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Do ethnic markets discriminate?


I love ethnic foods. In fact, sometimes I prefer a good Thai dish to a ribeye, yet I won't shop at an ethnic market. I think they discriminate; They cater to their own and don't want my business. If they did, signs would be in English also.
The way they operate is a reflection of their culture and it may conflict with others. I've gone into a Hispanic market looking for a particular chili that I couldn't find elsewhere and felt like I was in another country. I found what I needed and couldn't get out of there fast enough. I think I was the only Gringo in there.

  1. Catering to a particular customer doesn't necessarily equal discrimination. You're not excluded- you just choose to exclude yourself. I'm the only white person at the Asian supermarket I go to, but so what? I want what they're selling.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Hobbert

      agree with hobbert,
      often i am the only gringo in the mexican market.
      so what?
      at this point, i've learned enough spanish so that i wouldn't necessarily want them to try to translate for me.
      also, not too sure why you would assume that they know enough written english to make correct signs even if they tried.

      1. re: westsidegal

        if I'm truly stumped about a product, I ask a patient question (although I usually try to find a younger clerk, one more likely to have learned English early on - so who's discriminating now? uhh, me I guess.)

    2. i have shopped in major chain supermarkets that had aisle signs in both english and spanish and in many latin markets where the signs are just in spanish. they're catering to their own, not discriminating "against" me. often the owners' english is pretty rudimentary and i don't know that they are able to effectively label in their 2nd/3rd language.

      19 Replies
      1. re: hotoynoodle

        according to the most recent census, my previous condo was in a boston neighborhood that was 47% south/central american. i suspect the actual figure was higher, but, whatevs. as a single white woman? i WAS a minority. as mentioned, my shaw's had aisle signs in both spanish and english and so did my cvs. lots of the packaging was bilingual too. shaw's and cvs are multi-billion-dollar corporations. bodegas? not so much.

        my little corner store was owned by older italian immigrants. they loved me, as a curly-haired italian girl, and i felt a little bit of my brooklyn childhood shopping there. they butchered meat and made bread on-site. they carried all sorts of specialty foods i would have needed to go to the north end for, right outside my door.

        the husband dropped dead. the wife needed to retire. a few months later, the kids couldn't hack it. salvadoreans bought the space.

        while i lamented the loss of that store, i realized i was a dying demographic in the neighb.

        boston is small, so i also go to chinatown often. once at a fish counter, i had several chinese men literally muscle their way ahead of me, while the cutter ignored me. after the 3rd guy bumped me, i pushed forward and made my presence to order. it was unsettling, but to this day, i don't know if it was racist or sexist? either way, discriminatory, lol. yeah, it sucked, but a pebble in the pond of what others must experience most days in their adopted country.

        don't feel put-upon. exhale and expand your horizons.

        it's not about "you", ya know?

          1. re: hotoynoodle

            Your experience at the Chinatown fish counter probably wasn't race-based. I'm Asian, and I have to employ my sharp elbows all the time just to make sure I don't lose my place in the queue.

            1. re: hotoynoodle

              hotoy - I don't think they weren't being rude, that's just how 'no-line' counters work esp. in Asian markets, you have to let the clerk know you're ready to order. think the old days of the NYSE with 1000's of brokers screaming at each other and waving 'chits'. sorta the same idea. I picked it up one Saturday AM trying to buy a smoked duck and being the former Boy Scout I am, allowed Grandma after Grandma to elbow me out of her way before I got assertive (nothing physical, I just started waving at the clerk)

              your basic message is the 'right' take, one has to roll with it.

            2. re: hotoynoodle

              I'm confused.....if they're catering to their own, which is ok for them, then why do we have to press #1 for English? Why aren't we entitled to just "cater to our own"?

              You also say "it's not about you, ya know", but couldn't the exact same thing be said to them? It's not just about them doing business in our country/society, is it?

              The OP is talking about their particular experience, right, wrong or indifferent I don't think the tables should be turned trying to say it's "his problem not theirs".

              To each their own...........

              (FYI I really have no problem if the store is in Spanish or whatever language, just saying they have a right to just cater to their own, doesn't really seem right. If your doing business to the public that consists of a wide variety of people and all should at least feel "welcome" )

              1. re: jrvedivici

                if you're pressing "1" for english, that business is indeed trying to broaden its base and also has the resources to offer multi-lingual services. not everybody does.

                as for this:

                "It's not just about them doing business in our country/society, is it?"

                actually, yes, it is. they are running a private business. they are not refusing to sell anything to anybody, so it's open commerce. i never once felt unwelcome in any of the bodegas or small restaurants in my former neighb, even with a language barrier.

                not everybody has my same comfort zone, though, i get that.

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  My comfort zone is probably similar to yours, I truly couldn't care less. It's just when it comes to regulating things.....I feel a policy once issued if it was reversed should also seem fair.

                  Your comment of "catering to their own" if it was reversed in our society and we used the "catering to our own" philosophy minority groups of all kinds would be crying foul. In my opinion of course.

                  Please don't take anything I'm saying as being adversarial, just giving my view/feelings.

                  1. re: jrvedivici

                    do most places you shop/eat have english-only signs and menus? that's the policy in reverse and far outnumbers its opposite in most places.

                2. re: jrvedivici

                  If the store grew to include many customers who spoke different languages, then it would benefit the business to have signs in those languages, as the ones w/ the phone recording demonstrates. Are phone recording companies discriminating against Norwegians or Gaelic speakers because they don't have an option for them? Or are they just going w/ their largest markets?

                  1. re: jrvedivici

                    One thing to keep in mind is that in this one instance, in your whole life, you feel this way. Most non-whites go through that regularly, not just standing out and being the only one of their race (outside big cities) but real discrimination. Not getting the service you think you deserve isn't discrimination especially compared to what others have experienced.

                    I would say in your case, they don't cater to your demographic, but it doesn't mean they're discriminating against you. I'm short. I can't reach the top shelf in supermarkets. I can claim discrimination or I can realize I'm one of the few people my height and the stores cater to the average taller person. Do stores discriminate against people who are blind by not having everything in braille? Do stores not want their business? Or is it that it just isn't cost effective to do for the few customers who need it?

                    1. re: chowser

                      Just to clarify I do NOT agree with the OP. I have no problem with ethnic markets etc. My only problem was the "are they catering to their own" comment which struck me the wrong way.

                      Like I said I really don't have a horse in this race, I probably shouldn't have commented at all!

                      In the interest of fairness, tu comprende? Lol

                      1. re: jrvedivici

                        Si. I think it should be they're "catering to their customer base" not to their own.

                        1. re: chowser

                          Yeah exactly, I guess my PC, corporate side took over. Imagine a bank running the campaign "Lending To Our Own Since 1910" Lol

                          1. re: jrvedivici

                            Ah, you mean like Banca d'Italia (est 1904)? Seems they did pretty well...


                      2. re: chowser

                        Well, disabilities are in a different category, because there are policies in place that require businesses to accommodate disabled customers in various ways. But lack of multilingual skills and discomfort resulting from contact with unfamiliar cultures are not currently recognized as disabilities.

                        1. re: DeppityDawg

                          I'll edit and say before the ADA, then. Or, if you'd rather, just ditch the analogy. All I'm saying is that markets cater to their clientele.

                        2. re: chowser

                          And, how do you know, EXACTLY, how the OP feels in every instance of his/her life?

                          1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                            I generalized because if he had faced discrimination, this would be a non-issue for the most part.

                            1. re: chowser

                              Exactly my point, you are generalizing.....

