I honestly can’t believe it has taken me this long to post about supermarkets in Israel. If you’ve been to one, you’ll know why. If you haven’t you’ve come to the right place.
Supermarkets in Israel are at once overtly foreign and incredibly familiar. Like many things in Israel, they may appear nicer than they actually are. For instance, there may be parking spots available in the front row of the lot, but that doesn’t mean you will have a short wait in line at check-out. In fact, you will never have a short wait in line at check-out. The check-out line is inevitably almost exclusively occupied by overflowing cartS. I say cartS because it is not uncommon for a customer to pull up with TWO carts in tow. Yes, she may be shopping for a holiday celebration or a large party, or she might actually just be shopping for Shabbat dinner. Even if it is one cart, it is always overflowing. Israelis do not go to the supermarket to pick up a few items, they go to the supermarket to restock their kitchens.
Every once in a while, I will enter the line at check-out with 4-5 items in hand, and one of these owners of the large shopping carts will let me go ahead of them. Again, only once in a while, but this miracle from heaven has actually happened to me before. It’s amazing. And when it doesn’t happen, it is the WORST.
How do you know if you have become Israeli? I believe it is if you actually fill a shopping cart on a regular, weekly shopping trip. I wonder about these full shopping carts. In America, only families of 5+ or people preparing for the Superbowl have overflowing carts. So why, in Israel, where almost everyone is in a constant state of minus (pronounced mee-noose, means debt or the English word MINUS – haha), and there were literal protests about the price of cottage cheese, why here of all places do people go nuts at the grocery store? Here’s a theory about why this happens: hospitality.
Israelis LOVE hosting people. (This is something I may discuss further in a later post, as I find it fascinating and also hard to adapt to.) Israelis always have cakes, Doritos, or at least a fruit platter to present to guests who enter their homes. Always. There is not a chance you will enter my mother in law’s house and she will not have snacks in the house to offer you. At least as far as I can tell, Israelis do not shop for themselves and their children, they also shop for the friends or cousins or repair man who will inevitably stop in for a cup of coffee. In America, I always shopped for myself. If a friend came over and I didn’t have anything in the house, I simply didn’t offer them anything. In Israel, that just wouldn’t happen. In Israel, I buy enough for me and my husband, enough for us to host friends or family for Shabbat dinner, and enough for a friend or two to stop in randomly at some point during the week. So, we fill our shopping cart like everyone else in line, we live paycheck to paycheck like everyone else in line, and, if nothing else, we’ve got plenty of Doritos if you ever want to stop in for a visit.