Supermarkets are one of my favorite topics as I believe that supermarkets tell you a lot about the country you are visiting. Let's have a look at the characters of the word first: it is 超市 in Chinese which in turn is an abbreviation for 超级市场. 超级 means "super" and 市场 "market". Chinese is easy, isn't it?
A Wu Mart…
It used to be just a market
The word obviously is a one to one translation from its English counterpart. Traditionally, Chinese used to shop by going to the neighborhood markets which sold everything from soap and batteries to fresh pork and vegetables. Luckily, these markets still exist and thrive giving visitors a rare, because effortless, glimpse of real Chinese life. Supermarkets were added to the line up in an attempt to bring a bit of modernity to Chinese retail – and sell the public even more stuff it did not need. The marketplace now is divided up into domestic players, such as 物美 or 美廉美 and international giants such as US Wal Mart, French Carrefour or German Metro.
A Merry Mart…
Expect the unexpected
At first sight, a Chinese supermarket looks exactly like any other. There is shelf after shelf stuffed with random stuff. But if you look closer, you will see that it is mostly domestic produce with foreign brands spending their time in a bit of a niche and in areas that foreigners undoubtedly do better, such as soft drinks, chocolates, detergent. So, despite an influx of international brands and products, Chinese firms hold their ground firmly. This may be largely due to unchanged lifestyles over the years, i.e. traditional families still cooking at home and tastes not yet having gone the way of the west. Whatever the reasons may be, you will feel that Chinese supermarkets are different from what you know from home – so you better go explore.
A Wal Mart… Take your pick