Shopping and eating in Germany

Bernard Duckworth
Guest Columnist

During 2009 I wrote several columns about various aspects of life in Europe including the German school system, a pilgrimage on the Way of Saint James and my daughters' experience in an American high school in Alabama. This time I would like to write something about shopping and eating in Germany.

The differences are becoming fewer and fewer as time passes but are still remarkable. When I first came to Germany, shops opened weekdays at 8 or 9 a.m. and closed at 6 p.m. and were usually closed from noon until 2 p.m. for lunch. On Saturdays all stores and shops closed at 2 p.m.

It was not until about five or six years ago that this started to change. Now many stores, especially supermarkets, and shops do not close until 10 p.m. and also remain open over midday. In spite of the changes, many aspects of shopping have remained almost unchanged.

Many people still prefer to buy groceries every day. Refrigerators in Germany are about one-fourth the size of a typical American refrigerator which means that one is forced to buy food more often and people still like to buy fresh vegetables daily.

Thirty years ago there was at least one bakery and butcher shop in every small village, and in the larger towns and cities they were located every couple of blocks - one went from the butcher to the green grocer, the fruit grocer, to the baker and the dairy store.

Some things such as eggs, potatoes and other less perishable items were bought at weekly open markets. The trend now is for the bakers and butchers to have a shop within the supermarkets, but local street markets are still quite common in the villages and smaller cities one day a week. This is more out of tradition than necessity as in the past.

One thing that surprised me when I first arrived in Germany was that you had to go to a dairy store to buy milk, but beer was delivered to your home at least once a week. That too is fading out, but can still be seen.

There are over 300 different bread varieties and more than 1,500 different kinds of "Wurst" and lunch meats in Germany. Many are regional and not known outside of a small area. Because bread is baked daily, there are usually no additives to prevent fungus or mold, so it has to be eaten within a couple of days. If anyone is interested in knowing more you can google "German wurst" and German bread and probably find information in English.

Essentially, bread is eaten with every meal. Breakfast typically consists of a cup of coffee or tea and a slice of bread with butter and marmalade early in the morning.

At 9:30 a.m. there is usually what is called the "second breakfast." This again is often a cup of coffee or tea, but this time with something similar to what we call Danish pastry in the U.S. Strangely enough this is called "Vienna Bread" in Denmark.

The main meal is taken at noon and is usually warm and includes meat, soup and in certain areas noodles and is quite hearty.

In the evening, the meal is normally cold with bread, lunchmeat, cheese, pickles and such things with a glass of beer for the adults and the older children. The younger children often drink a glass of apple juice. It is very unusual that anyone drinks milk.

In Spain, France and Italy it is just the opposite with the evening meal always being warm.

As in many other cases, traditional shopping and meals are changing. More women now work; the village shops to which one could walk are disappearing making larger quantities of food or more driving necessary.

Refrigerators are becoming larger; home freezers are common and frozen vegetables and other frozen foods are available in the supermarkets.

Whether the Germans like it or not their lifestyle is slowly becoming more and more like that of the Americans. Progress brings change whether we like it or not.

When I was living in Black Rock over 50 years ago, I do not remember being able to buy frozen meats or vegetables then either. Those things came when the bridge over the Black River was completed in the 1950s and people began driving to Walnut Ridge to shop.

Bernard Duckworth, a native of Black Rock and member of the BRHS Class of 1957, served in the U.S. Army from 1958-1961. He is as an independent consultant and has been living in Europe since 1970. He and his wife have three children. Send comments to him via The Times Dispatch at

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