Fifty Shades of Efficiency – at the Grocery Store

In the Caribbean I’ve learned that the concept of efficiency is a relative one. Or perhaps I should say that the relation between this concept and work of any kind is different from other countries I’ve been to. Here two examples of common situations at the grocery store.

A customer asks a clerk an information:

In the Netherlands:

A: Good morning, may I ask you a question?

B: Yes, of course. (while filling the shelf with some new products).

A: Where can I find olives?

B: My colleague there will show it to you (while getting the attention of a clerk who is currently not occupied with other things).

In Italy:

A: Good morning, do you know where I can find olive?

B: Yes, I walk with you (interrupting what she/he is doing).

In Sint Maarten:

A: Good morning, may I ask you a question?

B: What? (Continuing talking to C and D)

A: I’m looking for olives.

B: Ah, olives. They should be there (while pointing her finger in a very indefinite direction).

(Meanwhile, C walks away. B continue talking to D. A is still there looking perplexed).

A: Sorry, I did not understand where exactly I can find olives.

B: C went to ask someone. She/he’ll be back.

(B continues talking to D while A waits for C to come back with info about the position of the olives).


Two people doing shopping.

In the Netherlands:

A: We have to buy milk, bread and cheese.

B: Ok, I get milk and cheese. You get bread.

A: Fine. I meet you at the counter.

In Italy:

A: Bla bla bla.

B: Bla bla bla.

(While walking through all the aisles of the grocery shop getting what they need).

In Sint Maarten:

A: Bla bla bla.

B: Bla bla bla.

(A and B meet C).

C: Bla bla bla.

(A and B put bread and bananas at the counter and talk to D the lady at the counter).

(A and B walk back to the aisles of the grocery store to continue shopping).


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