The Things ... Shopping (Einkaufen) for Non-Essentials


The Things ... Shopping (Einkaufen) for Non-Essentials

I have been nervous and skeptical about shopping ever since the pandemic began. In America, I experienced so-called panic buying first hand. I tried to focus on prepping very early on to prevent shopping in the midst of that mayhem. And as the months passed I have begun to feel almost guilty for buying anything outside of basic necessities or what we now know as the "essentials". I have never been the type to really enjoying shopping as a pasttime but I did like indulging B.C. (before Corona) especially while in the States. There are so many things not accessible to me in Germany or Europe so shopping while abroad is vital and exciting. Americans are buyers and we love just perusing stores for whatever impulse and random purchases. American stores and brands prepare by lining their shelves and aisles with pretty and or useless things we will buy. Unfortunately, now it is just too risky to shop like this and businesses are thinking about how little we go out and what for. Shopping became about getting in and out with what you need and no more. In that my entire process of buying things have changed. And now being back in Germany shopping easily is a privilege I do not want to exploit or take for granted. 

Surely many of us have embraced buying things we need online. But I have my own personal opinion around online shopping. I am probably the last human on Earth without an Amazon account. I find a lot of those mass marketplaces online interfaces are really clunky and not worth the data intrusion into my purchases. I also love instant gratification and trying things on. I tried to order grocery online in the States and it was exactly as expected. A horrible database for products that really need to be physically touched, weighed, inspected etc. It didn't matter which retailer or what delivery service partnered with whatever store people always experienced avoidable issues if they had shopped in person. And to be home and scared it isn't comforting to buy things you mistakingly chose or endure substitutes and delays for the products you are used to. And plenty of Americans who chose to stay indoors at the height of the pandemic caught the virus from delivery personnel or while handling products touched by others. I found it was way easier to just do it all on my own. And while Germany seems more efficient simply because they are more consumer savvy and have less selection, I personally just do not want anyone else picking my food for me. Of course, I have had to rely on others sending me things via their Amazon accounts and thankfully my husband is totally into Prime here in Germany. I never imagined how resourceful Amazon could be for all things essential as well as impulse purchases. But I am certain I didn't order nearly half as much stuff and most people did B.C.

Fast forward to the height of the pandemic, shopping was no longer a good time. I had to limit my in person shopping to once a week. I researched sales and stores and tried to go during openings. We were limited to new store hours brought on my the pandemic as well as a state mandated curfew. The luxury of shopping in a Walmart after midnight was cancelled very early on. I was lucky enough to have a mother over 65 who could get into certain stores early and we would work in tandem to get all of our shopping done. We only shopped in masks, gloves and armed with our own disinfectants. And after returning home with our purchases, we never carried inside any plastics or cardboards from the outside. This meant discarding things like cereal boxes or plastic containers that held lunch meat directly at the store which is unusual in America. Unlike in Germany, most American stores do not provide proper receptacles for recyclables. We used hampers to carry our loose grocery inside, sanitized all our items and stored them immediately. This was very time consuming and expensive because all the things required to stay protected were constrained. We couldn't easily buy masks or cleaning stuff. It was sold out online and in-store when and if you found any you could only buy one thing in that category. Frankly, if we found Lysol and toilet tissue we were only allowed one of those options. Slowly that opened up to one paper product per household and then water, disinfectants, hand sanitizers but earlier shopping was out of "The Handmaid's Tale". Here upon arrival German stores offered gloves, sanitizer, cart wipes completely free of charge. Hand sanitizer, disinfectants and masks were accessible most everywhere. Frankly, if we didn't think to prep and get on hand supplies in early February we would have been forced to find alternative methods to get what we need. I mean people were using things like vodka to get by! While Germany provides a lot of things we were personally responsible for in America ... German public places do not have easily accessible, free restrooms or parking. It is quite hard to protect yourself and keep your purchases safe when you have to ride public transport and cannot wash your hands without having pocket change. It was extremely comforting to know I could leave the cash register, then wash my hands and go straight to my vehicle. In Germany, you are riddled with anxiety if you are out and don't have access to hand sanitizer. You have to carry all this stuff on your person to feel safe now as most stores have began to transition out of free cleaned shopping carts, sanitizing stations and good practices. You have to shop at your own risk.

Most places like shopping malls and interactive stores have barely opened back up in America. But here in Germany people were casually shopping inside of Sephora, Apple Stores and browsing malls all Summer long. And while I was hesitant at first I simply had no choice but to get back out there. Seasons changed and I needed non-essentials like clothes, shoes, beauty products etc. So I began by shopping in outside pedestrian areas only and keeping my browsing to a minimum. I expected for stores to have better practices here in Germany like keeping fitting rooms closed, not allowing returns or requiring pickups. I was shocked to see fitting room lines backed up and people returning and exchanging goods. The only difference is most stores monitor occupancy with carts, baskets or bags. And a lot of stores do not allow more than a certain amount of people inside at a time. But on the other hand you do not see people disinfecting those baskets and what difference does it make it you are shopping near a snake of people who cannot social distance. America prevented this by not allowing people to shop for non-essentials like clothing altogether and proposed limits on things that were deemed essential like canned goods. If a place like Zara operates as it did B.C. it is breeding ground for infection and transmissions. I choose wisely. I now order a lot of basics online from specific retailers like Pull & Bear or H&M. I order good bath products from The Body Shop as they ship practically overnight without additional charges. I do pickups at other stores like DM or Douglas. And we as a household we order basically all our home goods via Amazon Prime Abo which cuts our store trips down. Otherwise my limited store runs require a list in my handy Clear app and no dabbling in ooh and ahh random purchases. 

Now as we are entering a dangerous time of cold weather, normal flu season and the holidays I am cautious about a lockdown. Another full quarantine is imminent and may require many of us globally to hunker down during the Winter. To prepare for this I have done pantry shopping every time I do go out. I have amassed a lot of noodles, pasta, rice and beans for the future. I am also steady looking for things I can maintain on hand for a long period like shelf stable or powdered milk, steel cut oats and tea. We normally store our warmer clothing through Spring and Summer but I think I may begin to stock up on more pajamas and loungewear for at home comfort. I would normally brave Primark and Kaufhof for new accessories like gloves and scarves but I think I may pass. If we stand to be indoors for a period o of time there really is no need in having the latest and on trend outerwear. I think right now getting what will carry you through a stint indoors is most important and replacing things that may wind up kaputt in the middle of it would be a good idea right now i.e. z.B. knives, a can opener, kitchen shears, chargers and or batteries for all devices. Maybe stock up on your entertainment like good books, board games and movies. Or if you enjoy a hobby whatever supplies you may need. And of course do not forget about your pets which have speciality needs you may not be able to get. And of course stock up on your vitamins and vital medications. But sorry gone are the days of getting an outfit just because. Spontaneity isn't very pandemic friendly! So if you have to shop I would say it is an anxiety riddled 5/10 risk factor. But if you make solid list, wear a mask, pace yourself and prepare for the what-ifs well in advance safe and effective shopping can be a 10/10.