Grocery Shopping in a Foreign Country

Hi guys, Morgan here today! If you read Kylie’s post a few days ago, you saw that I was heading to Italy soon. Well, I finally arrived on March 1st and despite being incredibly overwhelmed the first few days, I’ve finally settled into a semi-routine. Some days that means wandering around my new city for 3 hours. Some days that means sitting at a coffee shop for a few hours and getting some work done. Other days it means watching movies like The Holiday, Under the Tuscan Sun, and Eat, Pray, Love (read: movies about females who travel abroad by themselves!) while translating one of the hundreds of Italian books that are in my apartment. If you want to know a little more about why I jetted off to Italy, you can read about that here.

Today, I want to share with you my first experience grocery shopping in Italy! When I was in Italy for a study abroad a few summers ago, we also had to do our own grocery shopping and it was amazing. We went to a cute little market in the small town we were living in and between 4 girls, figured out what we needed to buy. I was anticipating a similar experience, but that wasn’t the case.

The closest market to me is right across the street from my apartment, but I quickly found out it’s more of a discount market with incredibly limited options. Or maybe that’s the norm and I’m just used to HEB… Either way, I’ll definitely be finding a different market to shop at next time I need groceries. The whole experience was way more overwhelming than I thought it would be, but I got some staples just to keep in my apartment and food to help me feel a little more settled/like I was back home.

Included in my cart was:

  • Apples and bananas
  • Bread, that I think is wheat
  • Raspberry Yogurt
  • Peach Jelly, though I don’t have a toaster so TBD on if I use this
  • Coffee, because I have moka pot!
  • Sugar, which is probably too much sugar… but I panicked because I didn’t want to accidentally get a low-cal sweetener
  • Milk, to put in my coffee
  • EVOO, a necessity
  • Mayonnaise, I think… it’ll be used for sandwiches
  • Spaghetti and pasta sauce
  • Ritz Crackers, because I needed something familiar
  • Chocolate cereal, it was this or something resembling wheat chex which I wasn’t about
  • Wine, which was so incredibly cheap so who knows how it actually tastes
  • Not in the picture: ham and cheese to make sandwiches with

If this grocery trip taught me anything, it’s that I REALLY need to work on my foods in Italian before I go grocery shopping again, but I think this is a good start! If anything, I’ll just pop over to the cafe below my apartment and live off gelato and focaccia bread for a while :P 

Have any of y’all had to grocery shop in a different country? Or have experience attempting to order food in another language?


  1. Yup – grocery shopped in Iceland and bought WAY too much yogurt for a solo 4-day stay, lol. And Icelandic is a completely unfamiliar language to me so I had to guess on most things, lol

  2. I had a similar experience when I lived in Norway. The first time, I went to the shop right up the street from my apartment. While it did have all the basics, I felt I missed a lot of foods. So I went and tried every grocery store in the city until I finally found a huge store that had absolutely everything. Most of it was way over my budget, but still, I loved going to shop there. I still miss that place sometimes…

    • OH yes. Am definitely gonna have to check out more grocery stores until I find the one I like the most. So happy you were able to turn that into such a good experience that you still enjoy today!

  3. when i was in Mexico, it was interesting having to order food with no beef or pork in it. at some point, i just assumed they understood…

  4. I had such a hard time grocery shopping in India. You walk up to a counter and attempt to describe or point at what you want. You can’t just get things off the shelf yourself. When you buy chicken, you actually pick out the live chicken that you want. They take it away, kill it and strip the feathers, and return it to you. I ate a lot of bananas, flatbread, and peanut butter.

    • OH MAN. Talk about a total culture shock! Such a cool experience though – and good to know that’s how things are done if I ever head to India. What was the peanut butter like there? It’s pretty nonexistent in Italy, but I have tried it in Brazil and it was sweet like Nutella, but tasted like peanuts (not hazelnuts).

