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Adjusting Part 1: The Grocery Store Incident

  October 30

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I promised to share some stories of what it’s like to adjust to America after living in Grenada for so long. I’ve already had several weird/uncomfortable moments, and I’m only about 4 days in.

So I haven’t done much besides focus on my business since we’ve been home, but I have a rather funny story about our time at the grocery store. Here’s what happened…

I definitely had a minor panic attack. Well, to be fair, it vacillated between panic attack and a bit of maniacal laughter. Someone should have me committed.

All the hubs and I were supposed to do was go to the store to pick up sliced ham and tortilla chips.

We walked down the chip aisle, and the hubs just casually said, “Pick whatever chips you want.”

But, I just couldn’t…

I mean, did you know there are like 15 different kinds of tortilla chips? How are you supposed to pick? Do I want the ones shaped like a scoop or do I want the ones shaped like a triangle? Do I want the ones that have no salt or the ones that do? There were even chips that had the guacamole baked into them! How do you even do that?

For the past two years, having tortilla chips at the grocery store in Grenada made front page Facebook news. If someone said there were chips at the store after a particularly dry period, you got in your car asap and went to get them. There was/is just one kind of tortilla chips in Grenada, and the whole point is to get to the store early enough to get the bag where only half the chips are crushed as opposed to all of them.

After I was near tears over the chips (hormones or just plain crazy? You decide) the hubs and I agreed that chips shaped like a scoop would probably be really good with hummus…

Then we had to find the sliced ham. And we walked all around the store like a bunch of idiots looking for it. I mean, this grocery trip should have taken 5 seconds, and we were already about 30 minutes in after the chip incident. We saw the bakery but no place to get deli meat. After about two more rounds around the store with me clutching the bag of scoops and the hubs stubbornly refusing to ask anyone where the deli was, the hubs noticed all the ham/turkey/etc. was actually on a giant wall behind the bakery.

So, in addition to being crazy, we are apparently blind too.

After exclaiming about how cheap the ham was, the hubs and I giddily ordered a bunch of it.

Then, I saw it: the cutest little pack of ravioli right in front of the deli. I held it up to the hubs like it was a million dollars exclaiming, “Look at this fancy little pack of ravioli!! Isn’t it cute? Isn’t it so nice? It’s all organic and has this nice little package, and it’s only $5! This would cost $30 in Grenada if it ever existed there! OMG, I love fancy little packs of ravioli! Should we get it and make something with it?”

I’m sure everyone around me was looking up the number for the nearest asylum. I was that excited.

Of course, I couldn’t bring myself to actually buy the pack of ravioli. That’s what happens when you are in a state of hysteria, but I sure did admire it and held it for a bit while we waited for the equally cheap sliced ham.

I’m better now, and I guess I’ll just call this round 1 of adjusting to America. I really felt like I wanted to go around the store and shake everyone and say, “Do you KNOW how lucky you are? Did you SEE how much food is here?” But I refrained from going around and shaking everyone because that’s not really allowed here. Still, the hubs and I got in the car afterward and just marveled at the whole thing.

I think it might take a few more days to get over the shock…

42 responses to “Adjusting Part 1: The Grocery Store Incident

  1. When I came back from Spain, I had a culture shock as well … unfortunately it mostly wore off, and I am back to being a somewhat Type A American. 🙂 But, it is amazing the perspective you gain when you choose to live abroad. You never look at things entirely the same way. Try to savor this fresh perspective it while it lasts, because it gradually fades …

  2. Cat, this cracked me up! It’s so true though. It reminded me of a good friend who lived here for a few years and then moved to Florida with her husband. The first time she went to the grocery store, her husband went looking for her because she was gone 3 HOURS. He found her just standing there looking at all the food.

  3. This entire entry is adorable, lol. I imagine it’s overwhelming after having such limited, and expensive, options. But it makes me wonder, do we have TOO many options here? Do we really need 50 varieties of tortilla chips?? Never mind all the junk that’s taken over the grocery stores. I think I’d prefer to shop someplace that had limited options, would make shopping a lot easier!

  4. I can SO relate to this. When I went to a REAL grocery store (after being in Grenada for 6 months), I felt the same way. I stood in the produce section with tears running down my face, literally! I’m sure people thought I was nuts. I also wanted to walk around and tell everyone how LUCKY they were. I think I finally ended up telling the cashier about how giddy I was and how I’d been on an island for 6 months … I’m sure she called me to the loony bin after that! Love it! Thanks for letting me relive the glory.

  5. That is crazy funny! I don’ drink coffee, but I had a friend who is kind of a coffee snob ask me to get her one from the bookstore a while back. I though you just ordered coffee, but there are so many options, some of which I have no idea what they are. I was breaking out in a sweat before I finally just asked the cashier to give me whatever was most popular. I agree that too much choice is not always a good thing.

  6. Great story, Cat. It’s crazy how much food and selection we have here in the States compared to some other places. I don’t know exactly what it’s like in Grenada, but it sounds like it would be quite the shock moving back to the States after living there for an extended period of time.

  7. Hahaha great post! I was in Ukraine over the summer and was going crazy looking for a grocery store. All I wanted was peanut butter. I must’ve gone to 10 little shops before I realized, they just don’t sell peanut butter. It’s nutella or nothing.

  8. Welcome back! I remember all of these feelings so well when I moved back to the States for college. During the summers I’d have a little culture shock when we’d come back, but once I was here to live it was so strange. I had the same reaction to the cereal aisle that you had to chips. All snack foods also seemed super cheap because in Japan and China it was crazy expensive!

    It does get easier!

