Essential organisation is required for the brutal 3 minute procedure of having your food practically chucked at you after being scanned, whilst you’re expected to pack, swipe your points card, sign after using your debit card (because apparently a PIN just isn’t good enough) and then maybe you’ll get a “tschüß” if you’re lucky as the person behind the till pushes this weird divider thing to the side so that you and your food are well and truly out of the way, and he or she can go on to the next person. Have you ever been to the supermarket in Germany? It’s just as intense as the 93 word sentence that you just read.
When back in London a few weeks ago, I literally felt like a celebrity as the young man behind the till smiled and asked if I needed help with packing whilst I popped into Sainsbury’s. “No thank you,” I smiled at him, slightly puzzled, as I realised I’d forgotten that staff helping you to pack your bags at the supermarket is even a thing. There was no pressure, no stress and no worries about my bananas ending up under the milk or the bread getting squashed.
Germans are known for efficiency but the supermarket till experience is just next level, also known as ‘let’s get the people out as quickly as possible, don’t worry about providing a pleasant service.’
Whilst Germans are polite (although direct) and like to get things done without wasting any time, the service provided in supermarkets, for example is just not the same as what we receive in the UK. Perhaps I am too used to being treated like a queen in Sainsbury’s as I leisurely pack my food away with assistance.
However, this isn’t to say that I’ve never received good customer service whilst living in Germany. My beauticians are super polite, although hang on a minute, they aren’t actually German. Only joking! Well, they actually aren’t German but I’m sure there have been times where I’ve received a good service from Germans, I just can’t quite put my finger on when it was. This weekend for example, when my friend and I told the cafe waiter that we’d asked for rose lemonade, he replied with “oh, well I brought you the mandarin one” in a stern German tone as I sat there awkwardly and felt like a school child getting in trouble by my teacher. He brought us the wrong drink and I was made to feel awkward about it. My German friend however could clearly see that he wasn’t trying to be rude. Really? I know I’m British, perhaps too polite and easily offended but a quick “sorry” wouldn’t have hurt him.
Nearly two years abroad and the cultural difference with customer service is something this I still struggle with. But regardless of the cultural differences, I must say that never in my life did I think I would genuinely look forward to the till experience at Sainsbury’s when I visit home. I guess you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone!