Saturday, June 12, 2010

Saudizised grocery shopping

There are many differences and peculiarities to grocery shopping especially here in Riyadh, home to over 5 million people. The most popular large grocery stores are HyperPanda, Tamimi, Carrefour, Danube and Euromarche.
There are a few things to remember when heading out:

-Dont forget the prayer times! Everything in saudi closes for prayer, for around 15-30 minutes, depending on the store and how eager the employees are to return to their posts.
Some larger stores like the ones mentioned above, let you stay in the store shopping while the employees go to pray, or if they´re non-muslims they have a break. When they come back you can cash out.

-Avoid "zahma" which is traffic in the stores. Worst on weekends, especially after Maghrib prayer to around 11pm, the stores get way too overcowded, and your shopping "experience" might last many hours.The largest stores are open until 12-2 am, and its much nicer to go shopping around then, or early morning weekdays to avoid nervous breakdowns:) Some are open even 24hrs a day, like Hyperpanda Takhasusi. Best visited at night are Danube on Takhasusi(very quiet) and Panda inside Granada mall.
Shopping BLISS at Danube

-If you're a lady, be careful with your abaya when going on escalators, it might get stuck! Another annoying occurence is it sometimes might get jammed under your shopping cart, or fellow shoppers carts..

-Try to avoid bumping into or getting too close to saudis of the opposite sex to you. They might feel awkward because they are not used to it. You will notice the saudi men usually give way to the women in the aisles, they do this out of respect and they want to be polite to you. Not because they are scared/disgusted/arrogant (most common misperceptions). So be polite and and mindful, especially if you are a man, the saudi ladies are sometimes very demanding, they are used to being treated like queens :)
Just this weekend my husband and I were shopping, and a young saudi lady comes behind him in the aisle. There is room for her to pass my husband and his cart, but she doesn't move just stands there with her cart. I see my husband getting confused and he moves on out of the aisle so the lady can pass (without getting too close to my husband) lol! It was funny, I was watching them from a distance, getting a bit jealous and wondering what is it this lady wants from my husband!

- Dont look around for female staff-there isn't any! All the staff will be male. But the staff is everywhere, there seems to be a man responsible for every 10 sqm of the store. There will always be men sweeping the floors, filling the shelves and whatever else. Surprisingly they might now know the answer to your question because their area of responsibility is so narrow. The man that takes care of the yogurt shelf doesn't know about the milks :) The frustrating aspect of this is that they hardly ever say "I dont know", they will just point you to a random direction (often wrong).

-Be aware that saudis do not acknowledge the concept of queing, or standing in line. What line? Is there a que here?Especially when you're going to have your fruits weighed, there seems to be no order in which the man attends to customers. Usually the saudi women will go first, then whoever is the loudest or has best skills in line-cutting. In this situation you can use your female gender to your advantage, try to go behind or next to the loud saudi lady and have your bag ready immidiately when she is done, place your bag ON the scale!This will not guarantee success though :D
- If you're a young woman, watch out for gangs or teenage boys..Yes, as ridiculous as it sounds, they come there to hit on girls!Shopping malls are off limits to them (alhamdulillah!) because of this exact behaviour. They might follow the girl they are interested in the store, trying to exchange numbers.
Once happened to me in Tamimi: I stayed with the cart next to the ice cream shelf trying to figure out which flavor to pick, while my husband went to get a few things. I was texting on my Blackberry when two guys suddenly come up to me and start speaking in arabic. They might have thought I'm saudi, because I was wearing niqab, in any case they continued even after I told them in english excuse me what do you want? So the guy starts repeating his phone number over and over. At this point I messaged my husband to come back quick. Then all of a sudden the guy takes my cart and starts taking it to the cashier, while I'm holding on to it trying to pull the other way and now raising my voice what the h*# do you think you're doing? He continues on and I start calling my husband, the minute he answers and I start talking to him the guys start running out of the store in panic!My husband runs to the scene, but the guys are long gone. He is very upset and so am I. Apparently Tamimi is one of the best worst places for this..

-At the cashier always have cash! So many frustrating times I have encountered problems with any kind of cards. They will run around the store with your card trying to get it work, but you still might end up having to go to the ATM.

-Please try to save the nature and encourage the packers to use less plastic bags! In Finland we are used to buying the plastic bags we need for the groceries, and we pack ourselves. Here there will be one or sometimes even two men packing your groceries. They are taught ( I assume) to put in separate bags different items. If you buy for example bread, milk, deodorant, cookies, chicken and eggs, everything requires its own bag! This total waste of plastic is just mind boggling, especially to a Finn who is used to recycling practically everything.
So what I do is I go to the man and politely advise him to not use too many bags. The problem is the workers are often Indian or Bangladeshi and dont speak english. They would understand inshallah if you say "minfadlak, mafi kees katiir shukran" Sometimes it happens even then they won't listen understand, that's when I start packing the stuff myself :D This raises quite a few eyebrows. My husband is sometimes embarrassed of all the attention it gets, (he is shy and literally the whole store will be staring at us) so he will nowadays go straight to the guy and explain before I need to jump in! We will give the packers a little money when they do a good job, hoping they would continue the practise..

