I know most of us don’t get excited about grocery shopping when traveling abroad, but it’s a necessity of life and I find it interesting to learn how other people function in their daily lives around the world. We recently became ex-pats living in Antalya. I knew making this move to live in another country would require learning many new ways of functioning and living my day to day life. My first new experience was grocery shopping. If you are thinking about becoming an ex-pat in Antalya, I would like to share with you my experience of shopping at the grocery store compared to what I was accustomed to in Texas.
Grocery Shopping in Texas
As they say, “everything is big in Texas” and that’s absolutely true… the grocery stores are big and so are the shopping carts. When I lived in Texas, I shopped at HEB, a company that’s based in San Antonio and its stores are spread throughout South Texas. The “regular” HEBs are massive with 78,000 sq ft or 7,300 sq m. The other concept is HEB PLUS and they are gigantic with 180,000 sq ft of space or 16,700 sq m. The other stores are national chains such as Kroger and Walmart. These stores have exceedingly long and wide aisles (to comply with the American with Disability Act law) and offer enormous shopping carts and I mean they are big… just like Texas. They do offer small, hand-held baskets but these are rarely used.
These massive stores offer a large selection of every single category: Cereals, Chips, Detergents, Paper Goods, etc., as if they want to be everything to everybody. All these stores have baggers and provide bags, paper or plastic, free of charge. They also offer, upon request, someone to take your groceries to your car or you can take your cart out to the car to load it all up and then place the cart in designated “Cart Parking” lanes.
Grocery Shopping in Antalya
To give you some background knowledge about Antalya, Turkey, it’s located along the Mediterranean Sea. The city has approximately 12 million people living in the region. It’s an extremely popular vacation destination for Europeans and Middle Easterners. Most people live in villas, flats (apartments), or out in the villages in small homes. This region of Turkey produces over 70% of all the fruits and vegetables for the entire country.
As we settled into our villa it was time to head to the neighborhood grocery store to get our kitchen stocked with food that we would need for the week. One of the first observations I made is the overall size of the store and the aisles are much narrower. The grocery carts are about half the size of those in the States. I also noticed that there are fewer checkout lanes, but all of them are staffed with cashiers ready to ring you up. Plastic bags are available upon request but for a small fee (5 cents) and customers will have to bag their own groceries.
Antalya has several mid-size and large grocery stores and lots and lots of neighborhood markets which are half the size of a convenience store. These stores sell the most essential items such as milk, eggs, bread, snacks, and an assortment of soft drinks.
The idea of going to the grocery store to get all that you need in a one-stop-shop is not a viable one.
You may find few personal care items in the grocery stores such as shampoo and deodorants, however, other beauty supplies are only sold in beauty supplies stores. You can expect the same with medications. All over the counter medications and prescriptions are only sold in pharmacies. The city has an abundance of beauty supplies stores and pharmacies. Another thing you will not find in a grocery store here is pet food or supplies but these can be bought at Pet Food stores or at Veterinary Clinics.
Don’t expect a public restroom in the grocery stores here either. However, some grocery stores are adjacent to a shopping mall where public restrooms are available.
Comparing Texas Grocery Shopping & Antalya Grocery Shopping
Looking at the comparison of shopping at our local grocery store in Antalya to our local supermarket in Texas, here are some of the differences:
Texas – Offers so many different cereals in boxes and usually requires an entire aisle.
Antalya – Approximately 20 choices of cereal brands are available. Most are in bags and mostly brand type cereals.
Texas – The variety of flavors, texture, and brands are endless. In the grocery stores, an entire aisle is lined with potato and corn chip options.
Antalya – You have two main brands Ruffles and Doritos. You may have three flavors in each brand. We have yet to find Tortilla chips!
Seasonings & Spices
Texas – Depending on what you are cooking, you can find almost any spice or seasoning you may need. Within this aisle, you can also find sugar, salt, and possibly flour. Sugar and flour are sold in two or five-pound bags.
