China in a supermarket

Visiting a Chinese supermarket today was like a microcosm of our experience in China.

At first it just felt massive and overwhelming and we found ourselves searching out for things that were familiar. In supermarket terms that meant a small cheer when we recognised international brands. But after we got accustomed to our surroundings it became a thoroughly interesting and entertaining experience. And also great value for money.

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The reason for our visit was to stock up on snacks. So we made a beeline for the helpfully labelled ‘Snack’ section. But unfortunately we couldn’t find a single thing that we recognised. Nothing. So on we went in a more vague and wandering fashion. We found Australian salt, ridiculously priced at less than fifty New Zealand cents. We also saw some New Zealand milk and, on the outside, couldn’t see any problem with it.

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We hit our stride once we found the confectionery section and managed to pick up some breakfast items for Fiona too which may turn out to be what we hoped. Or not. We bought two kinds of plums, because they’re the cheapest fruits here, and nectarines, because they’re the second cheapest. Our grocery mission fulfilled we were free to check out some of the more entertaining offerings in the store.

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If you thought rotisserie chicken was excellent a) you’d be right and b)  you should check out the Chinese equivalents: duck, pig snouts etc. There was also some kind of wriggly worm looking thing. Oh, and massive tanks of live fish.

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Live things in the supermarket, as you can see, makes a highlight when you visit with grandma. These frogs were just sitting there in big glass tanks, blinking their eyes and not moving much. We hypothesised that they couldn’t move because they’d been fed so much. When I first saw them I laughed and a helpful shop attendant corrected my amusement with his gesticulation. First he sliced the air, like a meat cleaver would chop the head off of a frog. Then he rose his hand to his mouth in the universally understood “this is for eating” motion. Then he smiled with a satisfied grin.

I had half a mind to buy a boiling frog to further disprove the apocryphal tale that frogs won’t jump out of a pot of slowly heating water, and will die instead. This is a lie.

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And then we visited the perishable snaking aisle. Maybe they miss-spelt snack? Maybe they were referring to the noodles in the corner of the fridge? Not clear.

At check out we were surprised that we weren’t given, and nor could we buy, plastic shopping bags. You’re supposed to bring your own, apparently. Just one more Chinese microcosm to finish our supermarket trip – it can feel quite progressive and modern here, even if that modernity is distinctly foreign.

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