                    2. Keep trying. Hispanic, Asian, Italian, Greek. They may all think you a "gringo", but it's up to you to prove them wrong. Be friendly and inquisitive, but not intrusive. Remember, most cultures expect the courtesy of a customer to buy more than just one thing and also accept (if offered) a gift from the shop owner. It would be rude to plop one item on the counter pay and leave. They see you as treating them as an afterthought. Likewise, if you make a purchase of a few items, some ethnic grocers offer something from their shop as a gift. Accept it with many thanks. And be sure to return and thank them again, with more purchases.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Gastronomos

                        Very well said.

                        I had a funny experience not that long ago. I was parking at a trendy restaurant for lunch, and realized I had no change for the meter, one of the older ones that won't take your debit card. I noticed a market right there (a mom & pop kind) and decided to go in to buy something small to get change. (I know, they hate that!). But while in the store, I realized I wanted to buy some Sake, and had a picture of the bottle I had had at a resto some months earlier. So I started to look thru my pics on my phone, so I could inquire if they sold it, or something like it. The older lady behind the register must have been rolling her eyes by now, since I was acting distracted, and not looking at the store items, but my phone. Couldn't find the pic, so I grabbed a pack of gum and paid for it with a $5 bill. She was not happy about giving me change.

                        Long story short, after I paid the meter and had my lunch, I finally found the pic of the sake bottle, since I can't read Japanese, I went right back into that mom&pop and she recognized me. I smiled and showed her the photo and inquired if they sold that brand. She called to the elderly sushi chef, and he helped me out by recommending another brand (that was delicious, btw). I purchased it, and she was all smiles at me and very polite. To this day, I now go in there every so often when in the nabe, and buy some sake & other Asian products from them. I have several Asian stores that are closer, but am willing to shop there, as they were willing to help out this newb. And the older lady is so sweet to me now, complimenting me on things. So if you give them a chance, even when they don't give you one, with a little persistence and kindness, everyone can wind up happy.

                      2. In an ideal world, they would have unlimited time and resources to cater to everyone who might be interested in what they're selling, but in the real world, they have to make some choices. If they get enough customers by catering to "their own", and to "Gringos" who, unlike you, somehow manage to get by without signs in English, then it's not worth their while putting a lot of extra energy into making you feel more welcome. Their loss, I'm sure.

                        1. I'm glad they cater to their own. That's why I'm at the ethnic market in the first place, to buy "their own" food. And I can't recall any instance when I've felt discriminated against because I'm white. I'm sure a red, brown or yellow person who acted as confused as I sometimes do would face the same occasional grimace or eyeroll.

                          1. Have you *asked* the staff for assistance? You know, asking questions about products can do wonders with regard to finding out what (or where) they are. If that seems to intimidating for you (and it sure sounds like it might be), do you perhaps personally know any, um, non-Gringo folk who might be willing to accompany you the next time you go to an "ethnic" market?

                            We have many international stores in our podunk town, the largest of which are Asian. While they try to label most of their products in English as well, not all products are labeled bilingually. That's when *asking* someone really comes in handy.

                            1. There is a difference between discrimination and catering to the clientele.
                              I shop at ethnic markets regularly. I don't think signage exclusively in the language of the represented country's food products is discriminatory. What I do find discriminatory is an unwillingness to help and dismissive customer service blatantly based on race. This I find rather common. Whatever. Rude people come in all flavors, and perhaps there are just some social conventions that I am not aware of or adhering to secondary to being a white American. I also think it's highly possible that the language barrier makes people uncomfortable and/or cranky. I get that.
                              I just try to be my normal, hopefully decently mannered self and if i'm shopping for ingredients that are totally outside my realm of familiarity, I've done my homework so I have a good chance of finding what I want without help.

                              1. I (gringo) shop in the ethnic markets all the time. If I don't know what something is, I ask. If I don't see what I'm looking for, I ask. And have always been treated respectfully, no matter the ethnicity of the market.

                                It's not discrimination, perhaps their english isn't so great that they want to write it on a sign. Perhaps, as many have said, they are catering to their clientele.

                                I think this is a case of finding offense when none is intended.

                                1. I adore ethnic markets and they offer such amazing bargains. I ask a ton of questions when I shop (anywhere) so I know what I'm buying and sometimes more importantly how to use these interesting ingredients. Sometimes no one is around, so I approach a customer and see if they have a second to help a gal out--I usually wind up with a few recipe ideas ta boot.

                                  Don't miss out on some wonderful food experiences by being too shy to just ASK questions.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: HillJ

                                    Yes! I should add that some of my most interesting, fun and funny food experiences have been ethnic ingredient-centric.
                                    An example:

                                    1. re: splatgirl

                                      You are consistently adorable, splatgirl!

                                    2. re: HillJ

                                      That is what I do too. I am sometimes frustrated at not being able to find something I want at an ethnic market but I never chalk it up to racism. I adore shopping at ethnic markets for both the prices and the interesting things I stumble across. I find that people (store employees and other customers) are for the most part friendly and helpful. I have shown people a picture of what I'm looking for on my phone and it usually works.

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        Exactly. There is an Asian market in my neighborhood, run by two Asian women, neither of whom speak much English. One of them is unfailingly nice to me (and other non-Asian customers), using her limited English to be as helpful and kind as possible. The other one is a complete b*tch to any non-Asian customer (it's kind of crazy to watch her interact with people in line, and the change she undergoes when she switches from an Asian to a non-Asian customer). It's all about the individual - although if both of them were b*tches, I probably wouldn't ever patronize their establishment.

                                      2. I think you are missing out on great food.

                                        I shop at ethnic markets instead of chain grocers 90 percent of the time. If you frequent them, smile, ask questions and buy things regularly, you will cease to feel like such a gringo. It won't be long before you really won't need signs in English.

                                        1. I'm sorry I brought up the subject because now, it seems to be taking a turn toward PC. It appears that some are afraid they may hurt the feelings of others. In this country it has become a requirement that most documents, legal or otherwise, and signs be displayed in various languages so that no one is left out. It is also good for business because it makes everyone feel welcome. It should be a '2-way street'. Those ethnic groups that don't display signs in English are telling me I'm not welcome. I have gone by what appear to be restaurants but have no signs in English; just Farsi or Arabic. In their own country, that's fine, but not here.

                                          48 Replies
                                          1. re: mucho gordo

                                            I can only speak for myself when I say my answer wasn't PC. It's just what I think. You have to meet people where they are. I could Google translate English into Dari or Urdu but the result would probably be ridiculous. I suspect the proprietors of these places probably feel the same about their English skills. If its worth it to you to learn more about their products/services, cool. If not, that's fine too, but don't frame it as discriminatory.

                                            1. re: mucho gordo

                                              In my area (DC), most of the ethic stores do have signage in english, for the most part. A very small store that clearly caters to a single population might not but I have always felt it is due to language barriers on their side, not a deliberate attempt to shut me out. What right-minded merchant wouldn't want to sell to anyone who wants to buy?

                                              1. re: mucho gordo

                                                It seems you think that those who disagree with you are holding to a position based out of a notion of correctness imposed (a strawman) rather than out of a genuine appreciation for the diversity of communities (and the opportunities for better eating it grants us). Please do not be so quick to dismiss the appreciations you read.

                                                It also seems, by your naming of 'others' that you have created a conceptual community of 'hounds that are solely white, solely American, and solely Anglophone. That is not the case.

                                                I can see how it comes as a shock, to not have your needs catered to. Those who have been raised with privilege (white, male, national. etc.) tend not to see those benefits, but to presume the inevitability of their existence. It can be disruptive to have one's centrality in the world unsettled, and I sympathise, but perhaps you are now hearing from some of us who have had to adjust repeatedly, so this is just one time among many that we are uncomfortable and have to figure things out. And speaking as someone who has faced a certain amount of actual discrimination, this sense of 'otherness' is just a blip.

