**I feel like it would be easy to misinterpret the intention behind this post, so I want to clarify that this post isn’t meant as a complaint but as an illustration of a challenge and an adjustment for an American living abroad.**
Because I grew up overseas in several developing nations, I was used to the necessity of shopping around to get all of the household goods. Or at least, that’s what I thought I was used to before moving to UB and realizing how little I understood what my parents actually went through to keep food in the house. See, by “used to the necessity of shopping around”, I mean, I knew that’s what my folks did, but I rarely participated in those shopping trips because I deemed them boring and just wanted to stay home and read a book. Let’s be honest, I still find shopping boring and would rather stay home and read a book.
As an adult, the only shopping I was used to was going to Safeway or Albertsons or whatever big name carry-all grocery store was closest, loading up on everything I needed in one trip, filling my car trunk, and going home with enough supplies to last for several weeks at a time. Here in UB, I’ve had to adjust my grocery shopping paradigm. For starters, we don’t have a car, so I can only buy what I can physically carry. Every time we go somewhere, I try to think of what else we can do in the relative area of where we are going (or what we can accomplish on the way) to help cut down on trips. Otherwise, I could easily be gradually purchasing throughout the week and would never feel “done” with grocery shopping. Factor in carrying a baby (in a snowsuit, he no longer fits in the baby carrier), and shopping becomes a bit of a challenge! Fortunately for me, when we have students over, I can usually convince them to come with me so we can bring home more at one time, rewarding them with food and chocolate. (You know who you are, and I thank you so much!!!) Also fortunately, our neighborhood grocery is well-stocked with the basics, and is about a five minute walk from our apartment.
However, to get the best deals on different products often involves shopping around at different markets. A meat market, for instance, is going to be cheaper than purchasing meat in my neighborhood grocery, and I can find meat for a wide variety of prices depending on where I go. The best deals on different products might be found through a friend who knows a guy who sells something out of the back of his truck. (Totally not as shady as it sounds!) A friend of mine connected me with a guy who sells Japanese diapers in bulk for cheaper than what we can find in any store so I get diapers delivered–handy, especially in winter!
One of the interesting things about household products and groceries here is that they come from all over the place. Sure, there are the expensive American import stores full of Skippy peanut butter and Starbucks coffee beans that go for $90 for a few pounds, but in our neighborhood grocery, we have stuff from Korea, China, Russia, Germany, Mongolia (duh), Kazakhstan, Poland, Hungary, and so much more! I’ll include some pics from our neighborhood grocery to give you an idea of what a basic supermarket holds. 🙂
So that’s an idea of what it’s like to go grocery shopping here. They opened an Emart (Korean store similar to American Target or Walmart) at the start of the school year, but I have yet to go because I’ve heard that it’s super busy all of the time. Also, I still don’t have a car so it’s not really worth it to me to make the trek. I’ve heard that they might open another Emart that’s closer to us, but I’m not sure how much truth there is behind that rumor.