A day in the life of a foreign supermarket shopper

By Ray Kuka in Shanghai ( China Daily ) Updated: 2013-03-14 11:25:06

Before moving to China, my fiancee and I had been warned: Don't forget to pack muesli, deodorant, toothbrushes and toothpaste and anything we may have taken for granted. But isn't everything made in China?

Their advice, as I predicted, was misguided because most things are available. Even Vegemite, an essential spread for an Australian living abroad that we have on toast for breakfast, could be bought.

But that's not to say the shopping experience was "normal".

On our first full day in Shanghai, we were taken shopping by a non-English speaking Chinese colleague.

A day in the life of a foreign supermarket shopper

After heeding the warnings, where else would we be taken? Only by chance I should add, but to a British-owned Tesco supermarket.

But we quickly noticed something different here compared to the Tesco experience in Britain. The Chinese are very hands on.

Tongs in the meat section are left idle, with bare hands being the clear choice for Chinese customers when it comes to choosing what was going to be dinner.

Yep, raw chicken and pork, picked up with unwashed fingers. Poked and prodded. Touched and tested. Discarded back into display cabinets or bagged up to take home.

How could this be? And how could using one's bare hands be deemed sanitary and OK?

Our colleague started laughing at us after realizing we thought something was unusual. He took control, and, also using his bare hands, began to bag up chicken breasts for us while we watched in horror.

He continued laughing at our distain, along with about 10 other people now gathered to watch how we chose our meat.

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