Friday, February 10, 2012

Grocery shopping in Switzerland

The day after we arrived in Geneva, we went grocery shopping.  It just felt strange - on top of the massive jet lag, to find very few of the things that I was used to seeing at grocery stores in the US. It seems wimpy to say you have culture shock in a wealthy, modern country like Switzerland, but I think there was definitely some of that.

I no longer feel strange in the grocery store, I'm used to the experience now, but here's the things that bug me:
  • Grocery stores close at around 7 pm, and are closed on Sundays!  This is really inconvenient - you can't just shop whenever you want.  Plus, on Saturdays it's really crowded since most working people  do their shopping then.
  • Expensive!  It's amazing how expensive things are here.  Meat, for instance - probably 3 times the cost of meat in the US.  
  • No cream of mushroom soup, cream of celery - no cream of anything soup.  
  • You need to weigh your groceries yourself.  There's a little self-service counter in the produce aisle where you put your bags, punch in the numeric code for whatever you got, and then it prints out a sticker for your bag.  We learned this the hard way after going to the counter with all our fruits and vegetables, and then needing to abandon them after it turned out we'd forgotten to weigh them.
Here's a few things I like here:
  • Amazing flavors of yogurt.  They have all the standard flavors, but also, I just bought hazelnut (okay, but probably won't buy it again), and plan on trying rhubarb flavor, coconut flavor, and granola flavor next.
  • Persimmons are very popular here!  And they actually go on sale at a reasonable price, or at least they did in fall.  They usually come from Italy, and taste great.
  • Shelf stable packaged lunches.  These look a lot like frozen lunches in the US, but instead of needing to be frozen, they're shelf-stable, and can just stay in your file cabinet at work.  Very convenient.  I've tried a few, and found one that I really like, rice with a piece of chicken on the bone.  I've only ever seen boneless in the US. I tried another variety - rabbit - which I'm definitely NOT going to get again.
  • Tuna salad lunch cans.  This is like a very large can of tuna, but with all kinds of veggies and dressing.  Quite good for lunch at work,with a few crackers.
  • UHT milk - ultra high temperature pasteurized milk that lasts for months without refrigeration.  I really like this, no need to clog up our small fridge with tons of milk when you can put it in the pantry.  They also have UHT cream.
And here's some things that are just different
  • Eggs sitting on regular aisles, not refrigerated.  I guess eggs last quite well without being refrigerated
  • Whole skinned rabbits in the grocery store.  With heads and legs and everything, and eyeballs staring at you.  
When we've needed to really stock up, we've done short term car rentals and gone to France.  France is a little more reasonably priced, but still not close to the US in prices.  We've tried the E.LeClerc, Carrefour, Migros, and Casino.  No particular loyalty to any supermarket yet, although since Casino is open on Sunday, that might be someplace we go to more often.  

A few weeks ago we rented a car Sunday specifically to shop at the Carrefour nearby in Annemasse.  According to their website it's open Sunday morning.  We put the address in our GPS and drove there, eagerly anticipating checking out a new grocery store.  Well, no dice.  Though their website said they were open Sunday morning, they were actually closed.  I was pissed!  On the plus side, I remembered that I'd seen a larger grocery store on the way, Casino, that looked open, and we checked them out on the way home.  They were indeed open, and are much closer than the Carrefour anyway, so we'll probably go back there often.

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