Photo by LittleMissSally (no real name given; Flickr CC)
Life. Isn't it crappy sometimes? It's just like this long, never-ending chain of devastatingly disappointing disappointments. That time I got my mum to buy me a P.E. bag for school that looked like everyone else's – and she agreed – but then, when we were in the shop she persuaded me to get a Hitec one instead of a Head one – and I agreed, they did actually look exactly the fucking same – and then, when I went into school the next day, dead proud, everyone laughed at me – for example. Or when I found out that my Eiffel Tower model I'd got from Paris wasn't actually set on real marble. Or when it came out that Geri from Spice Girls was a Tory.
I literally thought my heart might snap in two.
But nothing prepared me for the disappointment of my first German supermarket. It was a Penny's, and I wasn't just devastated and disappointed, I was shocked and traumatized, too. I stood next to the soup packets and I asked a woman stacking shelves: "Where is your soup?" I meant, you know, the rest of it. A couple of tins of tomato and a couple of tins of chicken and one packet of potato soup was NOT MY IDEA OF A SOUP AISLE. People in England often say mad people are a few sandwiches short of a picnic, well, as far as I was concerned, this supermarket was about 74 tins of soup short of an adequate soup aisle.
It took me a long time to get used to German supermarkets – A LONG TIME. I still get really fumbly and useless at the till, even today. It's my aim in life to one day have packed my bags so efficiently that I can just hand the cashier my money and waltz out of the supermarket, my hair cascading nonchalantly down my back, like, as my mum would put it, "That Jennifer From Friends". It hasn't happened yet.
I remember one time, five years ago, when my son, Rico, was little. I took Lidl bags into Plus and got engulfed with homesickness. The thing is, if you bring Sainsbury's bags into Tesco the cashiers always do this witty banter with you where they pretend to be all offended.
"Oh," they say, mock-spitefully, "so it's like that, is it. Well, fine. Look at this lot, Mo, they've been checking out the competition. But you came back in the end – they always come back in the end, don't they Mo?"
Sometimes they go even further and say things like: "Well, I wouldn't call you 'traitors'. Coz I'm much too polite, like."
Or sometimes they just shake their heads mournfully, and whisper: "I wouldn't have thought you'd have it in you. All those years. Well, I just hope it was worth it."
So, there I was, standing in Plus, using my Lidl bags, at the till, when homesickness engulfed me like a wave of nausea. So I did something a bit stupid. I decided I would try and communicate with the cashier.
"In England," I said to her, grinning desperately, "wenn man bringt rein Tüten von einer anderen Supermarktkette, sagen die Kassieren, dass du ein Verrater bist." I shook my head, in a "dur!" kind of way.
She looked at me, carefully. Empört isn't really the word, although she was, strictly speaking, slightly empört. But there was something-else I spotted in her eyes – TOTAL BLANKNESS.
"It's nothing to do with us, where you've been shopping before," she said, indifferently. "Das geht uns gar nicht an."
But anyways, I've got used to German supermarkets, mittlerweile. I mean, it does help that I live right near a Kaufland. Snazzy mustard and posh pesto and coconut milk and all sorts, they have in Kaufland. Although, to be honest, I don't even go there that often. I'm a discounter girl, through and through. I've got used to choosing between two different types of mustard and two different types of pesto and going to the Turk if I want some houmus.