Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Five Facts For Foreigners - Vol. VII

Surprises in the Supermarket &
Detours to the Drugstore

One challenge that is sure to arise almost as soon as you settle into wherever you are calling home here in Brazil, is how to successfully navigate the local grocery store.

Save face (up to 95%) when using these tips to successfully steer clear of any major missteps in the supermercado.

  1. Hear those store specials that are blaring over the store speakers? Think the ads are a little too personalized - almost creepy how they seem to know you are looking at this very item as they speak? Don't freak out everyone else by screaming aloud, when you discover that it's a live broadcast from that guy in the hat [with the mic in his hand] that started following walking behind you on the last aisle.

    The most memorable incident with a live mic store announcer occurred when I rounded the end of an aisle & we came face-to-face(+mic) while the guy boomed out something about me being in a hurry, to the rest of the store. I didn't really understand it too well at the time, but wanted to melt into the floor out of complete embarrassment. It reminded me of the episode from The Wonder Years when Kevin goes shopping for pants with his mom, and envisions that the PA announcer is filling in the rest of the shoppers on how well they fit. “Attention shoppers…”

    Only a grocery store musical would have surprised me more...

  2. We’ve all had the misfortune of grabbing the only item without a price, thereby bringing our checkout to a grinding halt, while a sales associate takes a tour around the store to verify the price.

    In most cases, this is an agonizing wait while the other shoppers in line glare at you as if you are a sociopath that only chooses items without price tags, just for fun. Here in Brazil, there is a fresh take on quick price checks in the supermarket: management on roller skates - complete with a helmet, knee and elbow pads. Awesome.

    For those familiar with the Sonic food chain, the sight of people roller skating to get stuff done isn’t all that surprising. Speaking as a native Austinite, the sight of chicks in roller gear is the norm, but seeing store management deftly weaving around shoppers and carts at a quick clip is impressive, by any standard.

  3. What are you doing, just standing there, while they are ringing you up? Do you think those groceries will bag themselves? I didn't think so. In case no one told you, it is rare that a store employee will offer to help (unless they need to have a quick discussion with your cashier). Avoid “the look,” and holding up the line by bagging things as they are rung up. Waiting to so until after you have paid is a no-no.

  4. Over-the-counter meds are not available in supermarkets. They are only sold at the pharmacy. Some supermarkets have a small pharmacy located in the front of the store. If not, don't worry! The good news is that most pharmacies deliver. Ask someone in your building which drugstore delivers to your address.

    Guys, feel free to skip this last part, and go on to #5.

    Ladies, like over-the-counter meds, certain feminine items can only be found in a drugstore. Three cheers for pharmacies that deliver!!! They rock!

  5. Suppose you find yourself at the drugstore in search of a prescription that some doctor has failed to mention is an injection. Don't be shocked when they hand you a [packaged] syringe, and try to send you on your way.

    If, like me, you suddenly think back to the scary scenes from every movie where someone dies by lethal air bubble injection (embolism) and feel that neither you, nor your significant other [or travel buddy] is qualified to take a stab at inserting a syringe into any portion of your body; they will see your look of horror hesitation, and offer to do it there in the pharmacy.

    "What's that?" you ask. The girl who was just showing me the latest scented lotion is now going to give me an injection? They assured me that only pharmacists are legally allowed to administer injections. The idea that it would be a registered professional put me somewhat at ease, so... it being the first time I did this, I expected a mini version of a doctor's office (you know, with a bed, or something - in case I needed to lie down afterwards due to low blood pressure, etc.) located somewhere in the back. Instead, my choice was the restroom or a broom closet. Um, maybe I'll lie down in my car... if I can make it that far without falling & hitting my head?

    An added degree of awkwardness was that I found out that it wouldn't be in my arm, either. As this was the guy I had regularly seen for other drugstore purchases over the past few months, my routine bout of nausea (par for the course when dealing with needles) presented earlier than usual. The concept of the local pharmacy people, uh, going there... was more than I could handle. Needless to say, after that I conveniently found a new neighborhood drugstore to get my necessities.
    I haven't had the pleasure of needing another prescribed injection, so I cannot speak for other pharmacies, as to the quality of the facilities. However, I now ask my doctors at my appointments if there's any way I can bring them the syringe + Rx for them to do it - which still seems kinda weird to me.
Now you have the straight dope on where to go to buy your goods. May you fare better than those who have gone before you.

Next in the 5 Facts For Foreigners series...

  • The Look: Hotels, Houses and Apartments

  • Seen Out & About: Unique Looks & Trends

  • Fun New Fishing Feats

  • ...and more...

All pics found on Google images.


  1. Hilarious! ~ mjcache

  2. You know, i halfway considered asking them to come outside & just inject me in the car (even after i found out where it was to be). If this particular pharmacy hadn't been on one of the main streets in the city, i might have done just that... and had them lock me in as i curled up in the fetal position.

    It reeeeeally doesn't get any more awkward than that, does it? :D


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