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When Indians learn how to do shopping in the West - 8 Jul 15

08 Jul 2015  Vrindavan, India

Category: Western culture

Supermarket

The day before yesterday I told that an Indian man who moves to the west to be with his girlfriend or wife, has to get used to western individualism. Yesterday I explained how one also needs to be independent in other ways in the west. I would like to take this image of independence a bit further to explain another difference: the shopping experience!

Everyone who has ever been in India and a western country will know immediately what I mean. While the mall culture with huge shopping centers that contain showrooms of big companies has reached India’s cities as well, in a biggest part of the country, this is not the norm! In India, you buy vegetables on the market, and every other thing in relatively small shops that are more or less specified only on the things you are looking for.

Now you are in the west and discover that in your town, there is no daily market! Only once or twice a week you get to see those market stands and see fresh vegetables there. The rest of the days? Most people go to a supermarket to buy them! A place where you can, depending on its size, get everything else as well! Groceries and hygiene products but also clothes, household utensils, and sometimes even washing machines, and motorbikes!

Now you stand in this big place and don’t even know where to start. You are looking for a pack of dry chickpeas. Not the ones in the can – the ones that you have to cook yourself until they are soft. Where to find them? Do you remember my words about independence? Here it comes again: you are pretty much on your own here. I told you that manpower is expensive in western countries and this is true in this case once again. Unlike in India, where there are usually three salespeople on one customer in a regular shop, you can imagine a ratio of fifty customers on one employee! That’s how everything is set up for you to find your chickpeas on your own!

Read the signs, follow the aisles and look out for packages of dry pulses, lentils and Rice. Look, read labels and prices, compare yourself and finally choose. Put it in a shopping cart, push it yourself to the cashier counter, unpack the items yourself onto the belt and pay for them. No bargaining, only previously advertised discounts. In most countries you have to pack it all yourself into your bag after scanning. If you came by car, you will be the one to bring the things back to the car!

Independence!

It is the same for nearly everything you buy. Shops have huge displays of their merchandise for you to choose from, also if it is clothes or shoes. Of course there is staff whom you can ask for another size if you don’t find yours but sometimes you have to search a long time to find a staff member!

Oh yes, and did I mention that this independence goes as far as furniture, kitchen and bathroom equipment? Really, you can buy all that in big furniture houses – IKEA, to name one – and then take it home to assemble it yourself! Enjoy figuring that out if you have never used a hammer or screwdriver because in your country, a carpenter doesn’t charge a fortune!

So if you are once more lost among the aisles, staring at words written in a foreign language, trying to figure out what they could mean or despairing in front of a half-assembled shelf, searching for that screw ‘C’ that should go into hole ‘D’, remember your partner, the one person in this country whom you can always ask for help!

Another small tip for when it all gets too much for you: there are still small shops in the west, too. They are mostly in the center of town and they may be a bit more expensive but they usually have better service and often better quality, too! Spend a bit more money on organic food, enjoy a talk with a salesman who actually has knowledge about what he is selling and know that you are doing something good for your body by choosing these shops. If you can, financially, do that – it will support the local market instead of big corporations!

Enjoy your newly found independence!

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Posted By Swami Balendu

Swami Balendu

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