May 27, 2011
Supermarket shopping can be and often is, traumatic in Moscow. The first hurdle to jump is getting there by car and parking. Getting there will give you a small taste for being there once you finally arrive. Push you way through the city traffic and reach your shopping destination at one of the main big names in Russia 'Auchan' for that taste of home and a cathedral to food. Big, and cheaper than the luxury ones here, it's your best choice for monthly stocks of food, washing powder, toilet paper and other essential stuff.
When you arrive find a parking space. You can either park outside or head on down to the underground car park where BMW's and huge black boxes on wheels snarl at each other aggressively for that last free parking space. Engines roar and its a case of seeing a space and heading for it and to hell with any shopping carts, kids or old ladies that happen to be in your way. Unload the car of kids and head up the traveling stairway to hell. Find a cart, they are free, unlike in most other countries where you have to put a coin deposit into the cart to take one off the chains. They are free carts here and carts do not suffer the shackles of cart chained slavery, they can escape whenever they want to and can roll free to a river, pond or field.
Push in through the shop gates, go past the woman or man that likes to wrap your bags up in kilometers clear plastic and make your way down the big supermarket aisles. If are like me, who has a small kid, who likes to pull everything off the shelves as he passes by then you may want to ask the women at the entrance to wrap your darling up in clear plastic allowing for a breathing hole and two holes for his eyes. That way they will not be able to grab everything from their cart seat and you will feel less stressed knowing they are bound up and secure in plastic. Of course this would not be allowed in my country as it would be seen as child cruelty, I call it child management. I'm only joking by the way, before I get any hate comments.
The annoying thing about shopping at a big supermarket in Russia, is that they often block off the main aisles with large wooden pallets of food that they use to re stock the shelves, look at the shop workers in a dirty way as you pass them and they will look back at you with killer eyes or may even punch you. You can find almost everything you need at Auchan, curtsey of those kind French. Although those French have obviously not put very much effort into their overseas training and shopping experience in Russia as they have back home. The shop gets very busy on Saturdays and expect shopping cart traffic jams at peak times. I was disappointed by the vegetable section. In France, shopping at one of these big shops is a pleasant experience, civilized, polite and at times, even a religious experience in gastronomy. In France, you can happily push your cart around a French supermarket like Auchan and see the neatly stacked fruit and vegetables looking like art, be amazed at the tidy seafood counter and salivate at the choice of delicious sea food on offer. You won't get the same experience here in Moscow. Here it's animal instinct and paratrooper style. Get in, hit your mission target and chopper out.
The vegetable section at Auchan in Russia is not like it is in France. There is no soft Barry Manilow music playing softly out of the shop speakers to calm your nerves, there is no pumped morning mist to gently caress the vegetables like morning valley dew. Instead, it's every man and woman for themselves. Carrots lie stacked like holocaust victims in random untidy heaps. Courgettes lie battered and bruised across fields of damaged mushrooms, stray and lost oranges find themselves lost in foreign lands mixed in with the potatoes and other victims of vegetable abuse and vegetable battle. Load up your shopping cart with your battle scared fruit and vegetables and make your way to your next nerve test, the weighing machine. People stand in lines stretching around the blocks of fruit with their stuff in bags to be weighed. They look visibly nervous, waiting to get their sticky price label. I often stand their feeling stressed, asking myself will the machine work? Will it run out of sticky labels? Will the machine give me what I ask it? When I get there, it usually has run out of sticky labels. My kid smiles up at me from his cart seat, happily chewing on a dirty potato, while I desperately search for another free weighing machine. I find one and with trebling hands, I search for a button with a photo of bananas on it to get my sticky label, no Russian langauge is required.
If you go with your husband or wife, take a shopping cart each and split up, sometimes quite literally. Divorce at the supermarket has been known to happen and I often get divorced at least once a month at these big Moscow supermarkets. I will shoot off with my kid and cart, while my wife will shoot off with her cart in a different direction with her own agenda. A female agenda that you do not question as it knows no logic or reason. She spends hours deciding which shampoo to choose, she spends hours deciding which mince is best. I grab and throw and then spend ages looking for her. It takes me about thirty minutes to fill my cart, it takes her over an hour to half fill hers. Grab and throw is the best tactic for survival.
Once you have been reunited with you wife or husband and re married, head for the checkout tills. People wait in line. Cart and people watching is a fascinating hobby. Some people have a cart stacked with just beer or just meat, some people have a cart stacked with just clothes, while some people have a cart with just four items. You will see crazy unshaven men, fat crazy women, thin worried women, men with gold teeth, men covered in tattoos, girls that look like they have just left the local bordello, all types of people. People guard their cart space like a lion guarding his mating ground. I grip my cart handle with white knuckled determination to get to the golden cup and to my way out of Auchan hell. Once we get to the checkout till, we unload and bag up. My wife tells me off and shouts at me asking me to put everything on the checkout belt in a logical way. Toiletry products all go together, juice and drink all go together, meat all goes together. I once asked he why she did this, after a slap round the face, she told me it makes unpacking the shopping at home a lot easier. Female logic, don't question it, don't ask, just accept it as you accept losing your socks in the washing machine as you accept all other life mysteries. Don't fight it just be.
When you have paid, leave and find your car. Get divorced for the second time that day after spending hours in the rain searching for your car in a sea of other cars. Load up the boot (car trunk) making sure all the bags are of course female logically placed for easy unloading and hit the Moscow jam to get back to the cocoon and safety of your Moscow flat.
I think big supermarkets here are a still being accepted in Russia, It's a cultural thing. I feel many people go shopping every other day for small things, as and when, they need them. People by a loaf of bread or some oranges in small quantities from a local market or local small shop rather than get stressed at an Auchan supermarket. We go shopping once a month, that way its out the way and all over till the next month, although I am not sure this the best way to shop.
Shopping, love it or hate we cannot avoid it where ever we are in the world. I love eating and cooking but for me, food shopping in Moscow is a hell on earth, I would rather watch cricket for three hours than go shopping and I hate cricket.
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Labels: Auchan Moscow