Going to Lidl’s like entering several countries at once

COMMENT: We all have a part to play in this special relationship

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Every once in a while I take myself off for an exotic experience. Yes. I drive to the other side of Gosport and shop at Lidl.

Each time I go through the door, I suddenly remember what a big Lidl fan I am. It’s like stepping into several other European countries all at once and being able to speak the language enough to understand some of what’s going on, yet still retain a touch of the mysterious and feel a little out of my comfort zone.

Peanut soup is a good example. Need I say more?

Of course, with Lidl you have to be prepared to venture into the unknown. The first time I went I was horrified as there were no baskets and I didn’t have a pound to hire a trolley.

There was no cashback or cashpoint either. Luckily I was saved by a friend who was hiding behind a stack of similar-to-7-Up-drinks-but-not-the-same-thing.

She overcame her embarrassment at being caught in the ‘cheap’ shop and came to my rescue. And thankfully, while digging me out a pound, lowered her voice and gave me the lowdown on queue management and the need to be a fast and furious packer or face the wrath of the assistants.

Her parting words, before disappearing between the jelly babies and the horse blankets, were intriguing: pretend you’re not English.

It must have taken me three hours to get around that first time. Some of that was trying to decipher the price labels (sometimes above the product, sometimes below, sometimes three feet away), some of it was enjoying the enticing array of items (this week I believe you can pick up a generator and an arc welder with your cherry tomatoes) and some of it was admiring the vast range of other people who shopped there (from people you’d expect to see in Waitrose to those you’d expect to see in Warsaw).

And a lot of it was pondering if I should pretend to be Romanian or Spanish and why on earth it mattered.

But even when I can pick up some artificial turf, a scuba set and some milk, after every Lidl trip I still have to go and top up at my normal supermarket for school lunchbox bits and pieces. Rather fat sausages with unpronounceable names would not go down well.