Thursday, April 21, 2011

Grocery Shoppin ROK style!

I LOVE to go shopping. Say what you will about my lack of masculinity but at least I'm not in denial about it. I could literally spend hours at the grocery store, even the small ones. I think my mild obsession with grocery shopping is rooted in three things;

1. I love the luxury of grocery stores. There's something incredibly satisfying about knowing that you can go inside a building and not only find the bear necessities but the finer things too. Grocery stores are an incredible testament to our evolution as a species. If I'm hungry, I don't need to go hunt down an animal, or forage in the woods for berries. I just drive three blocks and buy it!

2. In a grocery store, I'm constantly surprised by the kind of crap we pass off as food and it always puts a smile on my face to find the new crazy invention some marketer came up with to get kids to pester their parents to buy. There's almost an art to the many ways high fructose corn syrup can be crafted into things that resemble food. I appreciate that craftiness even if it is leading to the demise of western society.

3. I love food.

So when we decided to go to Korea, one of the many things on my list of things I will miss was our grocery store. After our first year here, it couldn't have proven to be more true. I freakin LOVE HEB, and am convinced that few other stores in the world can match it's affordability, customer service and wide selection. Yes, I will gladly advertise for you HEB and all you must do is continue to be a beacon of light and hope in this world. HOWEVER, one thing I was excited about prior to coming was seeing how grocery stores stacked up in Korea. I must say, while my heart still belongs to HEB, I have to give a tip of my hat to the new level of shopping extravagance that Koreans have taken their grocery stores to. I give you....EMART!

Now, don't be surprised by the apparent lack of space this store seems to occupy for where we Texans are known for building out, the Koreans build up, and up...and up some more. This "grocery" store took up 5 floors of this city block building and it's not even the biggest one around!

One bad thing that this "upwardness" results in is a rather long trip in between floors. The "walkalators" as I like to call them can add an extra 10 minutes to your exit time so making a quick run to the store for milk really isn't possible, BUT, instead of having to run 2 football fields to get to the shampoo like we would back home, you simply take the walkalator up a floor or two to the cosmetics floor.

One cool thing about the walkalators is that the ramps are rather steep, so to keep your cart from flying down the ramp, they have installed strong magnets on the wheels of each of the shopping carts that firmly lock your basket into place. Pretty clever if you ask me. 

Now before we left, I noticed that more and more stores were offering free samples of certain items a bit more frequently than usual. When we got to Korea, I was a bit surprised to see the sampleteers out in their stores as well. HOWEVER, they can be a bit deceiving for not all of the staff standing around are there to offer you a free tasty morsel.

Some of them are simply trying to drum up some business by telling you what amazing deal they have going on. And some of them are even working in the sex appeal just to add that extra edge.

My guess is, this is what happens when you have a population bursting at the seems and a job market that somehow seems to get increasingly smaller.

One last thing to note is that while we Texans also have our fair share of obsession with certain food products, Koreans seem to go a little overboard on having varieties of the same damn thing. Granted, most of the kimchi they offer are in fact different veggies prepared in kimchi fashion,
but Ramen? You just can't tell me that each brand has it's own unique flavor! It's freakin RAMEN!

And Tuna!? Why the heck is there so much tuna!? IT ALL TASTES LIKE TUNA!!!

And no grocery store is complete with out a foreign foods section, though I must say, this one was rather pitiful.
And as you check out, you have the option of either bagging your groceries, or simply grabbing a used box and tossing it all in. A great way to recycle in my opinion!

So there you have it. A typical Korean style grocery store.

For the record, I was rushed for time and didn't get to take any pictures of the other departments. Perhaps in a future post I will give you a taste of the rest of what Emart has to offer.


Rachael said...

Great entry Vanessa. I love your 'life in Korea' posts- the better to live vicariously through your adventures. :)

-and wtg on the HEB shoutout. The only place I shop, they are the best, for sure.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that is pretty interesting. I had NO idea that type of store existed. And you are pretty funny--I laughed out loud at the Raman comment!

Vanessa Rogers said...

Rachael- quick correction- Kyle wrote this one, but he will love the compliment! :)