Living in Doha, the supermarket experience with a child in tow is completely different to that of the UK, where everyone tends to ignore the screaming toddler, who is trying to escape the confines of the trolley seat, and the only people to coo over a little baby seem to be the old grannies (who incidentally always used to think Rebecca was a boy even when she was dressed in the most girlie pinks and purples!). Here, everyone seems to love children and they all want to say good morning and bring a smile to Ethan's face. Now that he is able to sit in the trolley seat like a big boy the attention he is receiving has really moved up a gear.
When we first brought Ethan back to Doha he was less than 6 weeks old and still without a proper routine for feeding and sleeping, so needless to say the first time I took him to the Supermarket I timed it completely wrong and ended up with a screaming, hungry baby at the checkout of Lou Lou's. Within 30 seconds of him starting to cry I was surrounded by 6 people all trying to stop him crying - a Qatari lady with her teenage daughter and maid, a security guard and 2 checkout operators. As I tried to pay for my shopping, they were rocking the trolley (he was in his rock a tot on it) and telling me off because I had no blanket on him so in their minds he was obviously cold! "He is hungry, not cold!" I muttered under my breath, more than slightly taken aback by the interest he was generating, and to be honest not really appreciating their interference. But as time has gone on I have come to realise that this is the way it is here. If a baby cries he/she is picked up immediately and tended to, while I, the Westerner (without a maid in tow), find it a little tricky to push the trolley, hold the crying and no doubt wriggling baby (as he tries to inch closer to where he knows he can find food!), get the groceries off the shelves and then go and pay for them. Instead I have just tended to speed up and get out of there as fast as I can with Ethan still fussing in his rock a tot!
Now that Ethan is older, I can relax a bit as he is generally quite placid when we get the groceries and he loves his new vantage point where he can look around at everything and interact with all the strangers that pay him attention. I have to be careful he doesn't suddenly lunge to the side though, as of course, in true Doha style, the shopping trolley has no lap belt to keep your child secure! I have come to appreciate the way everyone wants to stop and say hello to Ethan and that people don't just walk around oblivious to all around them, like is so often the case in the UK.
I hate to admit it but I also enjoy having someone unload my shopping onto the conveyor belt at the checkout and then pack my bags for me (even if they do have a habit of putting only one or two items in each bag - what's that all about!). And, if needed, someone can take my shopping to the car for me and load it into the boot (not sure but am I supposed to tip them for that?!). In fact, for someone who has always preferred doing things myself, I had a bit of a shock when I returned to England last June and actually had to pack my shopping myself! If only the choice of products available on the shelves here was the same as in the UK then I would be a truly happy woman but that's a whole other story!