

Ann-O-Dyne, they've been calling it 'Meat Tourism' here, where locals drive the 10km into France and buy cheap meat. No, not drugs, just red meat and bargain veges!

River, I like that idea of a cosy armchair. Not in the bathtub, of course.....

Nicole said...

Yes I see ALDI has already rated a mention here. This post transports me to times when I have shopped at ALDI and am terrified at the speed with which they throw things at you.

Kath Lockett said...

Nicole, add a Nanna cart that you need to double over and into to pack and a total lack of understanding of French and you'll arrive at my twice-weekly 'challenge'. I'd like it to be once-weekly but one filled-to-the-brim nanna cart does not quite feed all the habitants of Chez Lockett for seven days.

Anonymous said...

Found your blog while bloghopping through some other expat blogs - and stayed to read as my brother-in-law is also an expat in GVA. This story made me laugh so much: it is SO spot on! We were zapped the first time we saw the speedy checkout in Migros, when we visited - we live in the US, know no French at all, and Swiss prices just about had us catatonic, so you can imagine the Migros ladies' scorn!

M

Kath Lockett said...

Thanks Anonymous or M - don't be a stranger :)