Culture Shock: Shopping

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$300… That is the exact amount of money that I had in my pocket when I went to do my groceries the first day I came to the US. After getting everything that I needed, I was happy. I had done all my calculations. I bought the cheapest articles (but still good quality ones) and I was certain that I had to pay $292.69. This was perfect. I already had my metro ticket so paying the invoice amount was the only thing left. The best part was that I would still have a few dollars left, you know just in case…

$310.25… This is the amount of money that I ended up paying at the register. It would be legitimate of you to just assume that I forgot to include a couple of items’ price when I did my calculations. Well, I didn’t. You could say then that I simply am terrible in math. Well, that is not completely untrue but I swear I used my phone’s calculator when computing my expected invoice amount. So, what could be then? If you have shopped at least once in the US, you might already have guessed what happened by now, but for those who are still struggling to understand how something like this could have happen, let me tell you something. In the United States of America, the price does NOT include taxes. Not only prices are ridiculously high, but these same ridiculously high prices will even grow higher once the tax is included. You may think I am the one who is being ridiculous by making a big deal out of such a trivial thing. But, what if I told you that the most expensive bottle of water (1.5L) in Morocco costs 50 cents? What if I told you that the most delicious burger’s price cannot exceed $3? What if I told you that an hour cab ride from a city to another (60 Km of distance) costs $2.5? Do you still think that I am making a big deal out of trivial little things?

Life is… expensive. This is the biggest culture shock that I’ve experienced since I came to DC. Speaking English every day and being with people from a completely different culture (or should I say from a completely different world) were not a shock for me. I was prepared for it. However, I was not prepared for giving up drinking bottled water. Food is expensive, transportation is expensive…but oddly enough, clothes and shoes are cheap. What a paradox! How can someone afford to buy cheap clothes when the most necessary thing, food, is too expensive? The metro is supposed to be the cheapest mean of transportation. I had to pay $5 for a 5min ride between two close neighborhoods. How is that cheap? I can pay half the price to travel from a city to another in Morocco!

So, to sum up, not only life here is unbelievably expensive, but cashiers love it when they see your face right after realizing that you don’t have enough cash on you to pay the bill because you did not include the tax! The most logical explanation (for me) to this “do not include tax” phenomenon would be that Americans know how much things are expensive in here, so they don’t want to scare you off by showing you even higher prices by including the taxes. Actually, there is also a more logical explanation which involves talking about the laws of the United States of America but I really would have no idea about what I’m getting into.

Now, if you are still wondering how I made it out of the supermarket with all my most needed purchases, stop wondering. I did not pay $310 simply because I didn’t have that kind of cash on me. I was $10 short so I had to give up buying a pan and a couple packages of noodles. Giving up those items dragged the total amount of the bill down. I walked out of that store with a dollar and a few cents in my pocket, hoping that the “just in case” scenario that I was talking about earlier does not happen…

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