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The Netherlands (Holland) - Shopping
Many Dutch people in Holland shop on a daily basis for their groceries, and buy them either from supermarkets or the wide range of food stores that specialise in one type of food, such as the butcher, baker or cheese shop. The cost of groceries is fairly high in the Netherlands, although lower than in many other western European countries, and there are many places to buy food at relatively low cost, including the supermarket chains targeted at budget-conscious shoppers, and open-air markets.
There are various different types of outlets from which to buy household appliances or furniture in the Netherlands and which are targeted at different tastes and budgets. These include department stores; malls or geographic areas in which various furniture stores (meubelboulevards or woonboulevards) or outlets selling electrical or electronic goods or computers are co-located; antique furniture and brocante shops and other speciality stores. It is also possible to find second-hand household items and furniture advertised for sale in the classifieds section of local newspapers or on supermarket noticeboards. The electrical current in the Netherlands is 220 volts.
There are several large English-language bookshops in the main cities, and other bookshops usually carry many English-language titles.
Supermarkets and open air markets
Dutch supermarkets are mostly part of large retail chains, such as Albert heijn, Aldi, C1000, Hoogvliet and Super de Boer, and are targeted at different segments of the market in terms of income and lifestyle. The quality of products is uniformly high, since the supermarkets are strictly regulated by the Inspectorate for Consumer Goods. As well as foodstuffs, they generally sell a wide range of household and personal items, such as toiletries and detergents. Many include sections where all the ingredients for particular types of cuisine, such as Chinese, are conveniently co-located. Within the supermarkets, own-brand label goods are usually especially good value, and there are many special offers such as “two for the price of one”.
Although home shopping is very popular in the Netherlands, it is not yet widely used for grocery shopping. Albert heijn supermarkets do offer internet shopping, but their website is only available in Dutch.
It is normal practice to use a shopping trolley in the supermarket, and this requires a deposit of 50 cents which inserted into a slot in the trolley to unlock it, and is returned when the emptied trolley is returned. Unlike those in many other countries, Dutch supermarkets do not provide free plastic bags; it is possible to buy plastic bags but most people take their own sturdy shopping bag. You will usually be required to pack your own groceries at the check-out or at a separate counter after the groceries have been scanned for payment and returned to the trolley. Payment in supermarkets and most shops is by cash, debit cards or chipknip.
Markets are very popular in Holland for buying fresh produce such as meat, fish, vegetables and fruit, and also flowers and plants, and clothes and textiles. There is usually at least one market held all day or in the afternoon in most towns and cities once or twice a week. As in shops, the prices of items in markets are usually fixed, it is not normal practice to haggle, although goods are often sold off cheaply at the end of the day’s trading. Like shopkeepers, market traders have their opening hours strictly regulated by law.
Speciality food shops
As well as the markets, Holland’s small specialist food shops are often the best places to buy fresh, high quality produce, such as meat, fish, vegetables and fruit, bread and pastries and cheese. A butcher (slager) usually sells a range of fresh, prepared cuts of meat, usually with all fat and bones removed. They also offer cold sliced meat, a variety of sausages and other prepared meat products. In addition, there are separate shops specialising in the sale of poultry, eggs and game (poelier). Fishmongers (vishandel) sell a wide variety of raw fish and seafood and ready prepared fish and seafood dishes. The fish sold in Holland are mainly of the cold-water variety caught in nearby waters, but some Mediterranean varieties are also available.
A wide range of fruit and vegetables, including home-grown as well as imported varieties, can be found in the greengrocer’s (groentewinkel), where it is also possible to buy packs of pre-cut fruit and vegetables for use in cooking and assembling dishes.
One type of speciality food shop which is fairly unique to the Netherlands is the cheese shop. Cheese and other dairy products are highly popular in Holland, especially produce from the native Holstein Frisian cow. As well as the locally produced Gouda and Edam cheeses, cheese shops sell a wide range of speciality cheeses produced in the Netherlands and other countries, as well as other complementary products such as savoury biscuits, nuts, olives and sometimes wine.
Holland’s bakeries sell a delectable range of breads, rolls, pastries and cakes, freshly prepared and often still warm.
Medicines, nutritional supplements, toiletries, make-up sanitary items, baby food and nappies, can be bought in pharmacies as well as supermarkets, with the former also dispensing prescription medicines. Pharmacies in a particular area usually take turns to stay open late so there is always one available, with details posted on the doors of all other local pharmacies. There are also many health-food shops, selling organic, natural products as well as nutritional supplements.
In small shops you will often be required to take a ticket on entering, with a number which indicates your turn to be served. If there is no ticket system, the customers waiting generally just keep aware of the order in which they arrived; it is not normal practice to queue. It is customary to greet or acknowledge the shopkeeper on arriving and leaving a small shop in Holland.
There are also many food stores in the cities serving the needs of Holland’s multi-ethnic population, as well as meeting the demands of the Dutch themselves for an increasingly diverse diet. Halal and kosher produce is widely available, as are foods from the cultures of Holland’s main immigrant groups, such as Surinamese, Indonesians and Moroccans. These include butchers, bakers and grocery stores, as well as many takeaway hot food shops.
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