Experience Germany Like a Local

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German Discount Grocery Store LIDL Now Open in the USA

German Discount Grocery Store LIDL Now Open in the USA

While some American grocery stores are filing bankruptcy and closing for good, German grocery stores ALDI, and recently LIDL are trying to fill the void with their low-cost concepts. You can now get a “German Shopping Experience” before ever travelling to Germany! Several weeks ago we had our spotlight on ALDI, the German discount grocery store. Here is a link in case you missed it.

At the time of this article ALDI has over 1,600 stores in the United States and is still growing. Another German discounter named LIDL wants to be part of this too and is expected to open its first 150 stores by 2018 in the United States.

The first 9 LIDL stores in the United States opened a few days ago on June 15, 2017. Is one of them near you? Here they are:

North Carolina: Greenville, Kinston, Rocky Mount, Sanford, Winston-Salem
South Carolina: Greenville, Spartanburg
Virginia: Hampton, Virginia Beach

More stores are coming to Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania in 2017 and 2018.

ALDI and LIDL are both considered “discount stores”, which only stock about 1,000 products on their shelves. This low inventory means, that you will only find one package of sliced Swiss cheese, but at a lower price point. About 90% of the products sold are their own brands, which enables these discount stores to sell items at a lower price point and pass the savings on to the consumer. Also, a lot of the products are pushed into the store on pallets, which saves time compared to setting them on shelves and, again, saves the discount stores money by having less staff.

For more reading on LIDL coming to the United States, read the story by Nandita Bose for Reuters, "Germany's Lidl to price groceries up to 50 percent below U.S. rivals," or visit LIDL'S Home page.

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Your Guide to Navigating German Supermarkets

Your Guide to Navigating German Supermarkets | How German Grocery Stores Differ From American Grocery Stores

A grocery store is a grocery store, whether it is located in the United States or Germany. Yes, grocery stores in both countries sell fresh produce, bread, milk and other essentials. However, there are small differences to keep in mind before you start your shopping trip. The most convenient feature, to me is that the price that is on the tag is the final price you pay. It already includes the tax, so if you see a package of strawberries for €3.00, this will be the price you will pay at the register. Here are more helpful hints for your grocery store trip in Germany:

Why are Eggs Not Chilled?
In Germany, eggs are stored on ordinary shelves, while they are refrigerated in the United States. The simple reason: freshly laid eggs in the United States are washed for hygienic reasons before they arrive at grocery stores for sale. It is forbidden to sell eggs, that have not been washed with hot water and odorless soap in order to be germ free. In Germany it is exactly the other way round: Washed eggs are prohibited to be sold. During the washing process the natural protective layer is lost. This layer prevents bacteria and salmonella from getting into the interior of the egg. Once the protection has been washed off, eggs have to be kept in coolers.

Bring Your Own Bags
Before you head out to the store, know this: there are usually no free bags given out by German grocery stores. Germans tend to bring their own bags or folding crates (like these at The Container Store), and even pack their items themselves. If you forget your bags, you can purchase bags at the checkout register. Also, there are no packers at the end of the conveyor belt. Wal-Mart failed when they tried to introduce bagging groceries for customers in the 1990s Germany. (For more on Wal-marts in Germany, check out this article from the Huffington Post).

Store Hours & Sundays
Most grocery stores in Germany are open from 7am until 8pm. Some larger chains stay open longer, but all of them have one thing in common: closed on Sundays. This day of the week is reserved for relaxing, dining together with your family, or heading to a museum. For emergency runs on a Sunday, look for gas stations or supermarkets in a train station or at an airport. If that is too far for you, check if you can borrow some milk for your Sunday morning cereal from your neighbor.

Grocery Cart Deposits
It is very common to drive onto a grocery store parking lot in the United States and see carts scattered from customers being too lazy to return the cart to a corral. Germans came up with their own way of dealing with this. To get a grocery cart in Germany, you have to insert a €0.50 cent or €1 coin into the handle in order to release the cart. Use it for shopping in the store and later return it the same place you received it. Insert the metal plug into the back of the handle and get your coin back. This saves grocery store employees from having to collect carts and gives you some exercise.

Why is the Milk Not Being Refrigerated?
The United States had fresh milk deliveries by a milkman for decades. The milkman stopped by several days a week, took the empty milk bottles and left fresh bottles of milk at the doorstep. This milk has to be refrigerated, since it is “only” pasteurized, meaning it is heated up to about 160 degrees Fahrenheit and will be good for about 2 to 3 weeks in the fridge. Contrary to that, more than 65% of the milk in Germany is treated with Ultra-high temperature processing at 275 degrees Fahrenheit, which basically sterilizes the milk. This kind of milk can be sold non-refrigerated and has a shelf life of 6 to 9 months. You can also buy some milk from the refrigerated section in a Germany supermarket in case you want to do a taste test and compare a pasteurized and a ultra-high heated milk.

