Grocery shopping encompassed a wide range of experiences. It started with the foreign sign on the door, and continued within, as the tones of the Croatian language swirled around and among us like notes from an intriguing but unfamiliar song. We enjoyed the 'looks' we would get as we spoke English among ourselves. I especially enjoyed seeing children chatter incomprehensibly with a parent as they shopped.
I loved to try to 'read' the labels on everything, using what I learned of pronunciation rules from my handy 'cheat' book. I'm sure that more than once I shocked an innocent passer-by as I stood stock-still before an especially impressive and difficult label, carefully sounding out the letters in my attempt to conquer the tongue twister - often out loud!
It was great fun to find a familiar brand name and try to translate the few Croatian words I recognized from the box. If I found a box or package that was familiar I would often collapse into giggles as I tried to read the list of ingredients. It was so hilarious to see 'Lays' chips, or 'Uncle Ben's' rice in so familiar and yet starkly different forms.
Then there were the packages that completely stumped us - labels without a helpful photo of internationally recognizable contents. Trying to figure out which product was actually tuna and not some variation of salad or stew was always interesting. More giggles would erupt as we realized our errors after frantically looking up product names in our handy Croatian dictionary.
Price tags were also a source of general amusement. The exchange between Canadian dollars and Croatian kuna was about 5:1, so prices appeared unreasonably 'expensive' until you factored in the currency difference.
Most fun was the opportunity to try new things. I fell in love with cvapcici (ch-vap-chi-chi), for example. A spicy sausage formed out of ground beef, these little tasty treats were in every meat department. I brought back some spices and tried to make some after I got home, but they just weren't the same somehow.
It was so much fun to be completely unfamiliar with proper procedures, in an entirely new social situation, and be forced to watch and copy the actions of the 'locals'. When in Croatia, you go for groceries Croatian style - and love every minute of it!