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Flashback Friday: Shopping

Friday, August 9, 2013

Shopping is something I used to be really, really good at.

Then I moved to Germany. Their clothes don't fit correctly. I wear 3 different size shoes here. And sometimes I get the exchange rate backwards. <-- I'm actually getting much better at that.

When I first moved here I kept a journal of sorts and this was one of my first entries about the first time I ventured into a store alone:

"Which way do I go?? Most stores in America have entrances and exits and they are well marked. Do we pay attention to these stickers on the doors? Of course not. If the door will open, we will go thru it. Blame it on our pioneer spirit. In Germany you are expected to obey the signs and if you try to go out the in you will be stopped. You may get yelled at. You will certainly be looked upon with suspicion. Why in the world would you think you can just go thru any door you want? Who died and left you god-of-the-doorways?? That's the best case scenario. 

Or you can be like me and cause a huge fuss. 

Globus is a local retailer much like Walmart. They carry a little bit of everything and I needed a broom. I thought I'd be very brave and buy something on my own so off I go. Sounds like a great plan right? It would have been if Globus had a broom like what I was looking for. They didn't. This meant I couldn't go out the "Exit" area because it was on the other side of the cash registers, and no, you cannot squeeze past the line. (You think going out the wrong door is bad??? I can't imagine what they would do if you tried it!) I looked around for a bit but could see no other way out. I was going to have to go thru the "in" gate THE WRONG WAY. Alarms sounded, doors locked, people stared. I was mortified. A kindly gentleman showed me how to get out, but we still had to wait for security to unlock the gates. Customer Service had to clear it with security that it was just a dumb American who apparently can't read signs. Then she gave me a dirty look. I was nearly in tears by the time I got to the car and could not wait to get home. I'm sure you can imagine."

Yeah. That totally happened. I really wish I had been exaggerating, but if anything, I down played it. That customer service lady? She really was nasty to me. I didn't understand much German at the time, but I knew enough to know she was saying some rather unpleasant things about me. People really did stand around and stare at me like I should have been performing some circus trick. 

Reading this could still bring tears to my eyes, but for different reasons now. Now I know that there is usually an exit gate near the customer service desk at every store. If not, you can totally squeeze past the line. Some people may not like it but sometimes there's no other option. Now I know that many people just like giving dirty looks for no good reason. Maybe they are all having bad days. Maybe it's in the water, who knows?

But what could start the water works now isn't my embarrassment or humiliation,  it's that nice man who showed me the right way to leave. He had the most beautiful smile. And that reassuring squeeze to my arm? Especially comforting in the midst of a culture that doesn't do that sort of thing. He was genuinely kind right when I needed someone to be. 

It's like Mr. Rogers said, "Always look for the helpers." 

Maybe we should all take that a step further and try to always BE a helper. How awesome would that be?

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2 Responses to “Flashback Friday: Shopping”

  1. This totally gave me flashbacks. I know that feeling all too well. Honestly living in Germany DID break my shopping habit. I don't have this craving or desire to buy something for myself all the time. As I've settled back into being an American in America, I have started going to stores more, but not nearly the addiction that I had when I moved to Germany.

    1. GAH! I've tried to reply 3 times now... maybe this time will be the lucky post! I am certainly learning to be happier with less. I can't imagine how happy the mister would be if I go home even slightly less addicted. I love that picture of you, btw!