Antalya – Most of the spices found in grocery stores are for Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisines. Other specialty spices can be found in “Baharat” (Spice Stores) which can be found throughout the city. Sugar, salt, and flour are available in five-pound bags and most often can be found in fifteen and twenty-five- pound bags. You will also find large bags of sugar cubes as these are served with Turkish tea.
Texas – At least two or more aisles with frozen food are available with all sorts of items, from frozen fruits & vegetables, Pizzas, Prepared Dinners, Desserts, Ice Cream… you name it and it’s there! I believe the reason for such a large frozen food section is that most Americans don’t cook at home much and mostly want things you can either heat in the oven or in the microwave.
Antalya – One aisle of frozen food is offered at the larger supermarkets and these have extremely limited selections.
Texas – Most people purchase their meats at their grocery stores. A wide variety of pre-packaged meats are always on display. A butcher is rarely available.
Antalya – Although grocery stores offer a full-service section for fresh meats that are staffed by a butcher behind the counter, most Turks buy their meats (beef, lamb, chicken) directly from their neighborhood Butcher Shops which can be found everywhere. We typically purchase our meats from our neighborhood butcher because we have found the meat to be fresher, cut to order, and all for a very reasonable price.
Texas – Although you can purchase fresh fish, most of the fish sold is farm-raised. Wild and Fresh-caught fish can be found at some supermarkets.
Antalya – Fish and other seafood items are widely available throughout Antalya. Every neighborhood has at least one or two seafood markets with a large display in the window to show off their fresh catch of the day. A full-service fish and seafood counter can be found in medium-sized and large supermarkets. The fishmonger will clean your purchase and in some supermarkets they will even cook (bake) it for you.
Texas – A large portion of the cheese section is processed cheese. You will find cheese counters offering a variety of specialty cheeses sold by the weight.
Antalya – Cheese is an important part of all meals eaten in Turkey. The cheese selection at the grocery store is endless. Within the city of Antalya there are numerous specialty dairy stores with an impressive variety of cheeses from all regions of Turkey. Also, Raw Milk can be found here, as well as freshly made yogurt and other dairy products. Sometimes you might find a milk dispenser available outside the store. You bring your own bottle and fill it with milk, just like you would with water.
Tea & Coffee
Texas – An entire aisle is usually dedicated to this category, although 80% of it is for coffee and the other 20% for teas; herbal and black.
Antalya – The tea section is probably the largest section I have seen in the grocery stores. Many of their coffees or teas are grown within the region. At many of the independent spice shops, a wide selection of fresh teas is offered. My favorites are rose or hibiscus tea.
Texas – Rice is a major part of the diet in Texas and therefore the options are plenty, from long grain, short grain, Jasmine, Instant, Brown, etc.
Antalya – Almost every meal is served with rice. Rice is sold in similar packages as the U.S.A. but because it’s such a major part of the meal, you will also find rice sold in 25 lbs. bags or larger. The most common rice eaten here is called basmati rice.
Texas – Chocolate has become more available in supermarkets than years past. Some stores dedicate an entire aisle for chocolate in all its flavors and forms.
Antalya – They love their chocolate here! You will find a large selection of chocolates, most of which are made here in Turkey. Ulker Chocolates is a very popular Turkish brand and their chocolate is good.
Take the Time to Stop and Shop
My grocery shopping excursion was interesting, to say the least. For the most part, I found everything I needed at the supermarket. The labels may be different but overall, the products are similar. I enjoy that in Antalya the supermarkets are not so massive, therefore you can get the items you need and be out of the door in minutes. I appreciate that so much of their fresh products are truly fresh and are grown locally and organically. The staff at our local stores have all been very friendly and helpful when I couldn’t locate a particular item. A few things I have missed from back home are tortilla chips, hot sauce, pickled ginger, and wasabi but there hasn’t been anything that I can’t live without. I’m certain I can find these items later on, too, it’s just a matter of time and knowing where to go.
I encourage you when traveling to take a step inside a local grocery store and check out the options available. You will find some interesting items you’ve probably never seen before. If you are interested in moving to Antalya, I hope you find this information helpful. If you want to read more about Antalya, feel free to check out some of my other blogs about this area!