How difficult can it be shopping in a country where you have no language skills?
Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!!!!!! “Please sir, I want more.” “Please sir, I want less.”
Since arriving in Poland for the Poland/Ukraine 2012 Euro football championship, I feel the frustration of thousands of visitors from Poland who come to Canada and can’t make themselves understood. Many Canadians make an effort to help but simply can’t.
Flip that around and here I am in Poland. I speak fluent Italian, understand and can manage in French and speak a little English. I along with Cathal Kelly of the Toronto Star and John Doyle of the Globe and Mail have rented a lovely apartment to spend our 25 days or so living in the lap of luxury. The only issue being it isn’t in an area rife with restaurants.
That means getting some food to sustain us on those nights (and that’s most nights) when we work late enough that just about everything is closed.
Kelly and I managed to beer and wine ourselves though the first shop (“Hey Kelly, what kind of cabernet goes with Dr. Oetker frozen Hawaiian pizza?”)
But with Doyle and Kelly gone their own way for a while, (the guys ate everything in the apartment when I was away,) it was left to me to go shopping at Marc-Pol. (No not Marco Polo. Probably a distant cousin.)
Come on, how hard can it be?
Don’t bother to answer that. You know where this is going?
The shop started well . . . bread, cereal, water, beer, wine, lard.
Fortunately I met someone in the refrigerated food area who spoke English sort of. She knew I had no idea and said something I didn’t understand, as I looked at the butter package in my hand.
“Lard,” she said pointing to the package in my hand.
“Butter,” she said pointing to the package in her hand.
See, not hard to shop at all.
I headed over to the cold meat section. We’ve been buying the prepackaged stuff but I had a hankering for some Italian salami so when it was my turn, I did what everyone does when they travel. I pointed. I asked for 200 grams.
“Two?” said the nice woman behind the counter. I nodded my head.
She brought out the salami and my attention was distracted for a mere 15 seconds. When I looked back the package was already neatly wrapped and she was handing it over. Darn that was quick but the package was awfully light.
She looked at me and I said “200 grams?” She nodded her head and said “two.”
It isn’t going to be much of a sandwich.
How difficult can it be to buy apple juice? It’s very difficult when you have eight different sorts all made by the same company. I know it’s apple because of the picture but every package has a different word in front of the “mieta (apple).” Really, apple juice is apple juice.
Not to worry, you can get used to apple juice with a hint of Vick’s VapoRub.
And finally, who can resist a nice fresh pastry.
“Two,” I said to the nice woman behind the pastry counter, again pointing to my selection.
Fool me once . . . I paid attention this time. When she started putting No. 3, 4, 5 in the box I managed to stop her in time.
Mind you, two dozen pastries is something you can live with. Two slices of salami sends you to bed hungry.