Saudi women "queing"


TRG said...

Just went to Hyper Panda last night. By the time I left at 1130pm it was still busy! During the summer when kids are out of school, it will get worse. I absolutely hate grocery shopping here because my husband can only take me on the weekends anytime after isha. He hates accompanying me inside because of the fitnah inside the malls and most of the time he is just too tired (Friday is his only day off). Its just as well because if he comes with me then he hurries me up. He does not do well in crowds lol. Shopping late on a weekend means that you get whatever produce that's left over because the workers aren't stocking to fulfill demand until the next day. The vegetable stands are always a nightmare. I loathe this part of the shopping the most. Besides having to choose from the crappy produce that has been picked over by hands who knows how many times, there are never enough workers manning the scales! One worker and 2-3 scales sitting unused. There are also men who have no respect for letting the women go first. I had been patiently awaiting my turn at an unused scale when another worker came up to it, I should have been first but he took the produce of a Saudi guy who had just then waltzed up to the counter. This is another thing, the non-Saudi workers are too afraid to tell people to wait their turn. I try to avoid this part of shopping by finding already packaged fruits/veggies with prices on them. It doesn't always work because of course not everything I need is packaged! I shop for two weeks worth of groceries so that I can stay away from the store for two cart is usually overflowing by the time I'm finished. Since my husband is not with me then I will have to put my own stuff on the conveyor belt which I don't mind except for when I have to bend over the cart, my butt is in the air, my boobies are spilling over the inside of it and I can feel the men's eyes on my every move. When I pick up a heavy water case or a case of juice, some of the looks my way are wide-eyed because they can't believe a woman is picking up such "heavy" stuff by herself. If one of the baggers aren't busy, they'll help me so I give them a tip for that. Other trouble I run into is not being careful to make sure something has a price on it. Then having to explain in Arabic that I really want it, I need it! Sometimes they'll send the bagger to get a price and other times they can't understand my Arabic lol. If I try to speak in English, its no use. Most of the Saudi cashiers don't understand English either. I'm just dreaming of the day that I can shop during the day when there are no crowds.

By the way, the Tamimi inside Sahara Mall and on Dabab street are the worse to go to at night and certainly on a weekend night.

Layla said...

Hi Tara!
Yes I agree, grocery shopping is usually a nightmare!
I've found that Danube (not the one inside Hayat) and Carrefour are the best to visit at night.The store inside granada mall is quiet at night times too (cant remember is it actually Hyperpanda or carrefour..)Most Hyperpanda are horrible on weekends! Especially the one on Takhasusi!The best time to visit hyperpanda is in the early morning when saudis are still asleep :)
If a man cuts in front of you in the weighing line, just say excuse me I was here first and shove your stuff on the scale! Works for me most of the time. If not I will usually have a say with the weighing guy in hopes of him treating the next women better.
ya I get those looks too when I load 5litre water bottles on the conveyor belt, and then I lift them back into the cart quickly before the bagger puts them in plastic bags :) I assume people are thinking "poor woman having to do all that work, where is her husband" as if women cant do anything by themselves! So annoying but it wont stop me from doing it.

TRG said...

Hi Laylah,

It would be heaven to shop at Danube if only my husband would drive me that far and I had a bigger grocery allowance. You must mean the new Danube on Takhasusi?

We used to live in the Granada area last year. I'm allergic to the Carrefore at Granada Mall unless I can get there during the day on a week day. Sometimes I can see bus loads of expats from the nearby compounds but they are civilized if you know what I mean lol.

The Hyper Panda I go to in Rawdah used to be a Geant. To add to the nightmare of shopping, its so hot in there as if they don't have the a/c on! I'm thinking about going back to shopping at Carrefore down further on Khurais Rd. After I figure out which is cheaper, Carrefore or Hyper Panda.

As I've said before, you're brave. I don't want to deal with a man if my husband is not nearby in the store or parked outside. But if its a woman, oh hell no! She better think twice because I'll take her on lol.

We gotta do what we gotta do and that includes not always having a man doing things for us :-)

Layla said...

Hi Tara!
yes I mean the one in the new Panorama mall on Takhasusi, its always very quiet. Dont know how long that's going to last though.

Yep, a woman's gotta do what a woman's gotta do lol!

ipv6 said...

ah the shy guy again,
send my regard to your man and say dun be shy!

Anonymous said...

And I thought its only my abaya get stuck under the trolley:), I always go to carrfure at granada always before magrib and its never crouded so I enjoy my grosery shopping . thank u Laya for useful info

Anonymous said...

Having worked for both Carrefour and hyper panda in the past as store GM I can tell you Hyperpanda may be cheaper on price for groceries but Carrefour are certainly better in terms of the quality of the produce...

If you want too check for yourselves you only need compare potatoes, onions and tomatoes you will see a clear difference.