To get to know a culture some people will go to the ballet or the opera, browse through museums and the like, but me… not so much. Maybe it’s too obvious, maybe I’m just not that organized, maybe I’m just not that into it. What I tend to do instead is go out and walk around with no particular agenda and see what happens.
Inevitably, I end up at the grocery store.
On my one and only trip to Finland, I marveled at the huge variety of licorice and lottery tickets you could get in every mini mart along with the three levels of alcohol in beverages – low, med and super leaded. (The bag of potato chips I walked out of a gas station with had “megapussi” emblazoned across the front, which apparently meant big bag… )
When we were on our investigative trip to China, a grocery store was at the top of my list of places to see. If I felt I could fend for myself in a local grocery store, then everything would be ok.
Tampons (check), cat food and litter (check), red wine (check). Ok I could live there.
I found out that deodorant was hard to find, because the Chinese don’t usually have the sweat glands in their arm pits and regard deodorant as sort of a western body perfume. Expats I went shopping with told stories about importing a year’s worth of supplies at a time. (I also made a mental note on something else I learned: in Beijing you can have your pit glands removed for 150 dollars and free yourself from deodorant forever!).
Every time we’re there we head over through the mall to the co-op and browse the shelves for the exotic spices that cost next to nothing; the giant bottles of Tabasco you can’t find in Germany because Germans are such sissies about spice (the arab writing on it earns it the nickname “Terrorist Tabasco” in our household); the massive variety of milk products; the oil aisle with more fat choices than you could shake a stick at.
Obviously, I enjoy it.
We went again this trip, and this time I took a few pictures. Along with the McCain french fried products pictured above, pictures of some other interesting or strange stuff I found can be viewed in the the slide show by clicking here.