Thursday, November 04, 2010

My feelings on shopping at Carrefour

1. Sheer wonder. Part of me just can't get over the first time I went to a Carrefour. We had been in Syria for about eight months. While we were visiting Beirut for fun, a friend took us with him grocery shopping. We walked into this huge, brilliant, gleaming store and the sign out front said CARREFOUR. It was magical. Inside, we found such treasures as tortilla chips, granola bars, and rice cakes. It was truly exotic. There were mounds of produce heaped up right next to aisle after aisle of dairy products. Then of course came a wide selection of any food you could think of from just about any country. Coming from Syria where grocery stores still operate on the small neighborhood scale, Carrefour was at once behemoth and something of a Middle Eastern miracle for me.

Even now, all these years later, every time I walk into a Carrefour I get a rush of that first sense of wonder and awe I felt back in Beirut. Every time.

2. Guilt. Here's the weird thing, though: I also feel guilty. The part of me that is not busy being amazed feels a bit sheepish for having it so easy. It's as if you shouldn't be able to live in a foreign country AND be able to buy lentils, bananas, charcoal, sunscreen, and batteries all at the same store. It should require three separate trips, minimum, probably more.

The guilt was worse when we lived in places like Amman or Cairo where the small local grocery store model was still operating in the shadow of the giants like Carrefour, Spinneys, and Metro. It never felt good going past three or four corner stores just to get to a big Western market.

Here, though, there is no such dilemma. We have a branch of the Sharjah Co-op on campus, about a three-minute walk from our house (note: this is a bad thing when it's 9.30 at night and you get a hankering for some Milka chocolate). There's another, bigger Sharjah Co-op nearby and then my precious Carrefour a little farther away, along with Hyper Panda and Spinneys. So no matter where I go, I'm either shopping at a big Arab hypermarket or a big Western hypermarket.

It's equal parts wonder-inducing and guilt-dispelling.


Liz Johnson said...

Does Magdalena want to share those gummy bears with me?

Aimee said...

In Vienna the big market is Spar, and I can find pretty much everything we might need there, even peanut butter, although its a mini jar!) Lucky you for getting to be in a place where you can find comforts of home, it will probably make the "culture shock" less severe.

Craig said...

I was amazed at the grocery store when we visited last month. Food items from all over the world. It was so exotic looking at each to see where it was grown or produced.

Of course, the same goes for the clientele. I've never seen such a melting pot of people as in UAE.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

I think it was at the Sharjah coop where fruit was labeled as to where it came from. I like that. Once I chose between grapes from Spain or from the US and picked the Spanish grapes which were delicious and cheaper.

breanne said...

I was amazed the first time I went into Carefour in Jordan because everything was in one place!--but was disappointed when I was in Taiwan because most of the things I wanted (like tortillas, refried beans, canned pumpkin, ground beef, and other necessities) were absent from the store (and from the country!). It did, however, have a lot of live seafood crawling around in open water tanks and things like cow stomach and mixed congee. Maybe it depends on the country--I don't think there were that many people in Taiwan that wanted refried beans. :)

down2earthsmiles said...

Wow, thanks for posting this. It brings back memories of when we visited Dubai last year. I was truly amazed to see the behemoth Carrefour at the Dubai Mall (or was it the Mall of Emrites...I forgot). There was everything you can think of there and the aisles were super long. There was a lot of walking there and loads of variety of the same food such as grando sections for nuts, dried fruits, baked goods, teas, etc. But the biggest surprise for me was seeing a stingray being sold as FOOD in the seafood department. I was amazed. It rested above all of the other the king of them all. It was definitely priced like one!

Ummi Khalid said...

i prefer shopping at the lulu hypermarket


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