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Fred and Maryjo spent nearly a year and a half in Germany; Fred was working for Hewlett-Packard in

During their "European Sojourn" they did what the locals did, visiting attractions and festivals and making friends. They came back to the States with a broadened perspective of other cultures and a better grasp of history. 

Anita Scheffczyk, a dear friend from those days, has a gift for communicating with animals. She has recently launched a practice working with animals, talking to them telepathically. Her website is filled with fabulous photos of her working with animals and will soon be available in English. However, if you use Google Chrome as your browser, notice the offer to translate the website at the top! It does a fairly good job! 

Her website quotes Charles Darwin:

"The animals feel like a man pleasure and pain, happiness and unhappiness; they are by the same emotions affected as we do."

Maryjo loves to travel, making new friends around the world.  On this page she writes about global adventures, including the surreal European Adventure, living in Herrenberg (Baden-Wuerrtemberg) and traveling historic Western Europe.   The following is a story co-authored with her dear German friend Anita.


Mj and AnitaDie Deutsche - Amerikanische Freundschaft
The German American Friendship
by Anita Scheffczyk and Maryjo Morgan

Introduction: Anita and I finally meet after years of knowing “of” each other though our husbands, who worked together, when Anita and Peter return to Germany after living in the States; we were living in their area in Germany on a year+ assignment.  Our first conversation lasted several hours with non-stop comparisons and funny anecdotes.  We love each other’s country!  We discovered that we both have written numerous details describing how we struggled to “blend in” and to communicate daily in a new language and culture.  We each learned respect for diversity, gained agility in adaptability, and developed a true affection for our adopted countries.  In our amazingly parallel accounts we recorded triumphs, tribulations, and confusions. We each found surprising resiliency within ourselves, and delighted in new experiences. All of this took place in the late 90’s and early 2000 before the Euro currency, so we each had to deal with currency exchanges and learning to count in a different language.


Anita and Mj HugAnita and Maryjo are fast friends yet.  Anita & Peter visited the US in June 2005, and Maryjo and Fred went “across the pond” in December 2005.  Good telephone rates keep the friends in close contact.

Synopsis:  Sometimes it takes sheer determination (mixed with humor and good attitude) just to get through the day to day in a foreign country.  Chapter’s topics cover things such as experiencing culture shock, the differences in societal norms, uniquely region-specific activities (i.e. cowboys in Colorado and “fasching” parades in Baden-Würtemmberg).  We talk about physicians and medicine in general, landscape and climate, food and restaurants, individuals, housing, holidays, media, pre-school, driving, shopping, different measurements and calendars, municipal layout and design, and the preparation, travel, and repatriation of a foreign work assignment. By describing the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of our new homes, our friends and family vicariously share our explorations.  Our story is bilingual, each writing in her native tongue, and then translated into the other.  Hearing the “other side” of the story greatly enhances the information shared.  Those of our readers planning a cross-cultural experience gain insight and the calming affect of knowing what to expect.

Maryjo speaks:

Maryjo tells about "SHOPPING IN HERRENBERG"

Since we are only minutes by foot from the altstadt (which is the "old town") with winding cobblestone streets and a myriad of shops, I walk to buy our groceries.  Typically in the center of a town, the (Stadmitte), is a square with a church, fountain, the local government seat (rathaus) and lots of shops, restaurants, and cafes.  The town square is similar to many anywhere else in Europe ... except THIS anywhere is certainly an experience for me.  It is so unique and steeped in history, I can hardly believe that I am grocery shopping!  The shape of the predominant steeple in Herrenberg is distinctive.  It is a "zwiebelturm" ~ literally "onion dome", an architectural feature that is plentiful in Bavaria as well as here in Swabia.  Since I can see the church (Stiftskirche) from almost any point in the surrounding countryside, it has become my point of directional reference much as the Rockies are for me in Colorado.  Herrenberg has a web page:  Check it out!  You can see firsthand the charming half-timbered 5 & 6 story buildings that line the streets I take when I walk to the store.  Speaking of walking … it has been days since I’ve driven anywhere … folks here certainly to expect walk, including up stairs. Lots of stairs even outdoors!  Who needs aerobics? Just be late for church and you must dash up the hill ... there you have your physical and spiritual workout rolled into one event without gym fees...!