  5. I lived in South Korea and Chin for a few years and used to enjoy seeing how different grocery stores where. Like in China how all the rice and spices just piled up on the table so you gab a scoop and take what you need. Of course you would also see people running their hands through the stuff which put me off! I loved when you would see something familiar in an overseas grocery store and buy it just because you were a bit homesick. Like the rime I bought five boxes of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and felt like such a foreigner!

    • Oh I would buy Cinnamon Toast Crunch in a heart beat if I saw it! #favoritecereal. Such a neat experience though. Y’all are definitely getting me excited to go try all the other grocery stores.

  6. Italy is one of my very favorite places. I speak french, so reading Italian on the menus wasn’t so bad. Thank goodness for that. I lived in Europe (England) for five years and I miss the fresh food and market vibe they had going there. It was so common to go to the grocery store 3-4x a week rather than once per week. It kept things fresh. I miss it every day.

    • Yep, I think I’m going to have to start going a few days a week to fill the day with something to do – and what better way to fill it than with looking at all the food?!

  7. Well kind of.. I was in Mexico and got a UTI. I needed baking soda. After much trying, I got a cup of bacon and a cup of soda (pop) LOL

  8. I’ve lived in both Belgium and Serbia, and I really miss the grocery stores in Belgium. The food always seemed so fresh and the beer was incredible (and cheap!). Living in Serbia was hard, however. I lived in a small town about a 45 min drive from Belgrade and there just weren’t a lot of options (this post is literally giving me flashbacks ha!). I also lived by myself and had to rely on coworkers to help me translate. It’s doubly hard when you have a dairy allergy! I basically lived off bread and sausage for the whole year and a half I was there!

    Have an amazing time, Morgan! It’s overwhelming when you first arrive, and gets a little lonely, but people are generally kind and helpful. I’m so envious of you!

  9. Hi Morgan! I just read the “why” story on your other website too and I can only say.. Solo travel is the BEST, you’ll probably experience all the emotions, but I’d say it’s definitely a great way to get to know yourself and just enjoy doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it! No crazy supermarket stories here, but I do always love picking up things that I don’t know whenever I’m abroad :) When we were in China on holiday my mum tried to ask a receptionist at the local hospital whether there was a bathroom she could use… after a couple of minutes a doctor came rushing out thinking she was about to give birth!! HAHA sign language gone wrong ;)

    • HAHA! Such fun memories to have. Thanks for the encouragement :) I’m enjoying my time so much more now that I’m about a week in. Everything is starting to feel a little more normal.

  10. I lived in Germany  for  a year and worked as a nanny. I had the opportunity to do some traveling around Germany on my own. I learnt the language through working with the family and taking lessons  and then using what I learned to go travel. Many people knew English and I could have gotten away with it knowing German at all, but I wanted to learn the language of the country in which I was living. Although there were many times where pretending not to know German came in handy, but that is another story!

    • Yes – I keep challenging myself to learn something new every time I order food and I think all the baristas get a kick out of it, but it’s been a fun way to connect with other people!

  11. I’m living in NZ now, grocery shopping here was so much different at first! all the brans are new to me but I think I have finally adjusted. I love seeing a brand I recognize. We have ritz crackers here too :)

  12. Living in Paris was definitely like this (and I didn’t know French, either). I ate a lot of random stuff for those few months. And yes, wine is super cheap there! Doesn’t speak to the quality as much as to the quantity :)

  13. Yes, I lived in England for a couple years and I miss shopping at Tesco! There’s no language barrier in England, but they still have different words for things. I never figured out that they call powdered sugar. Eggs were kept out in the aisle. I tried to make biscuits and gravy for my husband and was trying to explain it to a butcher so she could mince me some sausage and she was just so confused since biscuits are cookies and gravy usually means brown gravy over there.

    • HAHA! What a fun memory of making biscuits and gravy. I tried to make an American version of goulash for my Italian friend and instant mac&cheese isn’t a thing here so I had to make my own cheese sauce. I needed cheddar and/or American cheese and he closest thing to either of those was their version of Kraft singles, so that’s what we went with and it turned out great! I was definitely very nervous though.

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