                                                Move along. Eat up.

                                                1. re: mucho gordo

                                                  They are in their own country. And I don't think they have a lot to learn from you about discrimination or feeling unwelcome.

                                                  1. re: mucho gordo

                                                    MG, listen, I don't mean to gang up on you, honestly. And believe me, I am the most un-PC person in LA, truly! I believe that in this free country we have now become prisoners to this tyranny that is political correctness. And I genuinely can't stand it. And I don't make many friends because of it. So, I want you to know, I believe you are entitled to your opinion, and entitled to state it, however you please. There will be many who will go with the current flow of pc-ness, and openly call you out. And the rest of the un-PC cowards won't say anything, for fear of being called out themselves.

                                                    But, being a child of someone who was not born in this country, we frequented many markets while I was young that were run by immigrants so that my Dad would feel more comfortable, find foods he missed from the old country, and chat in a familiar language with the owners. So, I've tried to put myself in their shoes sometimes. Often times, I agree with you, that the store owners (or restaurant owners) are unfriendly and unforgiving to us Gringoes.... Then I try to imagine going to some foreign land with nothing in my pockets, and trying to learn the language and culture of a whole new world.

                                                    We are a wonderful, beautiful nation for the very reason that we embrace these people from all corners of the world, even when we sometimes don't embrace their traditions, culture, religions and other ways sometimes. And we are solely unique in that we will welcome these immigrants and allow them to become successful individuals.

                                                    So you can decide to frequent their shops or not..... Is obviously totally up to you. I know I have learned a lot from incredibly diverse melting pot of LA. but you can choose not to. It's all up to you.... Peace.

                                                    1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                      Simply untrue that the US is the only country where immigrants are welcome and many become successful.

                                                      1. re: lagatta

                                                        Perhaps.... Though it seems we are best at giving those immigrants the support they need to become successful, since they come from all over the world to enjoy our freedoms guaranteed in the bill of rights.....

                                                      2. re: mucho gordo

                                                        Many supermarkets have "ethnic" food sections to supply you with your wants. These food "sections" are for those like you that don't want personal interaction with the unknown.
                                                        Even the fruit and vegetable aisles of many mega marts are vastly different from decades past. Heck, supermarkets sell tomatoes now! And fresh herbs! Not what I saw as a kid. I welcome it and ethnic grocers doing business. Business.
                                                        And for restaurants menus in foreign languages, well, yes, try ordering a hamburger in Taco Bell.

                                                        1. re: mucho gordo

                                                          If it is the language barrier that's preventing you from feeling welcome or comfortable and you'd like to have a better handle on what signage says buy a dictionary or one of those plastic cheat sheets that helps with the basics. I'm serious. One Indian market I go to actually has a translation sheet for customers--now that's smart consumer marketing!

                                                          Any market worth its salt wants you to feel welcome, and wants you to spend your hard earned dough shopping in their store.

                                                          Give it another try.

                                                          1. re: HillJ

                                                            I could use a few cheat sheets! What I do is compile a picture list of items I want to buy on my phone and have that ready in case I need to show it to a store employee or another shopper. Almost always works like a charm.

                                                            1. re: tcamp

                                                              That's such a clever and easy to do idea, tcamp.

                                                          2. re: mucho gordo

                                                            This has so little to do with "PC", I wouldn't even know where to begin.

                                                            Why not stick to Walmart, where prices are always low, and you are greeted by a smiling white person?

                                                            1. re: mucho gordo

                                                              For what it's worth...

                                                              I feel pretty comfortable in the places you've described, based on my experiences, but I think I can understand what you're saying from another's point of view.,

                                                              I've read your opening. I'll go out on a limb and respond by saying, I *don't* "feel sorry for you" and I don't "feel sad" or 'broken hearted" after reading it.

                                                              You're entitled to your opinion, it is what it is, you have your experience and you own it. The only thing I'm sorry for are the judgments you're receiving for your honesty.

                                                              1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                <Those ethnic groups that don't display signs in English are telling me I'm not welcome. >

                                                                Not necessary. It really does not mean you are not welcome. It could be that they don't have the resource to label everything in English. It could be that they don't know English very well.

                                                                <In their own country, that's fine, but not here.>

                                                                I will tell you something. Real experience. I have been to foreign countries where the American restaurant menu are entirely written in English. Do you think those American restaurants are discriminating the local non-English speaking population?

                                                                I absolutely agree with you that it is a pain in the ass, but I won't say it is discrimination by intent. Maybe, maybe not, but until I know more, I tend to err on the side of "giving people benefit of the doubts"

                                                                1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                  "In their own country, that's fine, but not here."

                                                                  It's possible the US is "their own country".

                                                                  1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                    to quote my late father when speaking about the predomiant immigrant group in the New Haven area in the 1950s:
                                                                    "THEY ARE ILLITERATE IN TWO LANGUIAGES"

                                                                    I don't fault ethnic markets that don't have signs in English. Very often they don't have employees who can read and write English, or even their native tongue! How many times has the shopkeeper brought out the 3 or 4 year old child to translate? More than I can count. But I won't pass up ethnic shopping because of it.

                                                                    Back in 1979, I was the personnel manager for a large sewing factory in Waterbury, CT. I devised a short 6 question employment application in English, Spanish, Italian, Portugese and Polish. They were almost always handed back to the receptionist blank with a social security or Green Card.
                                                                    WHY? These immigrant women (nearly 100% of applicants) were right off the farm and had little or no schooling. They could be interviewed in their native tongue, but could not read or write. Still they made great workers and learned to read and write over time.

                                                                    1. re: bagelman01

                                                                      That's an excellent point. In my region (Northern VA) we have a huge Central American population. Many of these immigrants have maybe a 1st or 2nd grade education from their own country. They can't read well in Spanish let alone English. Frankly, I can't honestly say that I would have the strength to completely move to another country, run a business, raise children, and make a life. I admire those that do.

                                                                      1. re: bagelman01

                                                                        Your father was right. Back then, in 'smalltown', CT, American food was considered ethnic. Italian was standard. The immigrants had to either speak English or know someone who did in order to go into business. Chinese food didn't exist, that I can recall, and nobody ever heard of a burrito.
                                                                        Most of the adult immigrants tried to assimilate because our cultures were not that different and we knew their children would grow up Americanized.

                                                                        1. re: bagelman01

                                                                          Yep. My ex-husband was Portuguese and spoke the language fluently, but he could neither read nor write it because he was educated in the US. I can imagine that if he were to open an American shop in Portugal, the signs would all be in English and he'd end up catering to an ex-pat clientele.

                                                                        2. re: mucho gordo

                                                                          how is this not their own country, as much as it is yours?

                                                                          1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                            This country belongs to its citizens. Only when an immigrant becomes one can they call the US their country.

                                                                            1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                              By "its citizens", you mean native Americans, right?

                                                                              Given that they were the *original* citizens of this country before the earliest immigrants slaughtered the majority of them.

                                                                              But please correct me if I'm wrong, perhaps you're referring to some other group of people.

                                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                                Pretty sure they didn't mean native Americans (going out on a limb here, I know).

                                                                                1. re: linguafood

                                                                                  First of all, it is wrong to consider Native Americans "citizens" of the US as our country did not exist at that time, we had no federal government before Europeans landed here and started making territories and moved west. There were no "citizens" as we know the meaning of that term.

                                                                                  And the notion that all Native Americans are noble savages that never competed for land and slaughtered each other in the millennia or so before white man ever set foot on this continent has longed been debunked. (But since the civil war, when Americans told the Native Americans "we'll take care of you" did the actual oppression begin..... ). So just a little history lesson for ya there.

