Supermarkets – Berlin

When I first arrived in Berlin, I innocently asked everyone “Where is Waitrose? Or the equivalent?”.

The answer I got every time. There is nothing like that here.

Whaaaa? How can there be no Waitrose? I love Waitrose. That’s like finding out Santa Claus doesn’t exist!

Shoppers in Berlin do it the old fashioned way. They visit the butcher, the baker and the candle stick maker individually. And when they do go to a supermarket, they use a basket not a trolley (speaking of Mitte, Berlin when I say this).

There is a certain supermarket etiquette you have to follow when shopping in Berlin. It took me a while to cotton on but after frequently being at the receiving end of death stares – the penny finally dropped.

Berliners, shoppers and check out personnel love speed and efficiency. They scan goods so fast that instead of hearing the customary “Blip. Blip. Blip” What you hear is “Bleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!” The check out persons hands become a blur of activity. Before you know it, your 20 or so items are teetering precariously on the small ledge at the end of the check out.

At the beginning I used to stare expectantly at the cashier, waiting for her to pack up my goods a la all supermarkets in London! Imagine my surprise when I wasn’t even given any bags. No matter. I had some bags at the bottom of the trolley so I started putting my fragiles in one bag, my perishables in another and so on. Then I went fishing around in my wallet so I could use up all those pesky 1 and 2 Euro cents I had lurking around. The queue behind me got bigger and bigger and an audible grumbling and rumbling began.

I have been living here for over two months now and I know the correct way to do things is…
1. Buy no more than 15 items at a time.
2. Wallet at the ready (wedged in your armpit or wherever) load up the groceries back into the shopping basket.
3. Hand over a crisp bill and don’t fiddle about with change.
4. Move yourself and your groceries to the designated packing area and pack at your leisure without inconveniencing your fellow shoppers.
5. Lidl doesn’t take credit cards – so either have an EC card or cash although they prefer cash (who doesn’t)


  1. says

    It was similar in Dublin this summer – there are bigger supermarkets of course but where we were there were mostly small shops so we had to bring our own bags and buy only a few items at a time :)

  2. says

    When I lived in Sweden, I also was astonished about people’s shopping behaviour. At the cash register, people line up all their goods with the barcode facing towards the scanner, so that the lady sitting there doesn’t have to find the barcode first. The first time I saw this, I thought that the person doing so had a compulsive disorder, as his groceries were placed in a straight line and immediatly altered if the barcode wouldn’t exactly face the scanner… I admit that after a couple of months, I sometimes caught myself also lining up my groceries….

  3. says

    No! I don’t believe you! I have never heard of that, although now I know where I should move to if my compulsive disorder get’s out of hand and needs some friends : )

  4. Norman says

    Haha, don’t know about London, but here in Norwich they certainly don’t pack your goods for you at the supermarket! Maybe in Waitrose… but definitely not in the regular person’s supermarket (Sainsbury’s/Tesco etc)


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