You should try to buy shampoo, conditioner, liquid shower soap, and body lotion when the packaging is written in a language you barely know.  All the words are derivatives of a root word, the exact meaning of which is difficult to determine.  I just kept looking up the words, but ultimately had to rely on my sense of smell to decide! When I asked a clerk for help to find oil-free make-up remover, she told me "No English!".  She and I were both surprised that we were able to complete the transaction without translation help, even with my meager language skills.  Every day is an adventure.  People are kind-hearted and helpful.  They seem truly pleased that an American will try to learn German.  I was thrilled to find soy cheese and rice dream (liquid), but in the Reformhaus they were quite expensive.  I also found cinnamon (zimpt - I’d have no clue that was the word for cinnamon … lots of cooking terms, herbs, vegetable names, etc are not even IN the dictionary!). There are lots of fine cheeses and meats - many are smoked, made locally and certainly new to us.  It is fun to buy just enough for today, and then try something else tomorrow.   I went to the open-air market in the town square.  The market here in Herrenberg (it differs from town to town) is held on Tuesdays and Saturdays - there is a plethora of stands containing all sorts of wares: fresh vegetables, freshly baked breads (!!!) that are crusty on the outside, chewy and moist on the inside, (and of course not in plastic bags)cheeses and sausages, flowers, local honey products, trinkets, etc. Fred & I found lots of fresh veggies that looked too good to pass up!  I don’t know exactly what they are, but I’ll find out how they taste anyway!  There is something called "celerie" that seems to be the bulbous root of stalk celery. The taste is similar, but different. (Oh, that was an accurate description!) Regardless, it is great in soup!

The first time I went shopping ... let me tell you … it took me three hours and we have enough for only two meals!  The reason: things you would never think about, like what does the picture on the package really mean?  I had my dictionary with me, but it took forever to find regular things, such as salt.  Do you realize how many different kinds of salt there are?  I finally chose one package that I decided said “granular salt”.  In did … sort of.  Actually it said “large grain salt” … grains of salt that are so large, they won’t go through the holes in the saltshaker!  Like pretzel salt.  So much for getting staples.  Then when I went to pay, I didn’t count the German currency correctly, and had to take some things back.  The checker scowled at me … even though the registers are electronic, they need a supervisor’s override to back out an item.  The checker’s sit down at their register, and are quite business like.  They take their positions very seriously.  There are several large supermarket-type stores, a schleker (that is sort of a Walgreens), as well as numerous specialty shops such as butchers, bakers, vegetable and fruit stands. At the Apotheka (pharmacy) it is possible to buy many items on the recommendation of the pharmacist that would require a prescription in the states.  The pharmacist is well versed in herbal teas, and can make up a mixture tailored to your present ailment.  Custom-blended medicinal herb teas ... think of that!  The Germans elevate wellness to new levels.  I've had to make a few adjustments in my shopping habits, such as buying only what I can carry home.  Once I forgot that I had walked to the store; I’d filled the cart!  That was a terrible trudge home, and of course, it rained.  I also discovered that I need to bring my own fabric sacks.  The plastic ones cost extra and everyone not only brings their own sacks, but sack their own groceries as well.  The checker looked at me demandingly and said something I didn’t understand, but I got the idea … put your own stuff in the sacks, lady!  I was all thumbs trying to hurry up out of the way of the person in line behind me.  Also, I need to buy only what will fit in the kuhlschrank (refrigerator)!  Since this is about the size of a dishwasher, it is considerably smaller than what we are accustomed!  Fruit, veggies, and just a few servings of meat seem to fill it up.  So I adopted the local convention of picking up fresh items almost daily.  Which reminds me of another new thing … obtaining a grocery cart! 

I was already in the store when I realized that I hadn’t gotten a cart; when I went outside (yes, out the “in” door … why am I always going up the down staircase?) I discovered that I did not have the right coin or a plastic chip.  The plastic chip is a convenience that one cannot get every day.  Let me explain.  In Germany (and in fact, in much of Europe), there is a deposit to use a grocery cart, much as some airports charge to use the luggage carts, and when they are returned, the charge or most of it is returned to the user.  The grocery carts are chained one-to-the-other by a mechanism that accepts a DM 1 coin.  Once the coin is in place in the slot, it is possible to detach that cart from the rest.  When you are finished with the cart, you return it, snap the chain to the next cart, and the slot pops open, releasing your DM 1 coin or a plastic chip back to you.  With one of these chips, you don’t mistakenly spend the last DM 1 coin in your purse!  Therefore, it is convenient and an assurance that you will have the “proper change” when you are next in need of a grocery cart.  However, they are available only on special offers, such as the opening day of a store, limited access events, etc.  Once you get one, you hold onto it! I repeatedly asked at two retail stores, inquiring where I could get a chip.  I was told, alas, I’d missed the last recent opportunity at several places.  I was disappointed!  But apparently, somehow, one was provided for me.  I was thrilled: 