                                                                                  1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                                    I'd love to know why the fact that native Americans engaged in combat between their tribes makes *anything* that was done in our long string of broken treaties, genocide, and theft permissible.

                                                                                    Just a little history lesson for *you*.

                                                                                    1. re: Josh

                                                                                      Let me guess, you were a Brownie, or campfire girl, right??

                                                                                      1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                                        This is disgusting racism. It has no place on a foodie blogsite.

                                                                                    2. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                                      I never said anything about native Americans being noble savages.

                                                                                      But thanks for the history lesson, I just don't get enough of those on food boards these days.

                                                                                      Super Fat (let's keep it in the official language of this country, shall we?), however, has yet to reply with his personal definition on citizenry.

                                                                                      1. re: linguafood

                                                                                        Given that they were the *original* citizens of this country before the earliest immigrants slaughtered the majority of them.

                                                                                        Your point that I was responding to demonstrates the long treasured fantasy that all Native Americans were non violent.

                                                                                      2. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                                        I like how nice and whitewashed you make it sound: "making territories".

                                                                                        As though the land didn't exist until the colonists came, and the people living here weren't worth anything because they didn't parcel and subdivide the land into chunks of private property.

                                                                                        It still shocks me to see attitudes like yours.

                                                                                        1. re: Josh

                                                                                          What's shocking is your relentless attitude to negate and belittle those you disagree with. How sad for you.

                                                                                          And I like how you romanticize history and refuse to see facts for facts. The Native Americans were outnumbered and outgunned. And now you want me to apologize for that, right?

                                                                                    3. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                      Oh, and please clarify why you think that the owners of "ethnic markets" aren't citizens?

                                                                                      This should be interesting.

                                                                                      1. re: linguafood

                                                                                        It saddens me that those who preach tolerance are, themselves, intolerant of those who disagree with them.

                                                                                        1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                          Disagreeing with you is not intolerant. I happen to disagree but I support your right to say it.

                                                                                          1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                            Right-wing hooey sure is unappetizing.

                                                                                        2. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                          I think the many immigrants who serve in our Armed Forces, their families and I would disagree with you.

                                                                                          1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                            How do you know who is a citizen and who isn't?

                                                                                            1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                              Better yet, how does mucho gordo know that the owners of his ethnic market aren't citizens ...

                                                                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                Probably because they have this ever-elusive "enlightened" and "elitist" attitude about them by not agreeing with his opinion.

                                                                                                He's yet to give any conclusive answer to his assumptions, but now he feels discriminated by those who disagree with his assumptions, so he'll likely crawl back under that rock he came from :-D

                                                                                                1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                  Nice..... And here I thought you were someone who would give others the benefit of the doubt and not show your own intolerance of those who disagree with your point of view.....

                                                                                                  1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                                                    I love the opinion that being opposed to bigotry is itself bigotry. Orwell himself couldn't have imagined such malicious sophistry.

                                                                                                    1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                                                      I believe I have extended Very Fat One the courtesy of "giving him the benefit of doubt" by *repeatedly* (and, I might add, quite politely and in an adult manner) asking Very Fat how he has come to the conclusion that "owners of ethnic markets/restaurants somehow aren't citizens of this country".

                                                                                                      Instead of getting an answer, I am being compared to Mao. I have consistently given him a chance to explain his assumption.

                                                                                                      I don't understand how that somehow makes me intolerant.... but then English isn't my mother tongue, so perhaps I'm just being misunderstood by both you and him.

                                                                                                      Gosh, now I almost feel discriminated against.

                                                                                              2. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                Nope, when they step off the boat, plane or drive across the border with the intent to become a US citizen this becomes their country, this becomes their home. They may not have all the rights 'the rest' of us do, but we expect them to pay taxes, to attend schools, and become members of the community. It may be an ethnic community, they may never become proficient at speaking, reading, or writing english - my great grandparents never did either. From the moment they stepped onto a boat in some European Port they were no longer Czech's. And from the moment they stepped onto the soil of Ellis Island the United States was their home.

                                                                                          2. It does seem like a joke post, especially the "way they operate is a reflection of their culture and it may conflict with others...felt like I was in another country."

                                                                                            Ummm? Is that supposed to be...bad? Should everything be -ized (Americanized, Canadized, whatever)? If that's not a joke, that viewpoint makes me very sad. It reminds me of people who are actually proud of never having left their province/state, nevermind the country, as if going on a foreign vacation is some kind of diss on your home.

                                                                                            I love shopping in ethnic markets. The deals are often great, and the staff usually really really tries to help, even when they don't speak English and I'm horribly mispronouncing what I'm looking for. Smartphones become very helpful!

                                                                                            1. There are Americans who basically don't trust foreigners and resent their presence. I hang out on conservative political boards where I meet a lot of them. They are made nervous by foreign languages ("I can't tell what they are saying---they may be talking about me."). They want all signage and documents in English. But most of all, what they really want is for the foreigners to be gone. And then it gets worse. Now here is my question, mucho enojado, er, mucho gordo---since you seem uncomfortable in ethnic markets, why are you shopping there? I am in ethnic markets ALL the time and I have NEVER felt what you describing.

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: Querencia

                                                                                                << what they really want is for the foreigners to be gone.>>
                                                                                                that AND they still want to buy the ethnic food items at the bargain prices offered at many ethnic food stores.
                                                                                                hard to have it both ways.

                                                                                              2. Living in California my whole life. It's never crossed my mind. I like going into small hispanic or chinese markets. They always say thank you when you leave. Gringo. I haven't heard that word used in a long time.

                                                                                                1. I do a lot of my shopping in ethnic markets.

                                                                                                  99Ranch - large California/Taiwanese chain; the staff talk among themselves in Chinese (I think), but have enough English to handle my basic needs. I usually don't ask for advise. Has modest sections with SE Asian goods, and even a small Hispanic area.

                                                                                                  HMart - NewJersey based Korean chain. While cashiers are Korean, most of the stockers appear appear to Mexican.

                                                                                                  Boohon - local Korean, though half of the meat counter people appear to be Mexican

                                                                                                  Star produce - own is, I'm guessing Vietnamese, but the customers are a diverse lot. One aisle of Mexican, another area of Middle Eastern, another E. Europe. African customers as well.

                                                                                                  JDs Produce - S Asian ownership, but again with Hispanic, E Asian, Middle Eastern, Ethiopian products.

                                                                                                  Trader Joes - Calif. based, but with modest selection of import items - dried kimchi from Korea, frozen green beans from France, wines from all over, olive oil from Spain,

                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                                                    Most of the stockers at my 99 Ranch market are Hispanic also. But I hate to ask the Asian men for advice as they are typically rude to white women. I get it, it's a cultural thing. But the Hispanic guys are nice and helpful to me. Just my experience.

                                                                                                    1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                                                      lol, my experience at h-mart in mass, too. so it's sexism, not racism!

                                                                                                      1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                                                        I flirt with the fish/meat guys at 99 Ranch all the time. Grocery stores are ripe for innuendo.

                                                                                                    2. There are a lot of gringos and Mexicans in the Vietnamese groceries in Little Saigon. I don't think anybody cares.

                                                                                                      I don't think that having signs in another language is discriminatory or rude.

                                                                                                      1. Wait a damn minute...you go into a Hispanic market and don't feel at home? Just tell 'em, "Hey, I'M MUCHO GORDO!"

                                                                                                        Seriously, tho...I don't think it's discrimination. Not good market sense on their part, perhaps, but as others have pointed out, they're catering to a particular market segment, and may have their reasons for not having signs posted in English.

                                                                                                        (I'm reminded, too, of the sign I saw on 'engrish.com' that said, "English well speeching here.")

