If you’re coming to live in Vienna from other countries like…..anywhere else, the grocery shopping experience will take some getting used to. Maybe some decades, but eventually it MIGHT happen. I was here for a year, and it didn’t happen. Below are the top things you need to keep in mind. This post applies to people who have a full time 9-5 job.
Grocery stores are not usually open when you need them
Most grocery stores open maybe at 8-7pm (if you are lucky). By 7pm, it really means the store closes at 6:50pm and likely doors lock at 6:45pm. Cheeky, but they do it.
If your job is like mine and ends at 6:30pm and you have some distance to walk before you get to the nearest BILLA or SPAR, then shopping during the week is not an easy option. This leaves weekends. Stores close at 6pm. And thats pretty much it until Monday. The consolation is that major train stations like Franz-Josef Banhof, Westbanhof, Hauptbanhof, Wien Mitte have supermarkets that open till late (10pm) and on Sunday. There are a couple of theories about this ridiculousness. One is that its a working male dominated society and so women who do the shopping are home anyway. The other is that its a very religious country and so Sunday should be a day of rest for everyone. Either way, I am a working woman and I do enough praying every time I walk into a grocery store “God give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…”
There is nothing cute about the European small grocery store at the corner
If you don’t eat schnitzel 7-days a week, you will have a difficult time buying ingredients for meals you do eat. I had these romantic views of grabbing a bottle of wine, cheese and bread (for example) on my way home from work. Well you can do that, but is more like running to this tiny supermarket for the wine or cheese and then to the bakery and then another supermarket to get what you couldn’t in the first one. One of these places is likely closed when you get there. I have about 7 supermarkets around me and the variety is still not very great. The best one to go to is Merkur on Mariahilfestrasse. But even here you may want to supplement with a market. If you have more money than God, you could go to Julius Meinl in the first district. It’s like Whole Foods on steroids. But you can find food from all over the world there in all their 3 or 4 stories of groceries. Ka-ching, ka-ching.
Don’t leave your grocery shopping bag at home
Unless all you’re only buying is a bottle of wine, you need to have your grocery bags when you go grocery shopping. You can buy plastic bags at the store, but after a while, buying a plastic bag and having to walk several blocks to a train station and back home, you will always prefer your shopper bags.
Avoid Saturday afternoon at all costs
I know people in the Northeast always comment about the Supermarket flashmob before an impending snow storm. Well, imagine that happening every Saturday minus the snowstorm. A colleague told a story about one day, late Saturday afternoon, supermarket was mobbed and a woman snatched her price tag of my colleagues banana’s and slapped them on her own because she was not going to leave her spot in the check-out line and fight the mob to the veggie scale. So moral of the story – pay attention to evolution. Survival of the fittest out there.
Use credit cards, bankomat card
OK – the reason has nothing to do with source of money and everything to do with delaying tactics. The amount of space between the cashiers scanner and the end of the till is about 60 cm /2 feet for most stores. Whatever it is, you need to load your bag as fast as the cashier is cashing out and before the next customer’s goods start mingling with yours. bankomat cards slow things down. You swipe, pack, punch in code, pack, prepunch in because there was a mistake, pack, forget to pull out card while you pack then once all done, you pull your card out, receipt prints outré and you are ready to go.
Don’t forget to weigh your vegetables!
If you want to piss off a bunch of Viennese people, do the “I don’t really understand English trick and you didn’t weigh your vegetables” because the scale looks like it was decommissioned in the 70’s and…who does that anyway? Often, the cashier got up and went and weighed them for me. I won’t mention the hate stares I received from the other patrons impatiently waiting in line.