Friday, July 13, 2012

Culture Shock: Not Bagging My Own Groceries

I've lived in the UK for nearly six years now. Six! That's a long time. It's no surprise, then, that every time I go "home" to the US, I experience, well, a little culture shock.

"How can that be?" I've been asked. "That's where you grew up!" Yes, but trust me: once you spend a few years adapting and adjusting to a new/different way of life, you start getting used to it.

So, one of the things I always forget when running to Fred Meyer or Albertson's to pick something up for my parents back in Puyallup, is the fact that check-out cashiers always bag your groceries for you - that or some high school kid on his/her summer vacay is bagging it for you. And yes, more often than not, in a brown paper bag.

John makes fun of me because I sometimes carry my groceries here as if it's in a brown paper bag - i.e. hefted up on my hip, close to my body, kind of like a baby. John: "Why are you holding your shopping [they don't say "groceries" here] like a baby?" Me: "Because it's heavy, closer to my center of gravity, and makes my arms hurt less." John: "Fair enough."

But back in the States, I watch helplessly as the cashier seamlessly scans and bags my items at the same time. I can't even reach over to help because it's literally on the other side of the counter, inaccessible. I feel almost ... bad.

Here, I fumble for about 40 seconds in Tesco (when I'm not shopping with my own environmentally friendly fabric bags), trying to rip a plastic bag from the dispenser, which always results in me being forced to lick my finger, try about 10 times to open the damn thing, while the cashier has scanned all my items and my eggs, bananas, 5-pack of mini Diet Cokes, asparagus spears, and whatnot have piled up at the end of the counter thingy and the impatient customers behind me take turns breathing down my neck. 'Incompetent fool,' they're all thinking.

Back to the US: I don't know if people are just less green in Puyallup (probably), but I don't think very many people bring their own bags with them. There was the time I bought a carton of juice and said I didn't need a bag. The guy looked at me like I was crazy. "Are you sure?" he asked. "Um, yep," I said. "It's a carton of orange juice ... I'm just walking to ... my car. Which is not more than a few feet from the front door." "Not even, like, just, a small one?" he pressed. "Really, I'm fine," I assured. 'Freak of nature,' he's thinking.

Photo source


  1. sometimes I want to tell the high schoolers bagging my groceries not to put all the heavy cartons AND squishy produce in one bag, but I don't want to offend them. but that doesn't mean that I want to bag my own groceries! i

  2. I thought they were taught how to organize that shiz properly!


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