                                                                                                        1. Put yourself in their shoes. Move to a different country with a different language. Try to make a living there. You're out of your comfort zone already.

                                                                                                          Look at the rows upon rows of things in your shop and think about making signs in a language you're not fluent with for each and every one. I'd be daunted. I probably wouldn't know where to start. Do you want to translate a whole supermarket from English into Indian/Arabic/French?

                                                                                                          Also think about how many new immigrants are treated by the locals. It's not always nice, sad fact. Resentment can build up. I'm Asian, and I was born in Australia. I've seen it. I am treated differently sometimes, by a minority, thankfully - then when I speak and they hear I have an Aussie accent, sometimes their attitude changes, they relax. I can't blame new immigrants for feeling on guard because they never know how they are going to be treated.

                                                                                                          They also might sound gruff because it's taking them out of their comfort zone trying to speak english. They have to think harder.

                                                                                                          It can also be cultural. I used to live next door to an Asian family. The woman used to sound SO ANGRY all the time! As I didn't know their language, I never knew what she was saying. But one day, she was speaking to someone else in her angry voice, and then burst into laughter - and I realized she wasn't angry at all, it was just how she spoke. She probably never even realized that this was how she sounded!

                                                                                                          I do find some people in our local Asian supermarkets very abrupt, but it's nothing personal, it's just how they communicate. On sight, I look just like one of them - so it's not always necessarily because you're a gringo.

                                                                                                          I'm sure they want your business... everyone is just trying to make their way in life... and in a foreign place, there is just that added complexity of the language barrier (and racism to go with it) to contend with.

                                                                                                          I'm third generation Australian, my family came here in the 1800's. I still get told to "Go home", ironically by people whose families quite possibly haven't been in this country for as long as mine has, but feel they have the right to simply because of their skin colour and their assumptions about "others".

                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                          1. re: ursy_ten

                                                                                                            Ooh, I just had an insight! Your experience walking into an ethnic market - where you don't know if you're welcome or not and you intensely feel your "otherness" - that's their experience for the rest of the world outside their ethnic market - your world, where you feel at home.

                                                                                                            I'm not saying these things to have a go at you, I just think if you can empathize with these people, and realize that deep down we're all the same, it makes it easier to communicate with them. You might be uncomfortable, but they might be too - and it all boils down to very similar reasons.

                                                                                                          2. I shop in a variety of ethnic markets. Some have limited signage in English, some don't. If the vast majority of the customers don't speak or read English I can't see any reason for them to expend the time and resources to have bi-lingual signs for the inventory. It's not about excluding people - it's about running the business in a way that works for the owners and their primary clientele.

                                                                                                            In the smaller markets where the workers English is not fluent sometimes there is a little hesitation about dealing with me (gringo). In every case I find that effort to communicate on my part with me staying friendly, calm and smiling ends up removing the hesitation. It usually is a mixture of them being nervous about my expectations and them not being comfortable with English. Once they realize that I'm not expecting fluency or being demanding things relax. And often the person who was worried about their English does just fine.

                                                                                                            My great grandparents on all sides came to this country in their 30's-40's and were never able to learn much English. Their ethnic markets served as a place where they felt comfortable, served as community centers and provided a taste of a home they would never be able to return to. I suspect ethnic markets these days serve the same purpose for many.

                                                                                                            Personally, I rather enjoy the experience of visiting a market which caters to an ethnicity different than mine. It's a quick bit of travel without a passport and a chance to explore some interesting foods. If no one is available to answer questions I take photo's of labels and research at home or throw caution to the wind and just purchase the mystery item!

                                                                                                            1. "I won't shop at an ethnic market. I think they discriminate"

                                                                                                              Well at least you don't have that problem.

                                                                                                              1. Not it they want their business to grow!

                                                                                                                Now, as someone of obvious European ancestry I've occasionally gotten some odd questions from other shoppers, like the one in the Indian grocery that wanted to know what I was planning on doing with the okra I was buying (he didn't know it was a traditional Southern US dish), but on the whole they treat their customers about the same as the "regular" chains. Maybe it's because the Bay Area has a lot of ethnically mixed neighborhoods, especially on the Peninsula: the little Mexican grocery where I buy my peppers and masa ("You're going to make your own tortillas? Cool!") is on the rather nebulous border between a predominantly recent-Mexican immigrant neighborhood and a much more affluent mostly White one, and a wide variety of people patronize it. At 99 Ranch, which caters to a mostly Chinese population, the other patrons seem to love to give me cooking advice, especially for fish.

                                                                                                                10 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: tardigrade

                                                                                                                  now i live slightly north of boston in a VERY diverse community, and frequent a few s/e asian markets. the owners know me and let me cut ahead peeps who are hemming/hawing/gossiping/buying lottery tix, etc. my money is just as green.

                                                                                                                  that being said, i have never whined that they don't carry butter, ya know? :D

                                                                                                                  1. re: tardigrade

                                                                                                                    Good point about getting cooking advice. Last time I was at my fav local Korean megamart, I had 3 separate women offer me cooking advice for produce and fish I was eyeballing or had put into my cart. I love that. Like someone said up thread, a cheap way to see the world.

                                                                                                                    1. re: tcamp

                                                                                                                      I get this a lot as one of the few white people in my local 99Ranch/ HKMart/ SuperKing markets - people will see me picking up something that is more "western" like Brussels Sprouts and ask me what I do with it, how do you cook it, what does it taste like. Can you eat it raw? I've met such nice people for just a few minutes at a time. I love these markets.

                                                                                                                      I keep hoping to catch someone picking out fresh ginger and ask them how to tell a good piece from a bad piece - I just don't know what to look for. Should it look a little wet, or should it look dry?

                                                                                                                      1. re: khh1138

                                                                                                                        My favorite is Han ah Reum(HMart)-Korean
                                                                                                                        second best is Mitsuwa-Japanese

                                                                                                                        Beside visiting my son and d-i-l in New Jersey I must visit these 2 stores.
                                                                                                                        Both very different experiences with ppl- both retailers and customers

                                                                                                                        1. re: khh1138

                                                                                                                          I've gotten that kind of question with fennel bulb. But I've also been asked about familiar items (to Asians) like cows foot and pigs tongue.

                                                                                                                      2. re: tardigrade

                                                                                                                        Yep. I get this in the fruit and vegetable markets. I am of Greek heritage and I like my dark leafy greens, daily. I am often approached by "ethnic" people and "non-ethnic" people alike looking at me and my basket and asking "what do you do with that?" or "how do you cook that?"
                                                                                                                        I live in the suburbs of New York City. This ain't the south. Dark leafy greens up here, heck, greens of any kind are "strange", weird, and are now, happily, increasingly easier to find. Collards, Kale, Mustard, Escarole, Broccoli Rabe, Swiss Chard, Dandilion, etc. and the one that kills me every single time I see someone killing the world with ignorance as they see beautiful fresh beets in the market with the bright beautiful greens atop, just vibrant and healthy and alive - they grab and twist off the greens, toss them in the trash bin in the aisle and bag the beet roots and run. Ethnic?

                                                                                                                        1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                                          I guess that might be "Americanization", Gastronomos. I think there was a large Italian population in NYC before a sizeable Greek one, but southern Italians (it was part of Magna Grecia after all) were and remain very attached to highly nutritious bitter greens.

                                                                                                                            1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                                              Yes, I've picked those bitter weeds in Italy, pretty much the same mix my Greek friends call "horta" (including amaranth, often sold as "horta"). Fortunately they are trendy now, and one can buy pricy salad mixes of "super greens". They include tiny beet leaves, and kale so small it can be eaten raw.

