Shopping for the basics in Switzerland

Most of the products had the description printed in Swiss languages. In the beginning I had to rely on Google Translate. Keystone

As a new arrival, Devendra had to quickly get to grips with what was available in Swiss supermarkets. 

This content was published on October 16, 2018 - 09:25
Devendra Shintre, student blogger

Like anyone who moves to a new place, I spent the first few days figuring out shopping bargains near my shared student flat. Although small shops do exist in Switzerland, I was advised to go to a supermarket as they are usually cheaper for daily essentials. They are the equivalent of D Mart or Big Bazaar in India.  

I usually go to Aldi, which is closer to where I live and cheaper. As a student strapped for money, “Migros Budget” is also a favourite brand sold in the Migros supermarket. Even though the shops had almost everything I needed, most of the products, especially vegetables were foreign to me at first. Even the food I was familiar with posed problems as the sheer choice and variety astonished and confused me. Take bread and butter, for example. Even the smallest branch of these supermarket chains had at least five different types of butter. 

There are so many types of pumpkins, that it becomes difficult to choose. I usually end up selecting based on the price. Devendra Shintre

Most of the products had the description printed in Swiss languages (German, French or Italian), so I had to rely on Google Translate. The size of fruits and vegetable was also surprising. They were much larger than what I was used to. For example, a regular lemon or an onion was almost as big as a guava. Large veggies can be problematic, especially if you are cooking for one person. When I buy a regular cabbage, I usually end up using it for meals for the entire week. 

Vegetables are usually cheaper than meat, so vegetarians should be fine, as long as you are comfortable with trying new vegetables. I usually alternate between cauliflower, cabbage, zucchini, pumpkin and mushrooms. Zurich also has a few weekly markets for fresh vegetables. Unfortunately, I haven’t been to one yet. 

If you happen to live in a more international city like Zurich you can find shops that cater to immigrants like me. Art of foodExternal link and BarkatExternal link are a couple of such stores I frequent. These shops have a wide selection of Asian groceries such as spices, ghee and atta (dough for Rotis). If you are ever feeling homesick, then you can even find typical Indian brands like Parle-G biscuits in these shops. I personally avoid buying vegetables from India as they are not as fresh as the local ones, and they leave huge carbon footprints. 

There are a few stores in Zurich catering to immigrants. Vegetables like Okra (Bhindi), or Bittergourd (Karela) are also available in these shops. Devendra Shintre

As a student, if you are looking for second-hand books, there are a few places which sell them. I bought a second-hand German dictionary from a thrift storeExternal link. Electronics and household items can be quite expensive in Switzerland, even second-hand. The cheapest way to find them is literally on the street. Disposal of bulky items is quite costly in Zurich, so people usually put them on the sidewalk with a small note attached. The items one can find on the street is quite amazing. So far, we’ve managed to find a toaster, a microwave, a couple of bookcases and a sofa.

For more blog posts and information on studying in Switzerland visit our dedicated page Education Swiss MadeExternal link.


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