When we moved to Vietnam one of our many concerns was grocery shopping. Again, like our apartment we had many ideas of what shopping was going to look like.
The best: you shop in a small corner market. The worst: a large busy outdoor market where no one spoke English. Both: we would have to negotiate the price of the items. Having been here ten months now, we have shopped at many different types of markets.
The wet market is the most popular place the Vietnamese locals get their food. Imagine a local farmers market on steroids. All of the meat, fish, and produce are fresh, at least they were in the morning. You have to get there early, otherwise vendors may be out of food, or it could be rancid from sitting outside all day. The vendors have two prices: one for Vietnamese people and one for westerners. Our price is triple, or quadruple, the real price and one learns quickly how to be very good at negotiating prices.
We do not shop in these wet markets, because it is very crowded and can be very intense. Plus, all the stands have extremely low tarp ceilings propped up with metal rods and taunt strings. We have to spend more time watching our heads than looking at the food.
The second way to shop are the corner markets. They are all over the place and on our street alone we have two. These are more like convenient stores where you pick up your necessities. It is really good for snack-attacks, which can be dangerous.
Among these corner markets are the two or three “American” stores in town. They are small but are packed floor to ceiling with all American products like Johnsonville Brats, Heinz Ketchup, Kraft Mac and Cheese, Skippy Peanut Butter, and ranch dressing. They can be very good if you are missing home, although very expensive because of import fees.
The final place for grocery needs is the local grocery store. We were so happy to see that they had stores like the United States as it made life so much easier. With stores like Lottemart, and The Giant, where we shop, there is no negotiating prices as they are set and seem reasonable. $.50 for bell peppers, $.50 for a pineapple already cut, $2 for 1-kg or 2.2lbs of chicken breast or pork chops, and $4 for a box of cereal. We don’t go on Sundays when everyone is off work and all the stores are like Walmart on black friday.
We are thankful we do not have to negotiate all of our shopping trips, or spend too much time in places like the wet market. They are fun to visit, but not every week.