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12 things you need to know about supermarkets in Germany

Don't you just love walking through supermarkets in a new country and to discover new types of food? That's amazing!

However, it can also get frustrating if you need something in particular.

To help you find anything that you are looking for, here are 12 tipps that will help to make your trip to the German supermarket a success.

#1 Categories of supermarkts

At first, it can be confusing:

In Germany you do not only have supermarkets, but also 'discounters'.

And then, there are obviously Bio- Märkte (organic supermarkets) and smaller shops like Asian (super)markets.

The Supermarket

First of all, there are the ‚normal‘ supermarkets like Edeka, Tengelmann or Rewe.

Here you'll find a good selection of food that you need for everyday life.

For example, there is:

  • fresh fruits and vegetables

  • a huge variety of cereals, rice, pasta, sweets, ...

  • usually a meat counter and a cheese counter

  • a bakery

  • well known brands

  • some household goods

  • the most important things for personal hygiene (soap, shower gel, shampoo …)

  • things you need for your baby like food, milk and nappies

The Discounter

Discounters promise to be very affordable. The quality is good nonetheless.

Here you can find the most important groceries, too, but there isn't al large variety.

Discounters are, for example, Penny, Netto, Aldi or Lidl.

Here, you will also find fresh fruit and vegetables here, but the selection is smaller. Fresh meat is also available here, but it's packaged and there is no meat counter.

In discounters there are also new offers every week that don't necessarily have anything to do with food: lawnmowers, wall paint, baby clothes - you can find anything here for a very low price.


If there is anything amongst those offers that you are interested in, you should buy it straight away - otherwise it may be sold out. For example, ski clothing for children is always in hight demand - parents will go to the discounters early in the morning to get the right size.

The organic supermarket

As the name says, in an organic supermarket (Bio-Markt) you'll only find organic food.

Organic food is trendy. Therefore the number of organic supermarkets is increasing, and some of them also have a very large selection.

And otherwise ...

If you want the fruit and vegetables to be particularly ripe or fresh, then try the fruit and vegetable shop or, more traditionally, the weekly market.

For exotic dishes, it is worth shopping, for example, in an Asian market or in a Turkish, Greek or Arabic shop. Especially in big cities, you'll find a large number of them.

#2 The opening hours

This comes as a big surprise for many people who are in Germany for the first time:

On Sunday, all shops are closed – even the supermarkets.

People in Germany believe that Sunday is a day of rest and that noone should work, if it can be avoided.

On Saturday, many shops close earlier than usual.

Therefore, shopping around the clock is not possible in Germany.

The opening hours are defined by law and they are different in every federal state.

In Bavaria, for example, all shops close at 8pm or even earlier. In some other states, it can be at 10 pm.

It's definitely a good idea to find out the opening hours in your area and make sure you shop on time.

Public holidays are the same as Sundays.

Meaning: if there are several public holidays in a row, the supermarkets will be closed for several days in a row.

For this reason, Germans tend to buy huge quantities of food before public holidays. Particularly before Christmas, even the parking lots are often completetly overcrowded!

On those days, there may not be much of the fresh fruits and vegetables left on those days.

That's why you should plan your purchases for public holidays well in advance and even buy everything that doesn't have to be fresh a few days in advance.


You can also order meat from the butcher or the meat counter in the supermarket a few weeks in advance and then pick it up right before the holiday - this is very practical for a large turkey or a goose. Of course, you can go to a gas station or a kiosk... that are still open an a public holiday, but the groceries are more expensive there.

#3 No medicines in a supermarkt

Do you have a headache or has your kid got a fever?

If you need medication now, you need to go straight to the pharmacy.

The supermarket might have a tea for your stomach, cough drops and plasters.

But im´n Germany, 'real' medicines may only be sold in pharmacies.


Pharmacies usually have even shorter opening hours than supermarkets. But there will always be a pharmacy nearby that has emergency service (Notdienst). That means it's open 24 hours a day. You can find the address of the nearest pharmacy havenig emergency service

  • on the Internet

  • on a sign at every pharmacy.

#4 Food is relatively cheap in Germany

A few years ago, there was a famous advertising slogan: "Geiz ist geil" which means something like being stingy is cool.

Even though that is obviously not true:

Germans tend to be frugal and like to shop cheaply - including groceries.

That is certainly one reason why supermarkets are rather cheap in an EU comparison.

Due to inflation, of course, prices have also risen significantly in Germany. Nevertheless: they have risen less than the EU average¹.

#5 No coin, no shopping cart

When going shopping, you should always have a chip (plastic coin) or a coin as a deposit for the shopping cart with you. Usually these coins work: 50 cents, 1€ oder 2€.

After shopping you have to take the shopping cart back and then get your coin back.

Germans just love it when everything is in order!

You will usually find the shopping carts outside the supermarket.

If you don't have a coin, you can ask the staff at the checkout to exchange any other amount of money you might have or else they might even provide you with a plastic coin to keep.

#6 Where can I find eggs?

Definitely not in the refigerated section.

Like anywhere else, it is also recommended to keep eggs in the refrigeratorin Germany.

But it's like with the vegetables you put in the fridge at home: in the supermarket, the eggs aren't refrigerated, they're on the shelves.

#7 At the checkout: „Would you like to go ahead?"

For Germans, time and punctuality are of utmost importance.

And everyone is sure that anyyone else is just as much in a hurry as oneself.

So, if you do a major shopping, it means that other people will have to wait and may even be late for an appointment. A terrible thought!

That's why, if someone only wants to buy a few items, we 'll ask: "Would you like to go ahead?"

Also, if you're just buying one or two things yourself, you can ask the customer in front of you, "Could you please let me go ahead?"

This is perfectly fine and usually everyone has a lot of sympathy.

#8 Another cash register opens – everyone starts running

However, politeness quickly wears off as soon as another checkout is opening.

Then all customers see the opportunity to save time... and everyone tries to be the first.

As soon as the new line has formed, people feel they can be polite again and let others go ahead.

#9 No helping hands at the cash register

When it's finally your turn at the checkout, you should have your purse ready and need to do act really quickly.

In discounters in particular, items are scanned and pushed onwards at a really high speed - it is often difficult to put everything back in the shopping cart quickly enough!

You won't get any help from the cashier or any other staff with that. Each customer must pack all his purchases into bags himself.

#10 No plastic bags

Bring your own bags for shopping.

There are no free bags, but you can buy reusable bags, paper bags or cardboard boxes.

The thrifty Germans will only buy them, if there is no other option.

After all, it's also much better for the environment if you use your bags over and over again.

#12 The deposit (das Pfand)

If you're new to Germany, ther can be an unpleasant surprise at the checkout:

Drinks cost more than the price tag says ... right?

That's the deposit, called 'Pfand': You pay a certain amount of money and get it back when you tae back the empty bottle.




Now you are well-prepared and know the most important things about shopping in a

German supermarket.

Would you learn even more about life in Germany?

Then have a look at my other articles >>>

And if you learn German, don't forget to check out the most important topics of the German grammar >>>



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