We both spied it at the same time.  The white-haired woman in the window seat across the train aisle and I both focused on it …  she picked up the flat blue disc, examined it, then put it on the little wall-shelf.  I motioned to her - was she going to keep it or leave it there?  She answered that I had beautiful eyes, and that she could see Fred and I were happy together!  Then we had an animated conversation about the blue chip, our husbands, vacations, good wines, places to go … and she actually understood what I was stumbling over my words to say in my inexperienced German!  That was a milestone … an actual conversation!  Anyway, she answered that no, she had a chip already.  Please, take it for yourself, she told me in a German strongly influenced by the local dialect.  My sweet train-ride companion knew why I smiled so broadly as I retrieved the small blue chip!

Driving in Germany ... I will tell you the details later.  But parking, especially at the market was another matter altogether.  My first time taking the car, I managed to return the bottles from bottled water for the deposit (that is a whole process with receipts, credit, and the like) I was proud of myself for accomplishing that.  Then I went to retrieve the car from the Parking Garage, and thus another adventure:

Marktkauf is a large grocery store similar to King Soopers or Safeway.  It has escalators to access the 3-stories; you can even take a full grocery cart (designed to ride on the escalator) up and down.  There is a two-story garage beneath the store.  Of course, the garage, like parking most everywhere, requires payment.  If you have shopped in Marktkauf, you can have your garage entry voucher stamped at the checkout.  When you take your voucher to the payment machine in the garage, if you have had it validated at the checkout, it cancels the voucher and when you insert it in the gate, the gate lifts and you are off.  If you have not had it validated at the check-out, or your car was parked longer than the first two complimentary hours, you must pay the 1 or 2DM  (about 50 cents or $1) to the machine, then it marks your voucher as paid and the gate will let you out.  Since all of this is clearly stated on the machine in the garage, it is common knowledge.  That is, if you can read German; I am in trouble here!

Not only had I finished my shopping after only a couple of hours (fast for me with shopping list in one hand and dictionary in the other), but I’d also remembered the level I’d parked on, and found the car easily.  I was so tickled with myself, I hummed knowing I’d easily have time to stow the groceries at home and go for a walk in the forest.  I drove up to the gate and inserted my parking voucher.  The machine flashed red instead of green.   Hmmmm.  I pushed the button again, but got the same red flasher.  There was a call button, which I pushed and haltingly said in German that I did not understand.  The parking garage attendant appeared beside my car and gruffly said something about the ticket.  I replied that I did indeed have a ticket.  Then he started talking loudly and pointing to the voucher/payment machine.  Meanwhile, cars started to line up behind mine in the one-lane exit.  The honking started, and some people got out of their cars, frowning and complaining.  I got out of my car, voucher in hand, and walked up to the parking garage attendant.  His eyes flashed with irritation as he gestured energetically at the machine again.  I showed him my voucher, pointing to the checkout validation.  He continued to yell incomprehensively at me.  I repeatedly requested, in my broken German, for him to speak slowly (and I wished more softly!).  I was beginning to blush as people gathered around.  The garage reverberated with the cacophony of honking horns and people in a hurry being detained.  I was clearly confused and close to tears.  I could not understand what was wrong.  I had gotten the ticket validated.  I was under the two-hour limit; I knew I didn’t owe any money.  A woman wearing a woolen shawl and hat in rich shades of forest green walked up to me and smiled; she appeared a few years older than me, with kind brown eyes.  She gestured for me to wait.  Clearly irritated, she told the attendant to stop yelling.  She asked him if he couldn’t see that I was a foreigner.  She continued that it was obvious I simply did not understand the process.  She used sign language to show me that I needed two validations on the voucher; one from the checkout, and one from this machine.  Then the gate (Shrank) would lift and I could leave.  She allowed me the dignity of inserting the voucher in the machine myself; when it came out, she pointed to the second validation and questioned with her eyes if I understood.  She smiled when she saw I did, then shooed me to my car.  With a scathing look toward the attendant she left.  Several people cheered and jumped back into their cars.  The line that now snaked along one wall and around the back surged forward in anticipation of release.  Tears stung my eyes as I saw the gate finally lift, freeing us all from our entombment there in the garage.  You can bet I have never forgotten the second validation again!

