It has been almost a month since I moved to Sweden and in my opinion, going to a supermarket in another country is truly a cultural experience, because it’s different everywhere!
You can have a rough idea what’s is eaten in that place and it helps if you don’t speak the language very well, at least it helps me to memorise much quicker the names of stuff that I didn’t learn in the classroom.
In Portugal – where I’m originally from, if you haven’t noticed – the supermarkets are massive and you can find pretty much everything. There’s a lot of variety and the vegetable, meat and fish areas are huge, there’s also small ones with basic daily products but even though those ones are quite big, so I can tell you that my standards are quite high.
When I moved to London the supermarkets are much smaller and the fish area was… let’s say, not the best. Basically, they were okay and you have Whole Foods, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer which compensates for the rest, at a higher price tag – the main point is that I noticed a big difference!
Now, when I moved to Sweden I didn’t notice a big difference – apart from the fact that I can have Bechamel sauce in my life again!– I haven’t fully explored all the big supermarkets but the smaller ones have pretty much everything that I need, there’s still not a big variety as back home but these are small supermarkets.
The main differences were the experience itself. If the supermarket is packed, reserved Swedes seem to transform into full HULK mode and just elbow everyone without apologizing, which I was quite surprised with! Otherwise it’s okay, the “minimal social contact” comes into place.
There’s a paper ticket queue for everything (not only supermarkets) i.e.: you arrive at the deli area, take a paper ticket, wait for your turn, which is the same in Portugal. In the UK these are not used and you just always wonder if someone has just gone in front of you.
Swedes love tubes! Tubes of salmon paste, cod paste, cheese paste… you name it! They have proper stands for all the tubes and it looks quite funny, all the tubes hanging!
Every supermarket has the colourful wall of lösgodis, Swedes love sweets and they really know their stuff, the candy is amazing here! Thank you Sweden!
The aisles with all the yogurts and fresh items have glass doors so you don’t freeze, this is so clever… Winter in Sweden is tough and of course no one wants to freeze inside the supermarket as well as out!
Cheese is a serious business here. I thought Britons were mad to have so much different types of cheddar, the good thing here is that they have different types of cheese in general!
The cashier doesn’t bag your groceries – they don’t do this in the UK but in Portugal it has become common practice recently – and expects you to place most of the items in the conveyor belt with the barcode facing the scanning machine… I know right? Swedes are extremely organised and they expect you to be as well. This is a skill I’m still learning because I always mess it up!
There’s no chit-chatting, don’t expect the cashier to chat with you about the weather. They greet you, scan your groceries, you pay say thank you and that’s it. Some people might find it rude, I just find it professional as no one wants to be waiting in the queue while you chat about the weather!
Also, speaking of queue there’s something that I’ve never seen anywhere before, the conveyor belt after your shopping been scanned has a bar that divides it in two. So, you can bag your groceries with no rush! The cashier will control it so the next customer will get their groceries on the other side.
Hope the picture makes any sense!