Staples (or, the art of grocery shopping in Luxembourg)

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You may think that grocery shopping in easy-going Luxembourg would be a simple process, but the Expatresse begs to differ.

I was humiliated at the mall today. Even Easy-Going Luxembourg can have its moments.

I always use my re-usable bags. I have a Trader Joe’s bag that is an especially nice shape/size. So that is a favourite. Plus I have bought a number of the local ‘éco-sacs’. They are handy, and you see them all over. Everyone has them. I don’t think I’ve used/purchased a plastic bag more than once or twice since we moved here.

My point – and I do have one – is that I grabbed my bundle of bags from the car today, went into the mall, only to look inside and discover the missing package of sliced cheese. It was a EUREKA! moment.

Luxembourg éco-sacs

I think I bought it on Monday. But then I could not find it and figured maybe I didn’t put it in my cart after all.

And it has been sort of cold here this week. By which I mean: it got left in the car, but I think it held up just fine.

Although one can present outside purchases at the grocery store Customer Service Desk and have them marked or packaged so they can be brought into the store, I just felt funny about my cheese. And was too lazy to take it back to the car.

So I thought, ‘I’ll go check out the designer-clothing-outlet-type store down the hall.’ A purchase would = a store bag of some sort and presenting the purchase AND my cheese to the Customer Service Desk Dude somehow seemed less weird.

I dunno. It’s how I felt. Do not judge me.

So I look around in the clothes store. It’s big. There are bargains to be had, but it requires careful scrutiny. I identify a pair of pants (because I am American, this means outerwear) and two t-shirts.

But I am unable to figure out where I can pay. The caisse eludes me. (As does the English translation. What DO we call it in English? The cashier? The point-of-sale? The check-out? What? Is this the first sign of the impending Alzheimer’s?)

I ask an employee.

“Oh,” she says to me in French. “Give me your items so I can mumble-mummble-something the tickets.”

This I do. She keeps my items, does a million things to the tags, and hands me back part of each tag. She instructs me to go to the ‘caisse central’.

Muttering to myself that I thought I had left Soviet-style shopping behind, I go to the central caisse and pay for my items. I collect my receipt, and head back to find my store employee and my purchases.

But I cannot find her.

Nor can I find my clothing items which, last I saw, she was carefully folding in the department where I found them.

Now I am really confused.

Confused woman

“MADAM!” a  different store employee comes running up to me. “There you are,” she says to me in French. “You left so fast. You forgot your purchases!”


She is very sweet and kind and clearly doing her best to reassure me that I am not a total idiot. But when we return to the caisse central, I realise that behind the counter are shelves upon which the items sit until paid for. Then the clerks wrap them in tissue paper, put them in a store bag, and hand them to you.

I feel so stupid.

I wonder, had I not just spent two years living in Russia – where it is not at all unusual to identify an item for purchase, pay for it in one part of the store, and then collect it back where you found it or even in a third part of the store – might I have seen that all roads lead to the caisse central?

Now I have a pair of pants, two t-shirts, and a package of sliced cheese in my clothing store bag. Which I hand to the the Customer Service Desk Dude at the grocery store.

He staples the bag shut and hands it back to me. And I do some grocery shopping.

Originally from Ohio, Amanda was bitten by the travel bug when she spent a summer as an exchange student in Australia. Before following The Spouse to Luxembourg, they lived in Taiwan, South Florida, Buenos Aires, Bratislava (SK) and Russia. Follow Amanda as she settles into Luxembourg on her blog

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