                                                                                                                              1. re: lagatta

                                                                                                                                Funny, I was picking out the frisée from those salads years ago and then it became trendy and readily available in markets. I then started picking out the tiny beet greens... Now that's trendy too. My friends and family have labeled me a trendsetter that doesn't trend. LOL

                                                                                                                      3. I think you need to get over yourself. You act as if they're doing it specifically on purpose to keep you personally from shopping there. Like they're personally attacking you by not providing signs in english. Newsflash, they're not. If you don't enjoy the experience of shopping there, then don't shop there. Done and done.

                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                                                          but, how's this? mebbe they really don't care if op shops there or not? their bottom line is solid and desired customer base is great.

                                                                                                                          op is icing on the cake, coming in to spend a few bucks on chilis. he is not making or breaking the store. it's his choice to build the relationship as an outlier, not the other way around. not every mom-and-pop wants/needs to be all things to all peeps.

                                                                                                                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                            That was my point, they probably don't care at all if OP shops there, but OP seems to think he's vital to their business. *shrugs*

                                                                                                                        2. <I think they discriminate>


                                                                                                                          I would say the answer depends on your definition of "discrimination". This reminds me of another post where the poster complained about some coupons are only good for dine-in and no take-out -- discriminating against handicap.

                                                                                                                          Yes, many ethnic markets cater to their own and this does create an effect which is biased for some and biased against others, so you can say that it has a discriminating effect. However, I won't say it is discrimination. It really comes down to marketing. They list their products in a way which they target their major patrons, which you are not. The fact is that they will always be "discriminating". If they include English, then why not include Japanese. Would they be now catering only to Spanish speaking and English speaking customers and "discriminating" Japanese reading customers?

                                                                                                                          I have gone to an Italian restaurant (in the US) where the entire menu is in Italian. May be they think it is cool or whatever. It certainly made it less convenience for me, but I won't say it is discrimination by design. Of course, I have also been to a Mexico restaurant where the entire menu is Spanish.

                                                                                                                          <I've gone into a Hispanic market looking for a particular chili that I couldn't find elsewhere and felt like I was in another country.>

                                                                                                                          But I do think it is cool to be like in another country. Afterall, you are really getting the Hispanic products which Hispanic use.

                                                                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                            And guess who started that other thread about the dine-in coupon...

                                                                                                                            "Is it discrimination?"
                                                                                                                            Mar 23, 2013 by mucho gordo


                                                                                                                            1. re: DeppityDawg

                                                                                                                              Oh. My memory has escaped me. I wonder if mucho has a different take/definition of discrimination than us. This would explain a lot.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                                His words (from the other thread): "By definition anything restrictive discriminates against those who don't qualify for whatever reason". He casts the net wide so he can jump into it.

                                                                                                                                1. re: DeppityDawg

                                                                                                                                  Well, when I was a graduate student and was teaching, I went to a couple "sexual harassment" course. I am sure some of the things they told us were meant to scared us. Nevertheless, one of the examples they used is that when a male teacher assistant (TA) chit-chats and talks about football with his male students, it can be viewed as a form of discrimination against the female students who don't follow football.

                                                                                                                                  I never followed football, and certainly if I had followed and chatted with my students about football, it won't be because I want to discriminate the female students.

                                                                                                                                  I view the phrase "discrimination" (or racism) in a very serious manner, and do not like to lightly use it. However, the phrase "discrimination" is very widely used by many people. I don't entirely blame Mucho for this.

                                                                                                                                  For one, I have very often heard people say "This restaurant does not have any vegetarian dish. It discriminates vegetarians" -- and they give negative ratings at Yelp or similar websites.

                                                                                                                              2. re: DeppityDawg

                                                                                                                                By the way, thanks for your observation. I remember the story, but forgot the teller. Anyway, good to know.

                                                                                                                            2. In my experience with ethnic markets they do discriminate. I always get treated so well, I stand there and stare at ingredients I am unfamiliar with intently, and the workers notice and give me a sample of everything new to me. I feel sorry for the people that are of the same ethnicity as them, they don't get all the free samples and smiles I get.

                                                                                                                              Also, I am so shockingly different in appearance to everyone else at the ethnic markets, that they always remember me and give me special treatment when I am there, while if my wife goes to the same market without me, they don't remember her at all because she is the same ethnicity.

                                                                                                                              I love going to different ethnic markets, spending a weekend going to Korea town and China town and Japan town is great, its like I can travel to 3 or 4 different countries in one weekend without paying for airfare or taking 20 hours to get there.

                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                              1. re: TeRReT

                                                                                                                                TeRReT has a nice, positive attitude, and likely enjoys life greatly. We can learn a lot from this.

                                                                                                                              2. I am probably more un-PC than you and have never had a problem (I am a guy) in any ethnic market except for language barrier sometimes. Last time I was in my local Asian mega-mart the Chinese fellow stocking the shelves went into the bag and found a 5lb bag of Thai red rice I was looking for. His English was not super but we were able to communicate. It helped that I brought the empty plastic bag from the red rice I bought a few months ago

                                                                                                                                1. Like TeRReT, I think that is part of their charm. Like going to another country with having to get on an airplane. If all the "gringos" started going there, it just wouldn't be the same!!

                                                                                                                                  1. As others have mentioned, some of what you're calling discrimination could simply be cultural differences and/or language barrier.

                                                                                                                                    Service in the US (restaurant service, retail service, etc.) is generally much more interactive and personal--eg, servers introducing themselves by name, sales people chatting you up--than in Asia, for example. It can be overly so, IMHO, as in cases where sales people literally follow you around a store asking every few minutes if you need help finding something. That simply isn't the kind of service you would typically get in Asia, at least not in the Asian countries where I've lived. It has nothing to do with not wanting someone's business.

                                                                                                                                    I've also occasionally experienced difficulty getting help in some ethnic stores/markets when I was the same race as the people working there, but couldn't communicate very well simply because I spoke a different dialect. Regardless, I've rarely found the people at ethnic stores/markets to be unwilling to at least try to understand my pointing/gesturing and other attempts at explaining what I'm looking for.

                                                                                                                                    As for feeling like you're in another country, isn't that part of the point of going to an ethnic store/market?

                                                                                                                                    And to hotoynoodle's point about being pushed aside by other customers, there are definitely some countries where queueing is simply not practiced the way it is here. I've been elbowed out of the way by little old ladies half my height and well into their 70's, even when I'm the same race and gender. Perhaps it was *age* discrimination??!! ;-)

                                                                                                                                    1. Does anyone else see the irony that someone using the moniker "Mucho Gordo" is complaining about a hispanic market not using english is discriminating against him? Huh?

                                                                                                                                      If you think they are discriminating against you in their market, what do you think happens to them when they walk out of their market and walk into the local megamart? The gringo shoppers probably think they're the help. I wouldn't blame them for discriminating against the gringos.

                                                                                                                                      1. I shop in a lot of ethnic markets. A smile and an earnest desire to learn about or buy products from them is really all it takes. People go to different countries all the time and don't speak much of the language at all, and you can get by with gestures and pictures and a friendly desire to communicate. That's really all it takes at ethnic markets too.

                                                                                                                                        Stop perceiving "them" as "the enemy" and instead as a gateway to a new and different food. You just might cross some bridges instead of putting up more walls.

                                                                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                                                          He already loves the food, he just doesn't appreciate the culture that goes along with it. And he is not concerned with what happens in other countries, it just shouldn't be happening _here_.

                                                                                                                                          While I find this attitude repellent, the other extreme is also distasteful: believing that you should bend over backwards to immerse yourself in the exotic cultural experience and somehow earn the right to be there. You don't have to force yourself to smile, you don't have to be ostentatiously inquisitive (yet culturally sensitive), and there is no minimum purchase requirement. I mean, it helps to smile and be friendly in most any commercial context, ethnic or not. And any store owner, ethnic or not, would prefer for you to buy lots of stuff and not just look around or use them as a change machine.