  9. Haha- this cracked me up! I can’t even imagine how ridiculous it must feel after being away for years!! I went to Honduras for a week in college and once I got back in the US was SO SO SO thankful for the ability to flush toilet paper. And be able to drink out of the tap. It’s crazy how much we take for granted!

  10. Once in college I had a meltdown in the deodorant aisle of Target because I was dealing with the emotional implications of being on my own for the first time in my life. My best friend and boyfriend (now husband) were with me and we still lovingly refer to it as having a “deodorant aisle” moment.

  11. Your comment reminds me of the Paradox of Choice. Bad things happen when we’re presented with too many tortilla chips or salsas or anything else. I especially don’t like it when the ultimate decision has no consequence. My brain can’t tell the difference between a multitude of small choices (what to eat) and a multitude of big choices (what to do for a living, where to live).

  12. This is the cutest thing I’ve ever heard. I feel the same way with the choices, and I have lived in the land of plenty the whole time!

    I didn’t read blogs for a few weeks and was so excited to visit and see that you’re pregnant!

    xo, Christine (formerly Merf in Progress)

  13. Going to another country always makes you realize how fortunate we are to have everything we have in the US. My sister did 3 years in the peace corps in Africa. When she came back to the states she was amazed by the variety of foods we have, the number of cable channels-she didn’t have TV for 3 years, and by ipods (they basically didn’t exist when she left-well that she wa aware of and when she came back everyone had one).

  14. hahahahah! I love it. I remember coming back from being abroad for a while and being excited about being able to walk up and buy peanut butter like it was no big deal. Or jello pudding. Because “pudding” means something entirely different in England and it is 100% not tasty.

  15. Last year when we went to the capital city of the Philippines named Manila me, my daughter and my hubby went to the one of the biggest mall in our country. My daughter was so amazed because she saw lots of candies with different styles, colors and brand. It was sold by grams and I was shocked for the price. 🙂

  16. Haha, really funny story. I wonder if I would react the same way if I were to visit a grocery store in the US. Tortilla chips can always be found here in Romania, but there’s very little variety and usually I get the feeling that there are few options when buying other stuff… going to a place where there would be so many things on offer would certainly be an experience and a hit for our budget :))

  17. Great story, Cat… would be interesting to hear the “flip” of that story – what it’s like going back to Granada after getting used to shopping in the US. 🙂

  18. I’m glad you’re in the world of regular food again. And just in time for pregnancy! Now you can actually eat some of the things you’ll end up craving!

  19. It is so easy to take for granted having 15 different types of tortilla chips to chose from! I imagine it was a shock, both good and bad. Just like investing, sometimes too much choices isn’t as good as it seems. 🙂 It’s always one of the many things that fascinate me when we travel. Visiting their local stores and seeing how different they are from ours. Like Holly said, it’s good that your back home for when your cravings hit … you’ll be able to find whatever you need, even at 2:00 AM!

  20. Reading this made me laugh out loud! We are very fortunate with what is available to us and we definitely take it for granted sometimes (ok, most of the time). I’m sure you’ll adjust back into American grocery shopping with time.

  21. Haha, oh wow. I’ve never really known anything different (not exactly a world traveler), but the times I have traveled I’ve definitely encountered situations where I’m overwhelmed by the unfamiliarity of everything around me. No wonder it can be so hard for people to adjust to the US culture.

  22. I really enjoy shopping at a local market that’s near my apartment in DC. I get stressed by too many choices too!

  23. haha! I remember getting really excited at Wal-Mart because I could buy four avocados for the price I got for one in China. I also vaguely remembering arguing with my husband that we needed to weight our veggies before paying for them, because we did that all the time in China. I think the cashier thought I was nuts when I kept starting at the scanner that doubled as a scale…

  24. haha! I remember getting really excited at Wal-Mart because I could buy four avocados for the price I got for one in China. I also vaguely remembering arguing with my husband that we needed to weight our veggies before paying for them, because we did that all the time in China. I think the cashier thought I was nuts when I kept starting at the scanner that doubled as a scale…

  25. Yeah, I know that we probably have tons compared to the rest of the world. I was even overwhelmed the first time I went to CostCo–so much stuff! This was a great post to remind us all that we have!

  26. This just makes me realize how very blessed we are to live in America. I had no idea tortilla chips would be so hard to get somewhere else! You’ll likely experience all kinds of other adjustment experiences, which will be compounded giddy-wise by your “all-over-the-place” hormones. Like when it was 95 degrees and humid here in August of 1999, and Rick brought my 8-month pregnant crying self into Target to buy a kiddie pool b/c I couldn’t take the heat anymore. 🙂

  27. Enjoy the rich abundance of America again!

    How can anybody ever complain when we got so much food, so much freedom, and even subsidized healthcare now to take care of us all 🙂



  28. I totally get being paralyzed by having so many choices! You would think having so many choices is a good thing, but sometimes you just want a bag of frickin’ chips without analyzing what shape is better!

  29. We definitely had the same shock our first time in a US supermarket! And everytime we got groceries I found myself mouth agape at the prices of meat and produce (not so much packaged stuff – that stuff isn’t really much cheaper). It’s gonna hurt to go home and pay NZ prices for fresh food.

  30. Love the post and the makes me feel a little less crazy. I wish I had an excuse like a lot of the commenters that I was out of the country, but I don’t. The choices at the grocery store are just TOO MANY. It is information overload. I tried to pick tea out and practically had a panic attack. My boyfriend has been super supportive and I have gotten better at going, looking, picking and walking away instead of sitting there and staring at all the options, haha. Just wait until you have to buy new jeans or something. My jeans were completely used up and I needed more…I went to the store and there are SO MANY KINDS!!

    1. Haha no I feel the exact same way!! I’m trying to put baby stuff on my registry now and it’s just really challenging to figure out what to get!

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