About 25 years ago, maybe a little more, Canadians began changing the way they shopped. In some ways they were just catching up to Europe.
The change was not in what we purchased or when we went to the store, but rather in how we took the goods we bought home. As paper bags had given way to plastic some decades previously, environmentally conscious shoppers brought their own cloth bags to the store with them. Some stores even offered a small discount if you brought your own bags. (That discount is, I think, gone. Now they just charge you if you need a plastic bag.)
Europe (or at least Germany) has had an environmentally friendly shopping experience for centuries. Everyone has a wicker basket. Think Little Red Riding Hood if an image didn’t pop immediately into your mind.
I had thought those baskets were a relic of an earlier time, but I was wrong. Every German has his or her wicker basket that they bring to the market or grocery store. Apparently, it is part of the culture. I presume that is why I was given such a basket a couple of weeks after we moved to Sulzburg.
I knew the stores here wouldn’t be dispensing plastic bags, and I came prepared. I brought a couple of cloth bags with me from Canada. It is always nice to have something familiar when you are in a strange land. I’m still using them, even though I have a basket.
It is funny what you cling to. The basket is foreign to me. I think I look funny carrying it. People in Ottawa don’t bring wicker baskets with them when they shop. But I’m not in Ottawa. Nor should I really care how I look. I probably stand out because I am the shopper who doesn’t use a basket. If I want to blend in, I should carry the basket.
Nevertheless, I haven’t been able to bring myself to make the switch. I have rationalized that the cloth bags are more flexible and lighter, two things which are true. But do I need to use the basket to be more culturally sensitive, to give myself a sense of belonging? I don’t know. But I won’t lie awake at night wondering. I’m sticking with the cloth bags because I like them, not because they remind me of home. There is no reason I must use a basket just because everyone else does. I’m not a sheep and don’t have to give in to the herd instinct.
That has me wondering though. When I move back to Ottawa, will I bring my basket and use it when I shop, as a reminder of Germany? I suppose it is possible – stranger things have happened.