                                                                                                                                          Some ethnic merchants will appreciate and encourage your presence and interest. Some have better things to do with their time. Some are racist jerks. Some customers are, too.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: DeppityDawg

                                                                                                                                            True. There *should* not be a minimum purchase. But in most places described as *ethnic*, no proper person runs into any store and grabs a pack of gum and walks out. It's not proper. But in America we do whatever the * we want. So the OP is correct, he found what he needed and couldn't get out fast enough. No wonder he felt like a 'gringo'...

                                                                                                                                            1. re: DeppityDawg

                                                                                                                                              I don't think attempting to bridge a cultural gap is bending over backwards or "earning a right" to be somewhere. YMMV.

                                                                                                                                            2. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                                                              I agree with this-
                                                                                                                                              also learning one or 2 words in markets language helps

                                                                                                                                            3. I shop in a Korean market probably once a month. It's not a busy place. I am always the only non-Korean in there. I don't know if I feel like they discriminate, but I know for sure they often pretend not to understand me, and then I hear them speaking perfect English a few minutes later. Is it a game? I don't know. But I like their produce, and I am willing to shop there, despite the 'games'.

                                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                                              1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                                                                                                                In my experience, staff at ethnic markets are very helpful; if you know there's going to be a language barrier, find out what the product is called in their language OR take a picture with you.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                                                                                                                  I had a problem with the 'games' when I was younger. I have learned to play back harder. I always win. I am the customer.

                                                                                                                                                2. We have exchanged any number of ideas back and forth, but I find the idea of someone who's screen identity is in Spanish but say he is intimidated by signs in a foreign language to be somewhat incongruous.

                                                                                                                                                  Yes an ethnic market IS like being in a foreign country, which is why they had the product that you wanted. Take a deep breath and enjoy the experience of traveling to the far corners of the globe just a few blocks or a few miles from your doorstep.

                                                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                                                    I was thinking the same thing!

                                                                                                                                                    And shopping at an ethnic market is a much cheaper way to explore something of a foreign country than having to buy a plane ticket.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                                                      Well said... if all the ethnic markets were just like the A&P, that would be sad.

                                                                                                                                                    2. Maybe you need to be a little more comfortable in your own skin. It's only discrimination if they refuse to serve you.

                                                                                                                                                      1. I was born in (and live on the border of) a city that is 90% Dominican now. I'm not Dominican.

                                                                                                                                                        I kind of like the feeling of being in another country. I like hearing a different language spoken, and seeing fruits and cheeses that I don't know how to use (yet). JMHO.

                                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                        1. re: pinehurst

                                                                                                                                                          I feel the same way when I visit family in LA. We hit the growing Armenian neighborhoods for the cuisine and especially the markets.

                                                                                                                                                        2. You're right, ethnic markets often do cater to their own, but that is hardly surprising since it is most likely consumers with a shared cultural background who are driving the demand for Korean, African or Mexican goods. It's only recently that the average English-speaker encountered and grew to crave avocados, kimchi or...well, I suppose African hasn't made it big in Peoria yet. I'm agnostic as to the merits of a Quebecois policy with respect to language or, on the other extreme, an accomodationist-multiculturalist approach to language, but in the absence of any guidelines on how to approach the issue, I don't think shop owners who don't translate their signage into English are *actively* discriminating against English-speakers. They are simply catering to their market.

                                                                                                                                                          I am a first-generation American, and my family emphasized the importance of English, but many common food words remained distinctly untranslated, in large part because Americans didn't really consume these foods and I don't think we realized there was an English name for them. But just as importantly, there is an intimate relationship one has with language that goes beyond expression. There is something ephemeral and yet so evocative about Huitlacoche versus corn smut. There's a reason why sauerkraut endures and liberty cabbage has receded: words and names have a meaning beyond meaning in the way they can traverse place and memory. It may not be an accident that private entrepreneurs reach for words of significance to their customers.

                                                                                                                                                          In fairness, I am multi-ethnic with all the racial ambiguity that comes with surfing the gene pool, so I get mistaken for all sorts of things and perhaps I am getting friendly service for that reason. But I will admit that I sympathize with you to feeling out place in the carniceria after work in my suit and tie, speaking English or gringo Spanish to navigate the produce. Not because the shopkeeps are judging me or hostile, but because I feel like an interloper or worse, a gentrifier. But they continue with smiles and chipper Spanish to offer me tlacoyos from behind the counter or extra chicharron on the house and I know then that any unwelcome is entirely in my head.

                                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                          1. re: JungMann

                                                                                                                                                            beautifully, perfectly, written, JungMann

                                                                                                                                                          2. We recently discovered a Mexican grocery store here. The marinated fajita meat all ready for the grill is delicious. The onions and peppers are fresh instead of the tired produce at our local grocery chain. I wouldn't call the staff friendly or unfriendly just standoffish. Considering the fact that there are millions upon millions of people here in this country illegally I put it down to a distrust for us "gringos". Which is why they prefer sticking to their own.

                                                                                                                                                            1. I recently shopped at Ranch 99 a huge Chinese market/mini-mall in San Diego. All the signs were in Chinese and most were also in English. There were many items I was not familiar with so I'd kind of hang around that area until someone came along looking at the same product--then I'd ask them about it. Got lots of help on how to cook things though on one occasion I asked about something and the woman said pleasantly "That's a Chinese thing, I'm Thai so I don't know." Same for the large Mexican market in my area. Saw something I was unfamiliar with and asked a man who was buying some--turned out to be fresh Garbanzo beans still in their pods. He peeled one for me and put the beans into my hand to taste and then explained how to cook them in stews. I love going to markets that offer other kinds of food--it's like taking a little vacation.

                                                                                                                                                              7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: escondido123

                                                                                                                                                                One actually can learn a lot of things in ethnic stores. Often knowledge cannot be readily found in books or even from the so-called experts.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: escondido123

                                                                                                                                                                  in my experience, once you start cooking with those fresh garbanzo beans instead of the dried ones, it's practically impossible to go back

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                                                                    The fresh ones are nice, but they aren't always available, and shelling them takes time. Cost is also higher.

                                                                                                                                                                    I had seen them several times at an Indian owned multi-ethnic market, but was inspired to buy them myself when a Hispanic girl next to me start to pick out some for her mother.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                      the first time i bought them, i didn't even know exactly what they were. i knew they were some kind of bean, but because they were still in the pod i didn't know WHAT kind of bean.

                                                                                                                                                                      curried FRESH chick peas is, to my palate a very different, far superior, dish than the same curry made with dried garbanzos.

                                                                                                                                                                      i do agree, however, that it is sort of a PITA to get ahold of them and to prepare them.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                                                                        Given the work involved in preparing them, I've only used them in salad and appetizer preparations, lightly seasoned. For Easter I made an app with fresh chickpeas, fresh fava beans (also a lot of work to prepare), and lupini beans (jar, from the same Indian market).

                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                        I love using fresh garbanzos too but the time to shell, my god. I would totally fall for a unitasking kitchen device that promised me it could quickly and easily shell those babies.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: tcamp

                                                                                                                                                                          The only saving grace I've found with shelling chickpeas is that it's possible to shell them one day, put them in the fridge, and use them another day.

                                                                                                                                                                          I love the way they taste, but it definitely is a motivational moment to use them.

