Grocery Store Tourism Is Taking Off

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Going to the store in an unfamiliar land is suddenly the hot travel trend that’s all over TikTok.

Respectfully, I do not care if you disagree, because I will perish on this hill. In my humble traveler’s opinion, touring a local grocery store when you’re traveling abroad can be so much more insightful and culturally relevant than, say, visiting the country’s top-rated attractions.

Sure, if it’s your first time in Paris you must see the Eiffel Tower—but what does that teach you about French culture and traditions? Not much, if you ask me! On the other hand, walking into a local Parisian grocery store or market can enlighten you on French cuisine, and educate you on a whole country’s flavor profile through new scents, foods, and spices. In a way, it’s no different than visiting, say, a Moroccan souq—and that’s considered a cultural experience.

As it turns out, I’m not the only one who enjoys dilly dallying in international grocery stores. On TikTok, grocery store tourism is trending right now, with travelers using the platform to make a point: Touring grocery stores is, at the end of the day, nothing substantially short of sightseeing.

“This may be controversial, but I think that the best thing to do while traveling is go to the grocery store,” says the poster of one viral TikTok, which aims at summing up the experience of shopping at a Malaysian store as a foreign visitor. “Going to a grocery store could technically be counted as sightseeing, right? Because not only is it a cultural experience, but you can also find lots of stuff to bring back as souvenirs.”

Another TikTok—and many others just like it—strongly agrees. “Checking out the grocery stores in different countries IS sightseeing,” reads the overtext in bold orange letters. In the video, the poster is filming themselves and their friends wandering around a supermarket—allegedly, a Spanish one—as they marvel at products that they can’t find in their home country. One of them, for example, is a particular kind of Monster Energy drink, which comes in a red can and its flavor is dubbed “Ultra Red.”

If you don’t get the hype, I understand. To each their own niche little pocket of tourism! However, grocery store tourism can unveil quite a few gems for you—especially if you’re looking for unique experiences to take part in while you’re traveling abroad.

In the event that you found yourself with nothing to do on a rainy day in Düsseldorf, Germany you might want to check out one specific grocery store there. Not only will you come out of your visit with quite a few culinary souvenirs, but you might be able to snack, dine, and drink champagne whilst grocery shopping there as well.

“The best grocery store in the world is in Düsseldorf, Germany and you can’t convince me otherwise,” says the poster of a viral TikTok. “Welcome to Edeka Zurheider and it is the most insane supermarket I’ve ever set foot inside.”

In the video, the poster then proceeds to describe all the wild amenities the German grocery store flaunts. A champagne bar for a grocery break? Check. A jamon sampling station? Check. A mozzarella bar for a “snack break”? Check. A wine tasting cube? Check. A Michelin-starred restaurant? You guessed it—also check.

On top of being a cultural activity, grocery store tourism can be its own little luxurious experience—and the US knows it well. It is no coincidence that luxurious grocery stores such as the iconic California-based Erewhon are having their own moment right now: it’s just the other (fancier) side of grocery store tourism.

On TikTok, some users claim to have taken (or been very close to taking) flights to Los Angeles primarily to pay a visit to the viral supermarket and try its viral products, including the internet-famous Hailey Bieber smoothie.

Influencers are even hopping on the trend. Bee Better, the TikToker become famous for their brutally honest marketing reviews of influencers and their products, did it too, and then hopped on social media to recount their experience.

“I just took a six-hour flight to Los Angeles just to review these smoothies you guys won’t stop talking about,” they say in the video. They then proceed to explain how much they shared for three smoothies: $88.

It might seem that such an approach to Erewhon has a different travel-related impact than, say, touring international supermarkets. However, on a closer look, both activities provide the same kind of cultural insight on an area. While a Malaysian supermarket might educate you about what spices locals like to use, a Los Angeles luxury supermarket might shine a light on the local economy.

As one user sarcastically puts it in a comment under Bee Better’s video, “‘Do people in Los Angeles like wasting money?’ Yes.”

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Serena Tara is a Staff Writer at Thrillist reporting on travel as well as space- and astronomy-related news and trends. With more than five years of experience in digital journalism, she has written and reported on a wide variety of topics, from news and politics to culture, fashion, and lifestyle. Her work has appeared in Salon.com, Marie Claire, New York Magazine’s Bedford+Bowery, among other outlets. She holds a master’s degree in Digital Journalism from NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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