Once again I find myself tangled in language loops: what I thought was shower gel ended up a sticky mess.  After carefully translating phrases on the bottle, I was certain that I had purchased liquid shower gel with moisturizing agents. When I got my shower, I squeezed a generous amount on the body scrubbing netball; as I attempted to lather up, I noticed that instead of a bubbly soapy foam, I was smearing my body with a thick white moisturizing cream such as Eucerin.  The water was certainly hot enough, but the thick lotion still clung to my wet skin in greasy clumps.  Continued scrubbing led me to the conclusion that it was not at all water-soluble!  Augh!  I had to call Fred to get paper towels to wipe it off!  So much for my careful translation …

I have ended up with a cupboard full of such “mistakes”, things that I thought I understand what the packaging said/had pictured, or whatever.  But “doctor tested and consumer approved” does not mean much on a label!

Everything I do is new, everywhere I go is unfamiliar, every person I see is ... a friend waiting to be met. It is exhilarating and tiring at the same time. I do love all the walking ... shopping, post office, for the sheer motion of it.  However, I end up doing more because while there are no "siestas" here, many shops and offices still close noon to 2:00. I have to plan my day and my walk; when I forget, I end up walking across town a second time after the quiet noon hour!   I have also learned to plan Friday's shopping adequately when a Monday holiday is coming.  Nothing is open on a holiday except restaurants.  When guests were unexpectedly hungry I had to be resourceful since there was no 24 hour King Soopers available!  My days are so full, I amazed when I notice that it is 10PM already!


Anita speaks:

     Anita talks about "Shopping in Fort Collins":

     Going shopping always confirmed and re-confirmed my first impressions totally: it’s different! Start with simply getting there: In Germany I was used to taking the car only for the monthly shopping trip, restocking the supplies from the supermarket.  All the daily things (bread from the bakery, meat from the butcher, fruit and vegetables from the weekly market) I did by walking into town, visiting all the local shops. In the US I immediately realized that you don’t get anywhere without a car!

Taking the stroller to Tübingen old town for a stroll, I could run all the little errands at the same time, getting all the little things; that’s why we got this stroller with the big storage room under the seat anyway. Just completely forget about this in the US, at least in the West. Another German habit, of driving your car into town, leaving it in some parking garage, and then - again walking - visiting all the various stores and shops, and carrying all the bags full of shoes, clothes, food, back to your car, this is something very typical for a small German town.  In the States it became a mere dream. I had no idea how much I would miss it!

In the US it is completely different.  You take your car, drive a few miles to the shoe store, leave the car in a huge parking lot - without, by the way, having to master the art of getting into small parking spaces since all the slots are like everything in the US - big - and buy your shoes. Then you get back into your car and set off for the next shop to get clothes, and so on. Pretty convenient, you might think.  But think again ... what if you have two small kids, one of them unable to walk yet?  You have to carry him to the car, fasten seat belts, and store the stroller in the car. At the next destination, take the stroller from the trunk, unfasten seat belts, carry the kids from the car, and so on … this is not convenient at all, and very quickly gets on your nerves!

Everything in the US seems designed for driving. Even the smallest shop has a big parking area, and the most insignificant side street has separate turn lanes on each intersection. The main road through Fort Collins (College Ave.) has three lanes per direction in many places. At intersections there are often two turn lanes per direction to turn, and plus two continuous lanes, so you end up with - hmm, a little math - yes, up to an impressive 10 lanes on each side of the intersection!  You don’t easily cross all that by walking!

Once, shortly after our arrival, we wanted to get new shoes for Niels, our oldest son. We looked up a store in the yellow pages (on the aforementioned College Ave.) and set off in the car. We found the store (at least we thought we did), only to learn that this particular shoe store did not sell children’s shoes.  The one that did was just diagonally across the intersection. In Germany we would have simply crossed the street, bought the shoes, and gotten back in the car. But not in the States: 10 lanes of traffic (each being significantly wider than a German lane)and a big parking lots around each shop means a great distance. We couldn’t even see the other shop from where we stood, not to mention the fact that often there are no sidewalks or pedestrian crossings anyway.  You just don’t walk in the US! To make a long story short: we got back into the car, drove across the intersection and finally bought the shoes, although this sounds easier said than done; finding your way across 10 lanes of heavy traffic is not for the faint hearted.

