Friday, January 09, 2009

Culture Exploration 1: Grocery Shopping

Before we get too far into shopping at the grocery store, I should emphasize that most shopping in Samoa is done at a village’s local bodega (in Samoan, faleoloa) so grocery shopping in the traditional western sense isn’t completely the norm here. In fact, there ‘s only one real supermarket in the country, and that’s Farmer Joe. You can make an argument for Lucky Foodtown, but I think it’s just a little too small.

One nice thing is that Farmer Joe is open every day (Sundays included!, but not holidays) from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., which makes it one of the most reliable businesses in the country. That said, grocery shopping is always a bit of a crap shoot. It’s never clear on where the line is between items they carry and items they don’t.

Things you unexpectedly can find at grocery stores here include:
  • Peanut butter (multiple brands; chunky and creamy);
  • Tobasco sauce;
  • Multigrain bread;
  • Guinness (this is a fairly recent development);
  • Hummus; and
  • Pringles, Granny Goose tortilla chips (WTH?), and the occasional bag of pretzels.
Things you cannot find at grocery stores here include:
  • Brand name Spam (yes, there are other brands of pork luncheon meat);
  • Salad dressing;
  • Doritos, Lays, Funyuns, Tostidos, Ruffles, Fritos, or Cheez-Its;
  • Tortillas (although wraps work just fine);
  • Granola bars, fruit roll-ups, or any kind of mildly healthy snack; and
  • Gummy bears.
I tend to go to the grocery store almost every day because I’m uneasy storing too much food at my house, I don’t like to spend a lot of money on groceries at once, and it’s over a mile back to my house from Farmer Joe and carting lots of groceries through tropical heat is not fun.

The produce section at Farmer Joe leaves something to be desired, but this works because the store is directly across the street from the open-air market (which I will refer to from now on as “the market”). The two are not in competition because the produce sold at the market complements the standard goods available at Farmer Joe. Yesterday I bought taro, papayas, green onions, and star fruit at the market. Of all these, only the green onions are available at Farmer Joe. Farmer Joe does carry oranges and at least 2 varieties of apples. These tend to be expensive (i.e. just about the same price as America when you convert to USD).

None of the grocery stores take credit card. There was a time not long ago when grocery stores in The States didn’t take credit card either, but it’s weird how fast we grow accustomed to things.

Finally, I cannot recall seeing shopping carts at Farmer Joe. I’m told they exist and that they are referred to here as “trollies” (New Zealand influence). I will stay on the lookout for shopping carts, and I’ll let you know.

Tomorrow’s Cultural Exploration: Walking Down the Street

I hope things are well back home. Please enjoy the grocery photos below.

Three columns of corned beef.

Milwaukee's Best and Heineken are now available here in Apia. I've blown up the prices so you can see that Milwaukee's best is more expensive than Heineken. Afterall, it is Milwaukee's Best.

These aren't frozen goods. These are candy bars stored in the refrigerator.

White Shiraz, which I've never seen in The States.

Schrutte Farms trying to get in on the action.

Panadol is the equivalent of Tylenol here. And the Children's version features kids dressed in strange costumes on the box.


Unknown said...

I have a Flake candybar at home right now.

jenbavani said...

why don't you shop at the bodega, instead of the supermarket?

The Limey Git said...

Eat as many flakes and crunchie bars as you can afford. yes, you will be fat, but oh so happy.

Rence said...

yea they are smart enough to keep candy bars in the fridge because the atmosphere is so hot...whats wrong with keeping them in the fridge??

Unknown said...

I remember many trips to Farmer's Joe when I live in Apia.

Unknown said...

Since your post was done in 2009 I believe do they have any other grocery stores people shop at besides Farmer Joe's?

Unknown said...

I am doing a paper on Samoa I have a few questions if you dont mind. What types of employment are available? What are the necessary qualifications? What difficulties do people face in providing for families or themselves? What types of employment would someone use in the counrty that would require English? how do families or friends celebrate important events?