Getting excited about the little things

English groceriesIt’s a common expression, ‘you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone’, it also always makes me sing Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell, but that’s another story. In this context it reminds me of all the things that I took for granted when living at home, but now miss a lot as an expat.

I once paid over 5€ for a tin of Heinz baked beans as a treat, much to the distress of my grandmother when I told her what I ate for Christmas dinner. Each of us has the one thing we really miss as an expat, the thing we will always try to cram into our suitcases after a trip home and ask relatives to bring with them when they visit. Whether it’s tea-bags, books, a particular type of sweet, we all crave things when we are away from home.

Every expat will know this feeling, that longing for a taste of home.It’s not that we are unbearably home-sick, but it’s nice to see something familiar once in a while after months of local food, foreign language magazines or incomprehensible TV. That’s when the over-excitement occurs. You hear rumours of fellow expats spotting a copy of ‘Hello’, a packet of hob-nobs or the ever elusive Branston pickle and you set off on the hunt.

Searches on out of date websites, purportedly showing the location of shops stocking foreign groceries, toiletries and the like, end up dead ends. Until finally, the Holy Grail, a genuine expat store, with a gleaming array of foreign ‘exotic’ products. Only they aren’t foreign, not to the expat. To us they are home, a scent of Bisto, a taste of ‘proper’ cheese, Tim-tams or Tetley. Once we’ve had our fix we can go back to appreciating the local cuisine, TV with subtitles, ploughing through foreign newspapers in the quest for language acquisition and all the other things we really do love about our adopted homes.

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Ha yes, a constant quest! There is a Tesco/Homeplus within range of my current location. I danced in the aisles on my first visit!