Adventures in Expatting: Terror at the Franprix

Take a good look at this picture, my friends, because this is the face of torture.

For the uninitiated, it’s just a stack of plastic bags at the end of the register at the Franprix*, my neighborhood market. For me, it’s pure evil.

As you may or may not know, you bag your own groceries over here in the EU. The level of anxiety this stack of bags causes me every time I shop is kind of ridiculous; on the Parlez Vous Loco Anxiety Scale, it registers right below a trip to the gynecologist, right above getting blood drawn, and it’s equivalent to trying to navigate the sidewalks in Paris. (That’s a whole other post.)

Why, you ask? Because just look at that stack of bags, would you? Look at it. Go on, I’ll wait. Imagine trying to get your hands on one of those static-y, sticky bags, while a very long line of people waits, watches, and curses you in their heads (or out loud) in French.

Here’s how it usually goes over at the Franprix: I anticipate the sticky bags, so I grab one or two while the person in front of me checks out. They’re done and out the door and still I’m trying to separate a bag. My groceries are scanned, then tallied. Still, I haven’t opened the bag. Then it’s time to pay. Since my audio recognition of French numbers is complete shit, I have to eyeball the monitor to see my total, which means I have to take my eye off the bag in order to dig in my wallet to pay, causing me to lose the use of one of my hands and thus, precious bag-separating seconds. As I wait for change, I realize I’m behind the eight ball and I start to sweat; I only have a few seconds left to get the bag open before she hands me the change. Can I do it? Will I be successful?

The answer is no. Never. I’m always bagging my groceries when the person who was four people behind me in line is checking out. Today, the checker even went on break after she checked out the woman in front of me and still I didn’t manage to get my bags open before she returned.

I’m convinced that this is a rite of passage for expats, like level thirty-two in Ms. PacMan. I’ve cleared level 1, getting a French bank account. Maybe this is level 2: bagging groceries to completion within the confines of your transaction time. I shudder to think of Level 3; I’ll never be a certified Faux French woman at this rate.

Maybe it’s time to get a canvas bag.

*I’m originally from the South, as in the southern United States, which means everything is prefaced with “the”: “The Safeway,” “the Walgreen’s,” “the Target.” That’s just how we do it down there.

4 thoughts on “Adventures in Expatting: Terror at the Franprix

  1. Here in Germany the plastic bags aren’t free, so most people bring their own. If you have a cart, it’s normal to throw everything back in the cart and bag it away from the register. I hate having to bag right at the register—most of the time here there is only about a foot of counter space, so if you aren’t lightening fast you are REALLY in the way of the next person. Very stressful … I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks so!

    • Ahhh, that’s a good idea. I *should* be bringing a canvas bag to save the world, but I’m not. And in Paris, your canvas bag probably has to be Hermes, so I’m back to square one. Glad there’s someone else in the world who things this is stressful. Bonne chance with your bagging!

  2. My first reaction when I read this was: lol! (though I’m aware the whole bag situation is not so funny for you) :)) I usually bring my own bag BUT there are certain supermarkets where the cashiers throw your stuff through the register with such speed I usually just catch a glimpse of them flying into my cart. I wait for them to throw it all in and then politely remove myself to the side where I take my time to put all the stuff into the bag. I guess the best idea would be to start saving up for that Hermes? ;)

    ps. I love love your blog, discovered it today and just thought to myself that it’s really time for me to visit Paris again. And not be so touristy this time :))

    • Moving off to the side is a great idea; I need a little French-lady cart to carry my groceries to and fro in and then all of my problems will be solved. (Or at least the ones at the Franprix will be, anyway … )

      Thank you for reading! Like Amy Adams in “Julie & Julia,” I must admit it sort of makes my day to get a comment. :) BTW, coming back to Paris is always a good idea, touristy or not. Revenez!

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