Shopping and washing, cleaning and sweeping, dusting and hoovering, washing up and wiping down surfaces. Talk about groundhog day. Whether you work, are retired, are a stay at home mum/dad, single or married these are a few of life’s constants. Hmmm how dreary.
Of these my least favourite is shopping, food shopping that is. Having had a taste recently of the joy of supermarket shopping in the UK (you can buy other stuff and have a coffee and there’s choice, and it’s clean, and they have trolleys with twin seats…I could go on), on my return to the Holy Land I found myself putting off the dreaded supermarket trip. I hate supermarket shopping. Buying shoes is so much more fun and in the UK you can do both, at the same time and cheaply. So finally I could put it off no longer and dragged myself to the car to enter the time warp which is supermarket shopping in Israel.
Here are a few things that you should know if you go to a supermarket in Israel (although why would you unless you lived here?)
- On entering a car park at a supermarket in Israel there are very few spaces ie 10. Even if the store is a mega store and can cater for thousands you will have to follow trolley loaded shoppers to their car and bagsy (not a real word) a spot whilst they load shopping, kids, themselves into the car and drive off – anything between 5 and 30 minutes.
- Before you enter the car park there is an armed, usually elderly, guard who looks at you (do you look a threat?) and if he’s feeling frisky will check your boot (trunk for the Americans) for unwelcome items, I am presuming explosives.
- Once parked you enter the supermarket to be checked again (handbag search) by another guard.
- You made it, you’re in. Now the fun begins.
-Do not expect the organic in-store store in the supermarket to sell only organic produce. In fact you will find many of the items available at a lower price on the main shop floor but they won’t be presented in stylish barrels with scoops and zip lock bags. Many luxury imported items can be found in this part of the store, for example Weetabix which I have always thought of as luxury (?) and at 42 shekels a pack of 24 (£7.50 or nearly $11) it certainly has a luxury price.
- In an attempt to Americanize/Europeanize the shopping experience there are now more than just groceries available but beware the price tags, first of all they are often wrong and the deals so hard to understand (at least to a foreigner like me) that the price tag is really just a general guide. Buy 2 get 1 half price – on a hoover – why would you want 3?
- Do expect to find a feast of middle eastern goodies; freezer cabinets bereft of the additive packed ready meals (EVERYBODY cooks here but why no fish fingers?) but filled with borekas, jachnun, malawach. An olive selection to rival the best deli and a choice of humus and assorted meze to make your eyes water. Deeelish (probably also additive packed too but what the hell).
- Fruit and veg at a third of the price of the UK and fruit and veg that looks like it was picked from a farm not manufactured by a robot. None of that washed and shined display here which is actually way more appetizing.
- For someone who’s reading of Hebrew is sketchy anything that requires instructions is an effort. Cue me buying specialist laundry sprays instead of anti-bac wipe. In fact in the early days I would come home with even the most simple item wrong, butter milk instead of skimmed, tangerine juice instead of orange and that was despite the product name written in English albeit in small writing.
- Check outs from hell. Why oh why does a ‘superstore’ have 18 aisles and only 2 checkout people. Insert irate customers, a very uncommunicative teller (no,’how are you today’ and mindless chit chat here), someone with a billion coupons that don’t work and you can easily wait 20 minutes to get to the front of the line. Feel free to get involved in any argument between customer and staff, everyone else does.
- Expect a 22nd century price for your purchases despite feeling you have warped to 1978 for the shopping experience.
- Delivery – something I have NEVER done because a) I am too scared of pissing off the teller and fellow customers and b) because the crates that you invariably pack yourself and leave on the floor by the check out until the delivery man comes can sit there for hours getting in people’s way and melting – heat + ice cream – freezer = salmonella.
- Customer service. There is none. If someone is pleasant to me on the shop floor I am on a high for hours. Most likely you will be argued with if you question anything and at the very least a few tuts will be aimed in your direction.
- On leaving the store the security guard will stamp your receipt. This to me is one of the greatest mysteries of supermarket shopping here. You could pick a receipt anywhere, he doesn’t check what you bought against what’s listed so what is the point? I know they have a dull job but clicking their stamper onto a receipt surely doesn’t make it any more entertaining. My kids love it though and fight for who hands the receipt in.
So have I tempted you to try out an Israeli supermarket? I could well be being harsh in my description although remember I am coming from a place of loathing of the whole ordeal and I am only recently returned from the holy grail of supermarket; Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose I miss you. On the plus side as a visitor the produce is exotic and yet familiar so makes for an interesting trip out, you may get lucky and find a store that believes that the customer is always right (although I doubt it), and if you like sesame you’re in for a treat. I am due another visit so am psyching myself up. Positive thoughts, positive thoughts…