During Germany vacation, I consider: Convenience, at what price?
At the Hamburg train station on a Saturday night, we joined the crowd waiting in line to purchase goods at the grocery store.
Upon flying into Germany, my friend and I had played tourist in Hamburg for two days. The next day, we would once again gather up our heavy suitcases and backpacks and add to the burden on our arms and shoulders the toilet paper, soap, peanut butter, English muffins and other food items we had purchased. We would transport all those bags and groceries by train—with two train changes—the five hours to our final destination of the picturesque university town of Greifswald.
Don’t count on shopping on Sunday
As did the other grocery store customers that night, we knew that if we wanted anything to eat on Sunday outside of a restaurant, we had to buy it on Saturday. As for the toilet paper and soap and any other necessity, we would have had to go without until Monday if we hadn’t bought those items for the Greifswald apartment where we would be staying.
In Germany, stores are closed on Sunday by law, except for a few small convenience stores within some train stations. During the rest of the week, most stores also close at 5 or at least by 6.
Visiting here in Germany, I’m reminded of how much Americans are slave to convenience. We expect to be able to buy practically anything at any time of day and night. Around the clock, we can pop into that fast-food restaurant or gas station convenience store on the corner or the 24-hour Walmart Supercenter down the street. Every Thanksgiving stores open earlier and earlier, pulling families away from celebrations.
Paper plates and plastic cups aren’t so common
If we don’t feel like dealing with dirty dishes on holidays or whenever, Americans buy a large stash of paper plates, plastic utensils and to-go coffee cups. Just select your sturdiness, size, brand, color and design. Here in Germany, if you can find paper plates at all, they’re the thinnest, flimsiest paper plates and they likely will come in quantities of only 15, if you can find them at all in the party section of some stores.
In my former home in Sacramento, I had a refrigerator in the kitchen and another one in the garage for primarily drinks. Here in Greifswald, our apartment refrigerator is about the size of my long ago dorm-room fridge, and we have a tiny microwave and a two-burner stove. In this international housing for those connected with Greifswald University, our apartment has no oven.
No Costco or Walmart Supercenter here
Here, you don’t stock up at Costco. Instead, we can buy our tomatoes, eggs and strawberries at the weekly market in the town square or at a grocery store with a limited selection and smallish footprint, such as an Aldi or Netto.
Sure, it would be handier to shop here on Sunday and after 5 in the evening. Growing up in North Carolina during the time of the blue laws, I also felt inconvenienced, and I admit that now that I once again call North Carolina home I’m glad that some of those laws have been eased and that stores such as Target and Walmart offer extended hours, even on Sunday.
But I do wonder if Germany might be onto something. Isn’t it good for us to sometimes wait for what we want and to know when to wind up business for the day and return home to our family? What is the price we’re paying for convenience?