Jordan and I spent this week getting groceries so that we could start making meals at our AirBnB to feel more at home. And when I say it took all week, I’m not exaggerating! These are the things they don’t prepare you for as you plan to take an Expat assignment.
We had high hopes on Monday evening and went to the grocery store after work. We have to take the metro to get to the “hypermarket”, which is a small version of a Walmart in the US. The “hypermarket” is located in the Part-Dieu shopping center, which is coined as the largest urban shopping center with over 240 stores. Basically, the grocery store we needed to go to is in a massive mall.
We had previously gone to the grocery store and walked up and down every aisle to get comfortable with what types of products they had, but this did not prepare us for when it came time to actually shop. The “hypermarket”, Carrefour, was on two different floors. The first floor had a lot of basics, like trash bags, paper towels, and toiletries. The second floor had everything you would typically expect at the grocery store. They have a moving walkway to get from one floor to the next, and we went up it with the grocery cart in between us. Jordan got off the walkway just fine, but my cart got stuck while the walkway kept going with me on it, and I’m sure we provided some good entertainment for anyone around as I tried to get off!
We had to use Google Translate for most of our trip to confirm the item we were buying is what we wanted. Google Translate works great most of the time, but some things do not have translations in English so we were left guessing what we were actually buying.
We also picked up a shopping tote, which will help us transport our groceries easier when we take the metro or tram back to our apartment. We’ve seen a lot of locals using them, and it beats carrying our reusable bags!
We spent an hour and a half trying to find the items on our list, but had to leave when they closed and left without many items, including food to make dinner that night!
Enter: Burger King
At that point, all the shops were closed and so we would have to wait until the next day to go to the local bakery and the local butcher shop. I was incredibly nervous because this was my first solo trip without Jordan to buy something. With my limited french and some Euros, I ventured out on Tuesday and Wednesday to get the remaining items we needed.
The Baker, le boulanger
The bakery is on the first level of our building and I intentionally went there when I thought it would be least crowded so I wouldn’t make a scene with my limited French. When I walked in the store, I froze and lost any confidence I had. The woman working there was so incredibly gracious as I fumbled with my words.
That’s the one thing I have been most thankful for in the week that we have been here – how nice everyone has been to us. We heard from many people that the French are rude, but we haven’t experienced anything other than patience and pleasantries from anyone that we’ve interacted with. And if they are rude, we aren’t aware because we can’t understand what they are saying in French, ha!
After successfully getting my bread, coffee, and a chocolate croissant as a treat, I called it a day and didn’t think I could go into another store!
The Butcher, le boucher
On Wednesday, I went to the butcher shop to pick up some chicken for dinner over the next few nights. I had it all prepared in my head – I was going to ask for 6 filets of chicken, “Je voudrais six filet de poulet, s’il vous plait.” When I got in there, instead of asking for six (six) fillets, I accidently asked for ten (dix). That caused some chaos as the butcher spent the next 5 minutes telling me how big the fillets were, and some other things that I couldn’t understand. After a few minutes of back and forth (and me using Google Translate on my phone), I left with not 10, not 6, but 4 fillets! If it’s not enough for our three meals this week, I can always go back and try again.
Throughout our shopping experiences this week, I’ve had to laugh at myself and the situations I’ve been in. While I’ve successfully bought what we needed, it hasn’t been easy. These awkward encounters and lost in translation situations will happen frequently, but we are putting ourselves out there and trying our best. Hopefully soon, I’ll be able to walk in the butcher shop and the bakery and order in French, correctly!