If you buy a single-use container in form of a can of soda or a water in a plastic bottle, you will pay a €0.25 deposit, which will be refunded when you bring the container back to a supermarket or shop.

Pfand Deposits on Cans & Bottles
To promote recycling, in 2003 the ever-clever, thrifty Germans implemented a container deposit legislation, also known as Pfand [pronounced pf‿ant]. If you buy a single-use container in form of a can of soda or a water in a plastic bottle, you will pay a €0.25 deposit, which will be refunded when you bring the container back to a supermarket or shop. Sometimes a real person will refund your deposit, sometimes you have to push your bottle or can into one of these deposit return machine and get a voucher printed. Either use the voucher in the store or go to the cash register to have the amount paid out to you in cash. When you throw that bottle away, you're also throwing away your €0.25. The deposit legislation does not cover containers for juice, milk-products, wine, spirits, or liquors.

Did we forget other differences that you have noticed? Let us know in the comments!

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German Souvenirs Recommended by a German

He came into the office and put down a ziplock bag of sand on the counter. It was time for him to check out. Being in the hospitality business on an island in Florida, you have the joy of meeting a lot of interesting people. Seeing the questioning look on my face, he told me that he takes sand from every beach he stays at, writes the name of the hotel on the bag, and takes it home. Then, very calmly, and very seriously, he admits that he will die someday, and that he wants his children to visit the beautiful beaches that he’s been to, and when they do, to return his sand back to that beach. I was still baffled by his story when he drove out of the parking lot, and told all my colleagues about his idea.

While we do not collect sand from Germany to bring home, Denise is always on the lookout for children's books from local artists and I look for chocolate, mainly Milka and Kinder products. Every year we pack our suitcases to the maximum weight allowed, crammed with keepsakes that we treasure for many years to come (except for the chocolate, which gets eaten inappropriately fast).

When you go to Germany, here are 3 souvenir ideas to look for, either for yourself or a loved one back home:

1. When I tell someone that I am from Germany, another comment I always hear is that Germany has great beer. And traditionally we drink our beer out of a beer stein or glass. But don’t believe that every family uses a stein with a tin lid and paintings on it, many of which are kind of tacky. If you want a stein that Germans use, buy a normal beer glass, like a Halbe (0,5 liter glass, pictured on the right) or the Maßkrug (1 liter glass, pictured on the left).

German Souvenirs Recommended By a German - Tourist is a Dirty Word Blog

2. The German sweets I miss the most after chocolates are German gummy bears. The German company Haribo is famous for their gummy bears, and has all kinds of wacky flavors and shapes not available in the states. You want Smurfs gummies? Done. Craving a peach? They make a peach shaped and flavored variety. How about small soda bottles that look like they're half filled with cola, but have no caffeine? Well, that's very specific, but yes Haribo makes that too! Happy Cola by Haribo is one of their all-time best sellers, featuring half clear, lemon flavor, half tangy, cola flavor. Even the smaller grocery stores usually have a good selection of flavors, so grab whatever you like. ...The German gummies have natural coloring and real fruit juice, making the taste and texture substantially different from American gummy bears, which are made in Turkey.

Haribo Gummies and Other German Souvenirs

3. Even if you go to Germany in the summertime, choose a Christmas tree ornament that reminds you of your vacation months later, when the weather is cold and stormy. Most tourist stores which sell a T-Shirt or mug will also have a special corner dedicated to Christmas ornaments. You can pick one that shows an iconic landmark, a handmade nutcracker or a little pretzel ornament. Just don’t ask for a dill pickle ornament. It's a long story, and you might think of it as German, but it is an American tradition. If you're concerned about keeping it safe, go for a wooden ornament. If you love Christmas as much as we do, go crazy in one of the Käthe Wohlfahrt stores, which are entirely Christmas themed all year long. For more German Christmas souvenir ideas, check out our earlier post about Bringing German Christmas Home With You.

Glass or Wooden Ornaments German Souvenirs

Perhaps most importantly, if you see something that you really like, go ahead and BUY IT! Don't wait until after dinner, or when you're on your way back to your hotel at the end of the day, or look around some more to see if you can find it for less money. There's a universal rule - Buy It or Forget It. The store WON'T be open after dinner, it WON'T be open tomorrow (even though the sign said it would), it will cost even MORE money in the next town, and so on. Go bargain hunting when you are back home. Don't stress out on your vacation.

Do you have something you'd add? Do you have a favorite souvenir? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Bonus Resources:
• Taste Test Results
of German Gummy Bears vs. American Gummy Bears! Who will win!?
• Read Collecting Souvenirs: A collaboration on What Souvenirs Travel Bloggers Collect from Wanderphile blog

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If you enjoyed this article, or these topics sound interesting to you, you'll love our weekly newsletter. You'll receive a free Germany Packing list for signing up, and you'll receive each week's newest posts every Friday. Thank you for reading!


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Thank you For Reading! Denise & Sebastian | Photo by Irene Fiedler