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How to avoid falling on your face in a Russian supermarket (like my husband)

20 years ago, one of the best ways to dip your toes into the Russian language was to go to продукто́вый магази́н (grocery shop).

These days the lion’s share of such shops belongs to суперма́ркеты (supermarkets) with self-service. However, in Russia you almost certainly will need to chat with a cashier (касси́р), and sometimes your conversation might be quite funny, like my husband Mark’s, when he first went to Пятёрочка (the main chain of economy class supermarkets):

Кассир: Паке́т (bag)?

Марк: Здра́вствуйте (hello).

Кассир: (with impatience) Паке́т?

Mark didn’t know the word for a bag then, and he thought the lady is saying Пока́! (Bye) to a previous customer.

Of course, there is going to be tons of funny, awkward situations – errors are perfectly normal, whether you are just a beginner or can speak Russian confidently. To be honest, I still give reasons for Mark to make fun of me (or my English) – every day, after learning English for 20 years!

My advice would be – try to laugh at these awkward moments. A person who tries to speak a foreign language (especially Russian), is million times better and more respected than a person, who sits on the sofa and maybe (probably not) criticizes your mistakes.

Also, Russian people know that their language is hard to learn, they are not used to foreigners trying to speak it, and hearing you say even Спаси́бо or Здра́вствуйте makes them smile – me and Mark are often amused by those smiles – I wish my English in Glasgow was that appreciated!

Me in Пятёрочка

Coming back to суперма́ркет, here are some useful phrases, to avoid falling on your face in the Russian supermarket:

Паке́т нужен? Need a bag?

У вас есть ка́рта на́шего магази́на / ски́дочная ка́рта / бо́нусная ка́рта? Do you have our shop’s card? / discount card / bonus card?

Ка́рта или нали́чные? Card or cash?

Хоти́те това́р по а́кции? Do you want any goods on sale?

Накле́йки собира́ете? Are you collecting stickers?

Покажи́те Ваш па́спорт / мо́жно Ваш па́спорт?

Show your passport / Can I have your passport?

Пробива́ть (несов.) / Проби́ть (сов.) To scan

Ка́сса закры́та Checkout is closed

Касси́р Cashier

Теле́жка Trolley

Сда́ча Change

Подскажите, пожа́луйста, где найти...? Tell me please where to find…

Подскажите, пожа́луйста, какой код у ...? Tell me please which code does (this) have?

Подскажите, пожа́луйста, где взве́сить...? Tell me please where to weigh…?

О́чередь Queue

Вы стои́те (в о́череди)? Are you standing (in the queue)?

P.S. I would like to have such a ready set of phrases myself – for Glasgow. I might spend quite a lot of time straining all my senses just to answer whether I need a hanger! If you are interested in learning Russian, in person or by Skype, don't hesitate to contact me.

Daria Westbrook

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