Specialty shops – 1

6 Oct

The search for bobbins for my sewing machine has reminded me of the confusion and fun of the first year or so of living in Vienna.

In different countries you can find that things you need or want are not sold where you would expect them to be sold. What I most clearly remember was the search for contact lens solutions. Used to the all-service supermarkets in the U.S. I tried there first. People looked at me as if I were crazy. I fled. Then I thought, “I bet they have them at the pharmacy” (a much more restricted concept in Austria than in the U.S.), but when I asked there they thought I was crazy, too. But at least they told me where to go. In Austria, still, the one and only place to buy contact lens solutions is at the optician’s.

The Austrian culture is higher on uncertainty avoidance–that’s a technical term and part of Geert Hofstede’s model of cultural dimensions–than the U.S. American culture. One way this expresses itself is through the credence given to experts. What might happen if we were allowed to buy aspirin or contact lens solutions all by ourselves at the supermarket? (Other than the disintegration of the pharmacies and the opticians’?) Heaven alone knows! Better to be safe than sorry.

So back to my sewing machine. I thought I had figured the system out by this time. I went to a specialty sewing shop to buy, among other things, bobbins for my perfectly normal, nothing out of the ordinary Singer sewing machine. And was told I could only get them from Singer direct!

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