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Supermarket Sweep

April 12, 2012

9 days in the UK and 2 kilos heavier, I am now safely back in the bosom of my much-loved Berlin home and family.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my homeland and my allbeit mad-as-a-bag-of-cats family. I even get quite nostalgic when it rains or when I see a person walking around in shorts in the balmy 12 degree sunshine (clearly British: Who else dresses for Summer, purely based on the level of sunlight?) However, Berlin / Germany appears to have gotten under my skin.

I do feel maybe a little pang of treachery when I find myself waxing lyrical about the wonders of the Berlin transport system or the German way of life when I’m amongst friends and family in the UK (and I’m sure they’re groaning inwardly whenever I start a sentence with “In Germany..”) but actually, my ideal situation would be to take the best of both countries/cultures and make the British/German equivalent of the Turkish/German Neukölln district of Berlin….

Imagine: We’d have fish and chip shops and Greggs instead of Imbiss/Dönerbuden; There’d be Primark and Asda Living and best of all, TESCO (especially for my friend, Fiona Gray).

I was going to say “I can’t imagine what damage this would do to my wallet” but actually, having walked, wide-eyed around Tesco during my trip, imagining all of the things I could buy there and eventually eat, I felt a sense of despair (and became somewhat nauseous). Despair that for my money, I could get SO MUCH MORE CRAP than in Germany. Cookies, 2 packs for a pound, an aisle full of loaves of soft fluffy white bread with no nutritional value whatsoever, an aisle of cheddar cheese (I think this is the only negative thing Hendrik’s said about the UK with which I will agree- do we even know about the existence of brie? Camembert? Gorgonzola?) and convenience food galore. Oh, and Ben and Jerry’s for, like £3 ??!!  So whilst my wallet might not suffer, my waistline would (and did when I lived in the UK).

It makes me sad that it costs less to buy a jar of ready-made pasta sauce than it does to make a nice sauce from fresh ingredients from scratch and though I like the idea of the much greater range of foods available in the UK supermarket chains, the amount of processed and convenience foods is phenomenal. That plus the discounts offered seem to be a recipe for supermarket-chain-led obesity.

And it shows: In Germany, I sometimes feel like a whale compared to the seeming majority of lithe ladies, whereas in the UK, I feel pretty comfortable with my size (UK 18/EUR 46).

OK, so I’m not saying that supermarkets are the root of all evil and that they take away shoppers’ freedom of choice but when you’re faced with a bunch of bananas for £1.30 or 2 packs of 5 custard filled donuts for £1, it’s hard to go for the healthy option, especially when you have to look at every penny you spend. Freedom of choice is a bit redundant there, don’t you think?

Just saying…..

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 12, 2012 23:36

    Didn’t Primark open in Berlin last month?

  2. April 13, 2012 08:01

    But food aside, there is much to love about the UK supermarket, imagine you just moved to the UK. In my situation we arrived in Germany with three (not the biggest) suitcases and hand luggage, 2 kids and a shock at the 40 degree heat. Now I know we were lucky because we just had to wait until we found a place to live and could move into it and our belongings would arrive very shortly afterwards, but I had no clothes *really* suitable for that roasting German summer, the kids were struggling with having only a couple of small toys to play with and no English language tv beyond BBC World News. And once we moved into our permanent apartment I needed a mop, a bucket, etc, etc. Now if I had moved to the UK, let’s say into my old house in Derby, a walk round the corner would have solved all that very quickly: Tesco my friend: home of cheaper toys, land of buckets & mops, planet of choice for greeting cards, magazines, barbecues, spatulas, picture frames, occasional furniture, last minute gifts, party supplies, and medication, supplier of occasionally horrendous, but generally cheap clothing for all the family – sandals for the kids, hello, I don’t mind paying a fiver, but £50+ round my way in Berlin kind of makes you choke. And so, bring me a Tesco, I don’t even care if there are no 2 for 1’s or 3 for 2’s, or peeled boiled eggs, or kilo vats of baked beans more fridge-friendly, just hold on to some of the convenience food, because sometimes we’re all tired and want to just open the oven door and stick in a giant lasagne and be done with it, and watch the people flock. Hell, I don’t even care if the Germans don’t flock, cause I prefer doing my shopping when it’s not busy. Why, I’ll even go one further, dare I say it, dare I? Let’s be anarchic: let’s have it OPEN ON SUNDAY’S!!!!!!! Yee-ha! ;-D

    • Mama-L permalink
      April 13, 2012 21:34

      If we were on facebook, I’d be liking this comment!

      Yes, I totally agree. I find it SO HARD here with the lack of a good old mega, sell-everything store. Kaufland is the closest thing to this and it’s pretty ok.

      However, I also think that the problem for many people like us is that we’ve gotten used to the luxury of getting everything in one place and we just don’t know where we can get what in this strange land. (I realised recently when doing some decorating how much I really miss retail parks and in particular, B&Q/Homebase)!

      • July 16, 2012 19:35

        REAL here has just about everything. The only problem is they’re usually slightly outside of town. I was there this evening but don’t usually bother due to the tram ride – REWE round the corner is sooo much easier (but doesn’t sell plastic bowls or lemon juicers, which is why I braved REAL today).

        Primark is coming to Karlsruhe in October. I CAN’T WAIT!

  3. April 13, 2012 08:14

    wrong, I love popping in to Primark (but hey, that’s coming our way in a couple of months and with good prices) and I of course make more then a few purchases when in the UK but it is such a consumerist society and me, being an ultimate consumer myself, there is a big part of me that is grateful for the limitations.

    I completely agree with your point about fresh foods. Absolutely. Were I in the UK, I would (and Milo in turn too) undoubtedly eat alot unhealthier!

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