And just like that, the first day in Copenhagen is complete. All of my flights were on time, my luggage made it, and I’m still alive! I somehow made it to my new apartment through a combination of trains, staring at Danish street maps, and a
little lot of blind luck. As soon as I unpacked what little stuff I brought with me, I had one lingering thought; with energy and daylight quickly draining, I had to venture to the dreaded grocery store. You would be surprised at how many hurdles this entailed.
What do they call a grocery store here? Where would one be, and how do I get there? Do you have to bring your own bags, or do they give you plastic ones like back in the states? Most importantly, I dreaded that moment during checkout when the worker would inevitably speak Danish; with me staring ahead blankly, and with the locals forming an impatient line behind me. I would attempt to use my American credit card, hoping for a miracle. If you have ever been to Europe, you’ll know they use credit cards with pin numbers on them. They don’t swipe the magnetic strips like we do. It’s more of a “stick half of it in, and wait” motion.
So after getting pumped up in my apartment and ensuring I had the code to get back in my building, I went for my first space walk. I strolled down the street, trying to act like the locals; obeying all crosswalks, with a backpack slung over my shoulder. With the weather as dismal as my hopes were at finding an actual grocery store, I happened across a building with fruit on the outside. I must’ve struck gold. I walked inside, and confirmed that it was in fact a store where people buy food. I grabbed a rather large basket, awkwardly carrying it with two hands, and strolled down the first aisle.
With a small accomplished grin on my face, I throw some familiar bananas in my basket. I saw what looked like ground beef, all descriptions in Danish, but what the heck, I’d eat it. After filling my cart with essentials like coffee, pasta noodles, eggs, and what looked like milk (økolgisk?)”. Using familiarities like the shape of the package instead of names, I felt like the man. Then I noticed everyone else was wheeling their basket around and looking at me strangely. I guess that was why it had a long collapsible handle on it. You had to be there….
After spending way too much time grabbing the few paltry items that I did, it was time to check out. I waited in line, trying not to show my nerves. I saw the checkout kid quickly scanning a person’s groceries in front of me. My motto: monkey see, monkey do. I saw the lady put her basket on this counter, throw her food on the moving belt, and put the basket away. She then payed and walked out; it was my turn. I did the same thing, even putting the divider up between mine and the other customer’s groceries. “Godaften” said the checkout kid. I mumbled something. He was scanning so fast. I saw my food piling up and didn’t see any paper bags. I just started throwing all of the food in my backpack as he scanned. Since I didn’t notice any strange looks, I assumed it was a normal thing to do.
Then that horrible time came, I had to pay. I owed 200 kr.
I slowly pulled out my credit card while studying the worker’s face to see if I was to hand it to him, or put it in the machine myself. He didn’t motion for it, so I assumed it was all on me. I quickly stick the front half of my card in the machine and pull it out. “PLEASE GOD LET THIS WORK”, I thought. After a few seconds passed, nothing happened. A look of confusion came across the checkout kid. I did something wrong…..but what? I did it again…..nothing! I thought about running, but I still had half of my groceries on the checkout belt. I also did not want to go to Danish jail on my first day, so I stood my ground. At that point a line of a few people formed behind me…..just like my nightmare. So like all good Americans, I just started speaking English so he would know that I’m a foreigner. “I don’t have a pin number on this credit card” I said. He replied in English, “leave it in there”. Without knowing what that meant, but not wanting to seem stupid, I tried my same motion to no avail. With my face turning red, the checkout kid took pity on me and got up from his seat, came around, and showed me the mysterious credit card motion. Apparently, I had to put the card in the machine, leave it in there for a few seconds, and said machine would accept the card and print a receipt. With a look of amazement on my face, I signed the receipt, grabbed whatever piece of paper he handed me, shoved the rest of the food in my backpack, and quickly got out of there.
With a backpack full of food that I knew would sustain me for at least two days, I walked back to my apartment with a spring in my step. Put the code in my building door, and made my way back to my room. As soon as I walked in my door, I couldn’t help but give a yell of triumph. Like Julius Caesar, I came, I saw, I conquered…..a grocery store.