A short side note: The emphasis on cars very strongly influences the landscape and town planning. Sometimes it seemed to me that two thirds of Fort Collins is covered with parking lots. But more of town planning later. For the moment, let’s get back to shopping.

Strolling, that is to combine moving with something useful like going shopping doesn’t work.  Anyway, "getting yourself moving" in the States always means exercise or participating in sporting activities. After this one year in the US there was nothing I actually missed more than the simple pleasure of being able to go shopping on foot!

Once there though, the shops themselves are just as interesting. First, you realize with a small shock that certain shops are either missing or very hard to find. For example, there is no butcher anywhere in Fort Collins. Buying meat means selecting from the plastic-wrapped supply in the supermarket. The only counter with freshly cut meat we found was in a kind of high-end supermarket, which mostly had organically grown food. In the regular supermarkets you can only get pre-packaged, plastic-wrapped meats and cheeses. Bakeries are equally hard to find.  If you are lucky there’s one per town, and if you’re even luckier the bread you get there is nearly edible. If not, you end up again with plastic-wrapped stuff from the supermarket. Fresh vegetables and fruit: again you get it only at the supermarket. A weekly market with locally grown food just doesn’t exist: at least not around Fort Collins.  We never found the "Farmer's Market".

Pharmacies are also different: they are integrated into the supermarkets. Over-the-counter medicine is available like any other goods; you just help yourself. Medicine available only by prescription you get at the pharmacy counter, which works a somewhat differently than in Germany. Instead of medicine in prepackaged standard packs, the pharmacist stores them in big containers and individually counts them out, filling them according to your doctor’s prescription. So, the first thing you do in the supermarket is to drop off your prescription. Then you go shopping for the things on your list.  The last thing you do is pick up your medicine, which has been prepared in the meantime. In the beginning, I was surprised at this different system.  Now, in hindsight, I cannot see any advantages this system has over the practices in German pharmacies. On the contrary, it seems errors could happen more easily. When I handed in my prescription, I always had the uneasy feeling of being at the nice, friendly pharmacist’s mercy.  What if someone mistakenly handed me a completely different medicine, perhaps even something fatal? Fortunately this never happened! Certainly you don’t have to be seriously afraid of this.  Nonetheless, I was always a little disconcerted by this approach to handling prescriptions.

A very typical American institution is the shopping mall, most often just called "The Mall". The first time I saw and entered such a - how do I put it - “structure” does not do justice to the scale of the construction.  I was stunned. The dimensions of such a mall are more than the average German brain can handle. In principle, a mall is little more than a complete pedestrian zone ... indoors.  Small shops are lined up one after the other; every now and then there is a big department store, sometimes a corner devoted to all kinds of culinary pleasures with a fountain here and there for general enjoyment and artists exhibiting their artwork. In short, it’s like a pedestrian zone in a bigger German city with two things missing: cars  and fresh air!  (The cars are parked on gigantic parking lots that surround the mall ... parking lots so big that if we hadn’t known that “the mountains are always west” even my husband with his normally good sense of direction would have gotten completely lost.) So I was wrong;  you can take a stroll - in such a mall!  I just never could get used to the lack of sky. This is another example of the American tendency to exclude nature from daily life as much as possible. Walks in the wilderness ... yes; the great outdoors ... very popular, but please, don’t let nature get too close to daily life!

Another American institution that cannot go unmentioned is the liquor store. First, I must state for the record that the laws for selling alcohol differ from state to state. In Arizona, you can buy wine in the supermarket; in Utah, you are permitted to purchase alcohol only at special times in special stores. In Colorado, you can get 3.2 beer in supermarkets, but anything stronger must be purchased in the so-called "liquor stores". To buy alcohol of any kind, you have to be at least 21 years old and in a position to prove it, since the sales personnel really do check this very strictly. Once at a Safeway, I had a few six-packs of beer in my shopping cart and as usual, was accompanied by my two children.   With my graying hair on display for all to see, I had to present my ID at the check-out!  By the way, the best way to identify yourself is with a US driver’s license. Anything else, although theoretically allowed, will get you a strange look, or perhaps will not be accepted at all.

