Culture, Shopping & Recreation
Shopping in the US
As you might imagine, compiling a comprehensive list of all shopping options available in the ever-changing cityscapes of most US conurbations, let alone the entire country, is a less than feasible enterprise which will be of fairly little use. Part of what makes expat life interesting is getting a feel for your new home town, and a Saturday spent shopping is a perfect way to do that.
Things of Note
There are, however, a few things of interest to be said about stores and shops in the US.
- Many of them, particularly large chains, are open well into the evening (some even 24/7) and on Sundays.
- If you are headed to a large city with an established, vibrant community of immigrants and expats, you will not need to import any goods from your home country. Don’t be afraid of not being able to purchase them in the United States! In the majority of cases, you will not have a hard time finding the items you need.
- As in most other situations you might face in the US, having a car is definitely an asset, even when grocery shopping. Particularly if you move to the suburbs, the nearest store might be too far to walk.
- As we have pointed out in our article on payment methods in the US, paying via credit card is very common, and major cards are accepted in virtually any store.
- On Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, department stores around the nation traditionally offer drastically reduced prices on selected items. While you can expect a good deal, you can also expect some sort of mayhem to ensue.
Common Types of Stores in the US
Wherever your expat life in the US might take you, you can be sure to have the following options to go shop for your daily needs:
This is where most of you will take care of their grocery shopping. In almost every supermarket, you will be able to find fresh produce, fresh, packaged meat, and a wide selection of foodstuffs, snacks, and frozen food. An increasing number of stores also carry halal or vegan products. There are a number of chains dominating much of the market; what chain you will be able to go to in your new home depends on the region, though.
Hypermarkets are in essence a crossbreed between a supermarket and a department store. Typically, they are huge standalone structures on the outskirts of towns. Inside you will find both the full range of items a common supermarket stocks, along with a wide range of tech gadgets, household items, tools, a media section, clothing, and more. This range is made possible through limited choice: usually, only very few manufacturers or brands will be carried. However, the big draw of hypermarkets is that they make it possible to buy all everyday items from the same store.
While the small, family-owned grocery store has suffered harshly from the emergence and eventual dominance of large supermarket chains, you will still be able to find a few in your town. Depending on where you live, chances are that quite a number of them will be owned by immigrants, who also stock items imported from their countries of origin.
If you do not only rely on frozen burritos, hot dogs, and chips for sustenance, you might want to take your food shopping elsewhere. If you’re looking to meet your snack food, soda, or cigarette needs, however, convenience stores are the way to go. You will be able to find at least one close to your home in most places. The limited range of goods, which usually also includes basic toiletries, magazines, and a few prepackaged food items, is often made up for by their 24/7 availability.
Malls are, for better or worse, probably one of the most prominent symbols of American consumerism – the fact that many parts of Asia have long outdone the US in this regard notwithstanding. Malls are large shopping centers, mostly comprised of a single building, in which different stores of varying size (either individual stores or chains) are located side by side and connected by walkways. In nearly every bigger mall, you will also find various entertainment opportunities (for example, cinemas or arcades) and a food court, in which various fast food restaurants are placed around a common seating area.
This option might be a lot less ubiquitous than the others above. In the past years, however, the classical farmer’s market has regained much of its former popularity. This is, at least in part, due to a general trend away from processed foods and towards fresh, organically grown produce and home cooked meals. Location and climate obviously play a role in what you can purchase from your local farmer’s market, but if you have the chance, go explore the fresh tastes your new hometown and its surroundings have to offer.
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