Comfort zones

There is something to be said about the comforts of home. Your own bed; your favourite chair; knowing where all the gadgets are in the kitchen; understanding the intricacies of just how to turn the knobs in the shower so that you have the right temperature and the right pressure. Yes, there is something to be said about the comforts of home.

When you’re surrounded by the comforts of home, you truly are in your comfort zone.

Of course, after you’ve sold your bed, put your favourite chair in storage, and moved into a new flat (in a new country) where you haven’t figured out the kitchen layout or the workings of the shower – let alone how to walk down the road – you don’t always feel as if you’re in your comfort zone.

One of the common things with being an expat is finding yourself outside your comfort zone. Maybe not in that “makes your skin crawl” kind of way, but (for me at least) in that “I don’t fully understand the way this works and everyone must think I’m an alien” kind of way.

Grocery stores are one of those situations for me. They are just different here. The produce is displayed differently. All of the foods I like aren’t available, and many have different packaging so I don’t always realise that they are there. The eggs are not in a cooler – they just sit there on a room-temperature shelf. The aisles are chaos. You have to pack your own groceries. And, in some places, you have to put a £1 coin in a slot just to get a shopping cart. Er, I mean a trolley. (But you get the coin back when/if you return the trolley to its home.)

So there you go. When I’m grocery shopping in the UK I am outside my comfort zone. I’m getting better at it – and I’m a lot more comfortable now than I was 10 years ago – but I am always aware that I’m not in the homeland.

Ah! But there is a grocery store where I feel at home. It’s called Lupe Pintos and they have a shop in Edinburgh and Glasgow. I first found it 10 years ago and I fell in love. You see, they are a North American import store. If you want American or Mexican groceries, this is where you go.

And when I go, I recognise the brands and the packaging. They have Lipton Onion soup mix. They have Hidden Valley Ranch dressing. They have Stove Top and Libby’s and Bisquick and A&W and Old El Paso and hominy and yams and all sorts of other goodies that I love, love, love. In fact, they have more stuff there now than they did 10 years ago. And apparently, the Glasgow store is much larger than the Edinburgh one.

It’s so nice to be able to walk into a shop and just grab the items you want without having to hem and haw over if it will be “close enough” to the American version. Now, oftentimes it doesn’t matter, but sometimes, you want those home comforts. And isn’t it nice that there’s a place that sells them? A place where I feel like I’m in my comfort zone…

10 Replies to “Comfort zones”

  1. So, you CAN get root beer. Bisquick is nice. How about white and/or yellow cake mix? Raspberry jello? I think I saw chopped green chilies on their website. Do they sell the ranch packets, or just the bottle of dressing? I’d love to see the store when I’m over there! Enjoy your posole when you get around to making it. Hominy, yum!

    1. They seem to have Betty Crocker cake mixes and frostings in the normal shops now, too. And jello (or, rather jelly) is everywhere, too. And they had both bottles and small packs of ranch, which is great!
      I’m pretty excited about the root beer. It’s just A&W and I’m a Barqs girl, but it’ll do! When I was here before they didn’t have any options!

      1. I found a place on line in Coventry that sells Barqs. You might ask the Coventry Cousins to bring some to the next family reunion! 🙂

  2. That made me wonder if “foreigns” here feel the same when you see the “specialty import” shops here, I bet so! Glad you found a comfortable place amongst the Uncomfort zones~
    hey do you know if there is issues sending you certain things from America? Can you FB message me what they are for what you know, wouldn’t want either of us to be in trouble for any “contraban”!

    1. My expat friends in the states love finding import stores! I’m sure that the various populations around the nation love it, too. And shopping in an import store for groceries from your homeland isn’t saying you don’t want to participate in the culture you’re in–it’s just saying that you like certain foods. I mean, I love my American stuff, but I’m still eating the local foods, too. It’s just that when you live so far from home, it’s nice to have home comforts every once in a while.
      I know there are a few rules on what you can’t send, so will send you a note on FB with a couple of links, too.

  3. Grrr I hate hate hate how all the stores here want to make it evilly hard for me to pack my own groceries into my own bags. It’s my number one pet peeve! Bad Frances!

    1. I guess it’s what you’re used to. I hate, hate, hate how all the stores here want me to pack my own groceries! Such a pain! (Sorry for getting your blood pressure up!)

      1. Haha you should encourage all the local Girl Guides and the like to do more grocery packing drives, and then coordinate your shopping schedule with them!
        Although I don’t know how good they are at packing groceries :-/

  4. I ended up loving many of the foods in the UK that I can’t get here (except for a few at an import store about 45 minutes away), but there were a few foods, like Hidden Valley Ranch and Goldfish crackers, that I missed horribly the whole time I lived there. It’s not that I didn’t find substitutes, it’s just the whole comfort thingy you mentioned! I wanted to share a quick story that illustrates how stressful it can be adjusting to foreign grocery shopping: about four months into my move, I found myself crying into my husband’s chest in the middle of a Tesco because I couldn’t find unsweetened cranberry juice! When I asked one of the employees why they didn’t sell it, he looked at my like I was crazy and said no one would ever drink unsweetened cranberry juice! I was especially upset because the fruit drinks were sweetened with artificial sweeteners. Anyway, I DID feel crazy crying over grocery items!

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