Back home in the midwest we have these grocery stores called “Aldi”. I loved shopping there, everything was cheap, good quality, and encouraged the environmenally friendly use of your own shopping bags. Well, everyone has been tellling me about this grocery store in Frankfurt called “Aldi” where they hurry you through the check out and things are just in boxes in aisles, and I’ve been cool as a cuke responding with, “Oh yea, we have those back where I’m from, no problem, that will be familiar for me.”
Well, go back in time and tell the Lori that’s too cool for school, that the Aldi in Germany is still different, and even the teeniest sense of familiarity was forgotten when I first walked in the door… For those of you who aren’t familiar, the shopping carts in the US stores are locked together by a coin reimbursement system. You put in a quarter, it unlocks the cart for you, you put cart back, if gives you the quarter back. Easy right? Well, here the carts are locked together, but the coinage is OF COURSE different, silly Lori, stuck in front of the carts wondering which coin to put in the mechanism, with massive waves of locals hurrying in behind me. So I stay cool like the cucumber I’m sure I am, and just do a hand basket-those are free.
Enter the toiletry items aisle. I need hair gel for Mauricio, and shampoo and conditioner. Well, shampoo is shampoo, but conditioner, is not the word conditioner….so I grab a “creme” but this has words on it that appear to be talking about the face, and I’m sure that would make my straight hair lie even flatter to my head (if that is even possible). Idea! I have a dictionary in my purse-nope it does not have the word conditioner in it. Then I see Spülung on these bottles by the shampoo, they look exactly like the shampoo bottles and my powers of deduction tell me yes, this is surely conditioner, (Spülung is not in my dictionary). The wave of the cool cucumber washes back over me, I got this, I bet I’m totally blending in here….I haven’t asked anyone for help, I am wearing a scarf around my neck, and I’ve got bags.
Also, I make a mental note, buy a better purse dictionary, this one is crap.
I walked up and down every single aisle, taking my time, but not too much time mind you, and off to the check out line. I have everything out on the belt, my reusable bags out ready to field the items I know will be flung quickly at me, and the clerk speaks to me in Deutsch. I look at her blankly, unsure if she’s just given me a greeting? Oh no, she says it again and looks at me expectantly, so I stutter out “Ich nicht spriche Deutsch” and the woman in line behind me sighs and grabs the hand basket from me to put it away in its proper spot that I walked right by. My cover is blown, they all know I’m a foreigner. I say my apologies “Tut mir leid” to all parties involved and quickly pay for my groceries as they are yes, being flung to the edge.
Am I dramatic? Absolutamente! Everything seems monumental, no matter how mundane. Next time will be easier, its the firsts that are the hardest. I will get comfortable with being awkward and uncool. I will revel in it, but I think I will continue to wear the scarves, a little bit of cool is ok, right?