Friday, March 18, 2011

How We Roll

Culture shock.  It's a funny thing.  Everyone is always asking us how we're dealing with it.  Mostly Brits ask which I find humorous.  Americans for the most part assume that since they speak English here, it's basically the same as living in the US, but Brits seem to think it is majorly different.  I'm not sure if I should be offended by this, or if the Brits should be.

I was expecting some culture shock when we moved to the UK, but it's been fairly minimal.  What I didn't count on was the "culture stress."  You see, culture shock is getting used to the major differences between your culture and the one you are living in (this is not as noticeable when moving from one 1st world country to another especially when they speak the same language).  Culture stress, however, can happen even when you move within the same country.  I experienced some of this when we moved to Charlotte in 2007.  Here are a few examples:

What?!  There isn't a Starbucks on my drive to work?!


Man this tea is sweet!  Why didn't you tell me not to add sugar?!


You call your grocery store what?!

(For those of you that haven't had the pleasure of living in Charlotte and are curious, they call the grocery store by our old house Taj Ma-teeter.  You just have to see it.)

In Edinburgh, my biggest culture stressor is related to the last one.  Grocery shopping.

Grocery shopping without a car.

(American friends please pause for a moment and try to imagine this. )

It is such a pain having to "learn" a new grocery store.  Anyone with me?  We recently got a new HEB in Houston, but I purposefully avoided it (I know heresy, right?) because it was gigantic, and I didn't want to spend the time figuring it out.  And has anyone else noticed that they put stuff in random places there?  I know they do this so that I'll impulse buy - I am so on to them.  Anyway, learning a new grocery store in a new place especially with brand names that you're not used to = stressor.

Long side note:

Our first visit to the local grocery store happened on our first night in the UK.

Bad idea jeans.

I was adamant to go because we had access to a vehicle, we would need food in the morning, and we happened to drive by what looked to be a super market.  Who knew if we could easily find one again in this foreign city!  So armed with our list of basics and foggy sleep-deprived brains, we started shopping.  We fairly easily located baby formula, toilet paper, spring water, but were coming up empty on laundry detergent.

I'm laughing as I think back to this story because laundry detergent?  That was seriously a must have for our first run to the grocery store at 10 o'clock at night going on 36 hours of no sleep?  Like I said, bad idea jeans.

We eventually found a lady who worked at the store and enquired about the missing necessity.  Laundry detergent, not sleep.  Blankly she stared at us, and in a thick Scottish brogue said,

I don't know what that is.


Talk about culture shock.  They don't wash their clothes in Scotland?!

We tried to explain as best we could in our sleep deprived state.  I am about to lose it and start crying when all of a sudden, she lights up.

Do you mean clothes powder?

Umm, sure.

Oh!  We carry that!

And she proceeded to pick out the best one for baby and thoroughly explained to us how to use it.

Thanks and gig 'em grocery store lady.

OK, back to the point of this post.

Americans are known for buying lots of food at once.  This is frowned upon in several indirect ways in the UK.

First, everything comes in ridiculously small quantities.

Exhibit A:

The jar on the right is from a local grocery store, Sainsburys.  The one on the left is from Costco.  Notice how the Costco sized jar is the same size as a normal jar of PB that you would buy at say HEB or Taj Ma-teeter.  For any Brits out there in case you are wondering, in America, Costco sized PB jars are twice this size and are wrapped together with cellophane in a twin pack.  What can I say? Americans love PB.

Second, they don't sack your groceries for you.  You do it yourself.  Though I have to say, I have mastered making them feel sorry for me since I still buy my food like an American and have a small child.  Inevitably, the help me sack.  Thank you kind Scots.

Third, they make you pay for said grocery sacks.  This may have an environmental reason too which is actually related to an aspect of culture shock I've experienced that I'm sure I will write about eventually.  They are obssessed with recycling over here.

Last, most people don't drive to the grocery store, so you have to be able to carry what you buy.

Thanks to my compact car, I mean stroller, I have managed to beat the system.

Exhibit B, C,& D:

Poor Seth

What a trooper!


Elizabeth Ann (Elizabeth Ann's Recipe Box said...

I WAS JUST talking about this with some friends! I could not understand how people in New York go to the grocery store! ;-) Believe me, sometimes my TAHOE is PACKED with groceries from HEB. . . :-)

ruinan zhang said...

Wowowow... I have never been to Costco. I want to go there... Are you free the next weekend or any day the week after.

April said...

Love your blog-especially the name and Psalm 84 reference. I was just thinking of you guys recently-we have your pictures on the fridge. We just had our third-a little girl in January. God has been good to us. We miss you guys, we definitely loved our times together.-April Weber

Taylor and Robin said...

@Elizabeth - I miss the good ol days of having my tahoe for grocery shopping!
@Ruinan - we will go to Costco soon - yay!
@April - sooooo good to hear from you friend! Praise the Lord for Baby girl Weber. She was prayed for LOTS by the Ince family. We miss y'all too - hug the fam for us.

Natalie Moore said...

Seriously guys-- get it delivered!!! Tesco or Sainsburys or any store will deliver it to your front door for a minimal cost (3 pounds??) so worth it!

Cat said...

I read this the on my phone yesterday and had to come back on computer to see the grocery/stroller images better ha ha! loved this post! And, hey, you gotta do what cha gotta do! looks like you've got it all figured out. :)

Abigail said...

Hahahaha - love the double use of the stroller!!

sbaker said...

I have tears in my eyes I am laughing so hard! At first, I thought the picture of the groceries in the stroller were random trash it. You take the term "sherpa" to a whole new level, sister! Love you!

Taylor and Robin said...

Sus! I told you your Sherpa post was apt! Those of you haven't read her post go here:

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