                                                                                                                                                                  2. I live in an extraordinarily diverse neighborhood in NW Queens, NY, I can walk, withing several blocks to a Thai grocery, an Ecuadoran bakery, a Peruvian chicken joint, a FIlipino grocrery, a Chinese fish store and market, an Indian Supermarket, an Irish butcher and market, and then some. SO, before you all beat up the OP, let me tell you this. I shop in all of these places, as well as my local supermarket. I happily purchase their products for my home cooking. But, absolutely, for sure, some places make me feel very uncomfortable. AGAIN. I shop in all of them, frequently, but there are some that seem to make an effort to make me feel like as a white woman, I don't belong. Truth.

                                                                                                                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Justpaula

                                                                                                                                                                      the point is, the OP wants them to make him feel comfortable because it's "our country" (i.e., presumably, not theirs). do you honestly not think most of the people that own/run/shop at those ethnic markets get the same treatment in other non-ethnic venues, all the time?

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                                                                                        No. I actually just think it is a cultural thing and do not take personal offense to it. But, it is darn noticeable. I do not know what the ethnic folks experience while shopping in "non-ethnic" venues. In my neck of the woods, I can't imagine one ethnicity being given better treatment over another - FWIW, I often feel as I am the minority here. I think most "non-ethnic" shops, like the local supermarket are just so in tune with the fact that their entire consumer base is made up of a world of people. BUt, that is just my own experience in my very diverse nabe.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                                                                                          Not sure where you read that in the OP. I just don't see it. He seems to be stating that those markets make him uncomfortable, and asks the question if we think they discriminate. "The way they operate is a reflection of their culture and it may conflict with others." Seems to me most of the responses on this thread are a reflection of PC attitudes...... As in, gee if you don't like ethnic markets, don't shop there but you're being racist for implying there might be discrimination happening there...... Just how I'm reading it....

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                                                                                                                            Yes, we all seem to read things quite differently. Perhaps chalk it up to the subjectiveness of experiences, or how we convey them.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                                                                                                                              < Seems to me most of the responses on this thread are a reflection of PC attitudes>

                                                                                                                                                                              I agree that many of the responders did not agree with the original posters, but I won't label this as "PC attitudes".

                                                                                                                                                                              In fact, I see it the opposite. The PC thing to do is to make sure every restaurants every grocery stores being most accessible as possible with as many languages as possible, like English, and Spanish, and Chinese....etc.

                                                                                                                                                                              The un-PC thing to do, or the libertarian view is that the store owners can display whatever the hell they want too. All Spanish? Or All English? So be it. His store. This is the un-PC view.

                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: Justpaula

                                                                                                                                                                            I have felt uncomfortable in shops run by people of my ethnicity, not everyone in this world gets along. Sometimes people are having a bad day, sometimes people just don't like their job, there are many reasons why you might get treated poorly in any business run by any ethnicity. To completely over generalize and say all ethnic markets discriminate is discriminating 100% of ethnic markets when a far smaller % might actually discriminate. (which is what the OP seems to be trying to do)

                                                                                                                                                                            Sometimes its how you approach a place, or how you treat someone that dictates how they treat you, doesn't make it discrimination.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Justpaula

                                                                                                                                                                              I also live in NW Queens and while I have never been made to feel uncomfortable as a white customer ( I have in other places in my life, for what it's worth) when this question of discrimination comes up I always think of how shocked I was in the 1990's to discover that the various "Yugoslav" markets/bars/eateries in Queens were actually Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian/Herzogovnian/Macedonian and how not "cool" they were with each other. Up until the war I had known very little about former Yugoslavia - me and most people who didn't have family roots there. My point being that there are all kinds of discrimination in "ethnic" markets that have nothing to do with the U.S citizenry.
                                                                                                                                                                              Also that nobody can reasonably be expected to be familiar with the totality of world cultures - just learn what they can when they get the opportunity.

                                                                                                                                                                            2. I'm not sure it's discrimination as much as a combination of efficiency (it appears to them the overwhelming majority of their customers are of their ethnicity) and possibly also a discomfort dealing with people who might not speak their language.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. I am going to ask a bit of a different, follow-up question.

                                                                                                                                                                                Let's assume that ethnic markets *do* discriminate.

                                                                                                                                                                                Whether that is right or wrong, should it really be unexpected?

                                                                                                                                                                                Most of us here are enlightened enough to be accepting and open-minded of all cultures and cuisines, but the majority of people (sadly) are not. And because of their ignorance and myopic view of the world, many people tend to treat immigrants differently -- sometimes ostracizing them, sometimes ridiculing them, or sometimes simply ignoring them. And, yes, sadly sometimes even outright discriminating against them.

                                                                                                                                                                                Given this disparate treatment, is it any wonder that an immigrant operated business would be hesitant to be open, and immediately welcoming to a "foreigner" in their store?

                                                                                                                                                                                (I'm not condoning mucho gordo's attitude, nor am I condoning any store-owner, ethnic or otherwise, that discriminates, but simply asking a a non-normative question in terms of what happens in the real-world, as opposed to some long thread on Chowhound.)

                                                                                                                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                                                                  Sorry, Ipse, but 'enlightened' and 'accepting' sounds elitest to me. Are we to accept that in other cultures people do things that our culture finds repugnant?

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                                                                    Why not? Cultures other than your own "accept" your "repugnant" ways all the time.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                                                                      I'm sure if someone found things our culture does repugnant, such as imperialist intervention in third-world countries' political affairs, you'd be totally OK with that point of view, right?

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                                                                        Could you explain what you find "repugnant" in the operation of the ethnic markets you have visited? Do you really find signs written in Spanish or Arabic, etc. to be "repugnant"?

                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                                                                        I've found most owners to be quite happy to talk about and explain their products (if they're not busy with other customers) I've received great tips on what to do with various things of which I only had a vague clue. but then I try to only go when I have time to kill and it's during an off-hour for them.

                                                                                                                                                                                      3. When we needed groceries while vacationing in Tortola, we always sent the housekeeper to buy them because the "belongers" got a better deal. Of course, we had to give her a little something extra for her efforts, but we still came out way ahead. Was this discrimination? Probably, but that's just the way it was.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. I think the .discussion should be closed b4 it gets nastier

                                                                                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: jpr54_1

                                                                                                                                                                                            Better switch on your time machine...

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: jpr54_1

                                                                                                                                                                                              Probably, but there was actually a lot of interesting stuff about actual interactions between different people and peoples (Which interests me professionally/academically as well).

                                                                                                                                                                                              Just now I witnessed an encounter between a man (of one ethnocultural group) and a woman (of another). Both were of early senior age (a few years older than myself), neither were "pure wool" French or English. They were gleaning produce at one of the poshest greengrocers at the Jean-Talon Market (the stuff this fellow throws away is better than the produce in many supermarkets) and the man was gathering several cauliflowers. The woman wanted just one of them - he said no. I confess I intervened and said (in French) "come on, give her one cauliflower" and he relented.

                                                                                                                                                                                              I see many complex intercultural interactions every day, where I live. It is a fascinating aspect of human culture. And yet, of course, undressed we are all just people.

                                                                                                                                                                                            2. I don't think you understand what "discriminate" means.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                                                                                                I don't think he understand what a lot of things mean.

                                                                                                                                                                                                If it was just discrimination this would be so much simpler.

                                                                                                                                                                                              2. I still can't get past why feeling like you were in "another country" or being the only "Gringo" somewhere is a bad thing or frankly, anything uncommon, unless you really haven't traveled around the US very much.

                                                                                                                                                                                                I live in a really diverse neighborhood . There are Brazilian festivals and Indian spice shops and an Irish pub where mine is the only American accent on any given day. This is one of the area's assets, not a flaw.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I love where I live as well, for the same reason. And no, it doesn't mean I idealise it. Though our criminal gangs are remarkably spread across a range of cultural and ethnic origins.

                                                                                                                                                                                                2. Folks, we're pretty sure this thread has run its course. We're locking it.