The store where you will do most of your shopping will certainly be the plain old supermarket. There are several different chains, all of which are laid out very similarly. Soon everyone eventually finds his or her "favorite" supermarket. We regularly went to Safeway, which is a big chain that exists throughout the US, simply because it was closest to our apartment. If you enter such a Safeway store for the first time, you are initially impressed by its size with endless aisles, streets nearly, that are labeled for better orientation, similar to German DIY stores. The variety of goods is much greater than in Germany, which is not necessarily an advantage.  It makes decisions much more difficult!  In addition, many labels look like Chinese to you, even if you have a reasonably good knowledge of English. Sometimes you choose something that looks familiar ... such as some harmless package of spaghetti that seems to go through a change of personality when cooked.  It shrinks so much you worry there will not be enough to go around; it clings together as if bound by a powerful glue, and tastes like glue as well.  The explanation: I accidentally picked up gluten-free spaghetti for people who suffer from this allergy!  Special kinds of foods that are free of this or that are much easier to find in the US than in Germany. To purchase such foods in Germany you often have to go to the special (and expensive) health food shop, requiring a corresponding budget. In the States, you can get this specialized food in the regular supermarket, which is always just around the corner. As a “regular eater”, you need to pay more attention when selecting your food from the shelves.

What I really liked at Safeway was the shopping carts. Needless to say they are bigger than German ones. The really special thing about them is that there are some which seat three children of nearly arbitrary size with seat belts fastened. No joking!  This was very convenient. No constant looking after your toddler, continually running around, while considering which piece of cheese to pick. Since I lived in constant fear of my kids being kidnapped anyway (more about this later), I appreciated this type of shopping cart very much.

Something I found very funny and a good example of the American sense of humor (which seemed very disconcerting to the narrow-minded German) is the “vegetable shower”. In each supermarket the vegetables are regularly sprayed with water. I was never able to figure out why; probably it is connected to the fact that the appearance is very important to Americans (Paul Watzlawick speaks in his book “Gebrauchsanweisung für Amerika”, which is highly recommended, of the American maxim “mehr Schein als Sein”). Vegetables just look fresher if they’re wet. They don’t taste better, they probably even spoil faster being wet all the time, but it entices you to buy them if they look so crisp, wet, and fresh. The funniest thing about Safeway’s method - and I saw this only at Safeway - is the announcement of this vegetable shower with an "artificial thunderstorm", complete with thunder!  The first time I experienced this, I was frightened to death because it sounded so real. I really believed there must be a terrible thunderstorm going on outside if I could hear it so loud and clear inside.  When I recovered from the first shock I realized that the thunder came from a speaker, and that lightening flashes originated from lights mounted on top of the vegetable shelf ... this was very different!

I also really learned to love (and this is true for every store, not just Safeway) the extremely friendly and helpful staff.  If you are standing around looking for something, suddenly there’s a zealous and very polite clerk at your side, one you hadn’t even see before, who leads you directly to the item you are looking for, even if this means walking through the whole supermarket. If you discover at the check-out, with people lining up behind you, that you accidentally picked up fat-free milk, immediately some very friendly guy jumps up and hurries away to correct your mistake, exchanging the milk for the correct one (again remember that this means crossing large distances). At the checkout, you also notice that the clerks are standing, not sitting, which is very convenient to the customer because you’re on the same eye level. Again, they are very friendly; they joke with your children, tell funny stories from their life, ask you where you are from, and even let you know that the lady two people behind you also comes from Germany: they create a general atmosphere of being welcome, which is in total contrast to the typical German checkout clerk who often gives you the feeling that customers are something very annoying.  Because of this friendliness of the staff, shopping in the US is a much more personal experience than in Germany, even though the stores are so much bigger.

At the checkout then the inevitable question: “Paper or plastic, ma’am?” The bagger, a job that is unparalleled in Germany, asks it. Being German I am used to throwing the goods being scanned by the cashier into my bags in a hurry, at the same time trying to keep an eye on the kids who run around, quickly paying in between packing the stuff, then trying to quickly finish with the guilty conscience of knowing that you are blocking the checkout for the next customer. It is inconceivable to expect something like this from customers in the US. Here you even have separate staff just for bagging in your preference of paper or plastic. Your groceries are professionally sacked while you have a lively chat with the cashier scanning your items.  Packed as professionally as any housewife would do it, foods and cleaning things are never in the same bag; frozen things and cool items that quickly spoil are together, sometimes in a thermal sack; heavy (on the bottom) and light items packed together to get an average weight per bag. There’s nothing for you to do except chat and finally, pay. Of course paying with a credit card or check is far more common than cash.  Finally you can even have the luxury of having all your things carried to the car, but I never took advantage of this service: you finally do want to do something yourself. Especially for a mother with little children this customer service attitude is very convenient. The extreme helpfulness and friendliness of the staff is really impressive, and quite a few Germans could take a page out of this book!