Suffer the Little Shoppers Unto Albert Heijn


The Albert Heijn Logo on www.adventuresinexpatland.com

The Albert Heijn Logo


I apologize upfront if my paraphrasing of a biblical quotation brought you here under false pretenses, but I’m in a bit of a quank.

Quank. You know, a cross between a funk and a quandary.

What difficult situation has me in these depths of despair?

My beloved neighborhood Albert Heijn grocery store is closed for renovations.

Not for a simple update, mind you, but major renovations. As in being closed for TWO FULL WEEKS.

Typing those last few words has almost forced me to take to my bed to lie in a darkened room with a cool cloth pressed against my forehead.

I’m ten days in and I’m not convinced that I’ll make it through this.

Anyone who’s followed this blog for any period of time will know three things: I write so much about Albert Heijn that I ought to own shares of their stock, the company should be partially subsidizing the costs of running this site, and I’m at the point where I need to add a new category just for posts that mention my favorite chain of grocery stores.

So I’ve actually gone ahead and created the latter. It seems that I now have twenty three posts that fall into this new category, including today’s. [For the less informed in the crowd, take your pick. You can catch up by taking a crash course in all things Albert Heijn by reading such fare as  Kleine Dingen (Little Things), Mijn Bediende (My Clerk) and Cultural Lessons Gleaned in a Grocery Store.]

Twenty three. Lest you write me off as a pathetic woman with nothing better to do in life than wax eloquently about her local grocery store, understand this: my Albert Heijn is more, much more than simply a store.

Before you mutter ‘get a life’, let me explain. (And BTW, I DO happen to have a life, a very interesting, somewhat balanced and occasionally exciting one, thank you very much.)

My Albert Heijn is the microcosm of Nederland in which I immerse myself several days a week. Sure, I may walk in there with the day’s shopping list but I walk out with illustrative insights into Dutch economic, political, cultural, historical and social nuances.

I’ve learned about major and minor holidays throughout the year and the special foods served on those days.

From the donation box parked nest to the plastic bottle recycling machine I’ve learned about the wide range of charities the Dutch hold dear. They’re also big on caring for the environmental.

I’ve learned about popular culture from the special promotions and giveaways based on totalled purchases. The trading cards of famous current and past Dutch voetbal players were a hit, as are the Disney character figurines being offered right now. (Mickey Mouse still prevails, yet I’ve even been instructed on the entirely different Dutch names given to some of them.)

I’ve observed how the Dutch approach personal space (or lack thereof), spending patterns, what they choose to import, their banking and payment systems, and how they interact with internationals residing in their country and helping to clog their store aisles.

Not to mention the obvious: what foods they eat, how often and in what manner these are prepared.

The thing is, I’ve gone native. For food shopping, that is.

Two and a half years here and I’ve totally tossed away the American suburban model of driving to a grocery story once a week to stock up.

Land and physical space are at a premium here. Stores don’t contain as many square feet (or meters, rather); ditto for most homes, with smaller kitchens and less storage space. Hence the food and other items turn over faster and are re-stocked more often.

I’ve taken to wholly embraced shopping in the European manner: done almost daily, a quick in and out to see what’s fresh and gather the makings for the evening meal and a few other items to tide us over until the next day’s visit.

Now you understand my dilemma. I’m in withdrawl.

It’s not simply that I have to plan further ahead and make a special trip to one of the other stores in the area. I’m without my daily fix of being immersed in this most resplendent slice of Dutch culture, and I desperately miss it. Plain and simple, I miss it.

And I want it back.



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