02 September 2008

Dialog - Supermarket Deli

Some of my family and friends are studying Spanish and to help them get a feel for certain situations I thought I would post a dialog now and then so they might practice and be prepared for the real thing. Going up to a supermarket deli counter and ordering some lunch meat is a simple task but it can be quite intimidating if you don't know the ropes. First of all there are usually a number of ladies behind the deli counter who will start calling out to you as you are approaching the deli counter. They address women as either Señora or Senorita depending upon secret signs which only women seem to know and and they address most men as "joven" which means "young man" no matter how old they are. I guess it is their attempt to either mock or flatter but knowing which one is also a secret. The first time I walked up to the deli counter I made a serious mistake. I told the woman that I wanted "un cuarto kilo" (about a half pound) of ham or at least I thought I did. She started slicing the ham and when she had sliced quite a bit more than what I thought should be enough I said, "¿Es un cuarto kilo?" (Is that a quarter kilogram?). She got very upset and told me that I had asked her for "cuatro kilos" (four kilograms) which is almost nine pounds. From then on I learned to ask in ""gramos" and I should have asked for "quinientos gramos" which is five hundred grams. Unless you state what kind of ham you want as I have shown in the note below they are also going to ask what brand that you want because there are so many brands of ham to choose from. Men seem to think that "ham is ham" but apparently women know better. You should learn the names of several brands and not do what I did at first which was to stand there like a dummy, stammer, and turn bright red.

So, here we go. You are walking up to the deli counter and she says:

Buenas tardes Señor. ¿Qué le gusta?
Good afternoon, Sir. What would you like?

Buenas tardes Señora. Quiero jamón de pierna baja en grasa y sal.
Good afternoon Ma'am. I want some ham that is low in fat and salt.

[Note: "jamón de pierna" translates literally as "leg ham" but it equates to the English word "ham" as in plain ham from a pig as opposed to "turkey ham" which would be "jamón de pavo" or "jamón ahumado" which is "smoked ham" or "jamón york" which is boiled ham, or "jamón serrano" which is cured ham. Also, many times the preferred brand is appended as in "jamón de pierna Fud" or "jamón de pierna Capistrano"]

Bueno. ¿Cuánto le gusta?
Okay, How much do you want?

Trescientos gramos por favor.
Three hundred grams please.

Muy bien. ¿Rabanada?
Very well. Sliced?

Sí, rabanada delgada.
Yes, sliced thin.

¿Rabanada así?
Sliced like this?

Sí, está bien.
Yes, it's okay.

¿Algo más Señor?
Anything else, Sir?

Sí, doscientos gramos de mortadela pero rabanada poquito más grueso.
Yes, two hundred grams of baloney but sliced a little thicker.

No problema, Señor. ¿Así?
No problem, Sir. Like this?

That's perfect.

¿Algo más Señor?
Anything else, Sir?

No Señora, nada más. Es todo.
No, Ma'am, nothing more. That's everything.

Aquí está Señor. Ten un buen día.
Here you are sir. Have a nice day.

Gracias Señora, muy amable.
Thank you Ma'am, you are very kind.

De nada Señor. ¡Que le vaya bien!
You're welcome Sir. May things go well for you! (May you go well)

You should really practice this with a friend and alternate between being the deli lady and the customer until you are very comfortable with it. I can assure you that if you do this you will have no trouble at all your first time...at least not like I did.


YayaOrchid said...

Thank you for the tutorial, Bob! Not to feel too bad about your little blunder, I myself have trouble at the American deli counters. Never quite sure what it is I want. I don't know what the difference is between smoked and cured ham, that's for sure.

GlorV1 said...

That is soooooo funny Bob, I'm laughing all the way to the deli. My goodness, thats a lot you have to go through to get a piece of ham, but a pigs head. Yikes. That pig looks so darling though, and I feel sad that they had to kill him so that you can get your ham. LOL
Do you feel bad about the little piggie? Your posts are always so informative and there is always something to smile or laugh about. Thank you Bob. Have a great day.

Theresa in Mèrida said...

Bob, around here if you want a quarter kilo you say un quarto and leave off the kilo part. Un medio is a half...somehow I doubt that you are the first person to find themselves receiving four kilos when they only wanted a quarter!

Anonymous said...

When I lived near Monterrey, Nuevo León the supermarket deli counters had all types of cold cuts just like in the U.S. Here in Irapuato they have many types of ham and not much else except baloney. I wonder why. I am bewildered by all the different brands of ham.

The pig's head came from the market in Silao, Guanajuato. People buy them to make pozole.

Thanks for the feedback. That is good to know. This is the type of information that I am always looking for.

Alice said...

thanks for the lessons. had a funny encounter at the deli here in Mexico City last weekend and ordered something completely different from what I had in mind. so is life in a second language.
enjoyed reading your blog. just getting started on blogging my own expat life.


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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.