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BURNING A HOLE IN MY POCKET
One thing that seems to define most expats that I've met is their craving for things from home that they can no longer get, and the strongest feelings alway seem to be engendered by candy. jes6ica wrote a post earlier about childhood desserts and sweets that she missed and it got me thinking about it again. It's always been amusing to me that if you put any group of expats together, after a while the conversation will inevitably turn to food and suddenly people are moaning longingly about Pop-Tarts and Tim Tams and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

Here in Sweden, things have dramatically improved as far as imported foods and selection in general goes. When I moved to Sweden 10 years ago, I was horrified, not to mention boggled, to discover there were no seedless grapes or oranges available at all in the produce section. They started showing up about 3 years ago, sporadically at first and now they're available year-round. A revolutionary change for a country and a culture that has always had foods available only when they were actually in season (or imported at exorbitantly high prices).

The longer you live abroad, however, the more of the things that you initially craved fall off that list of things you wish you could get. Either you grow used to life without them, or you find substitutes, or you learn that if you get to have them once, or maybe twice a year, that's enough. And once in a while, you get lucky and something you miss becomes regularly available on the grocery store shelves.

Going to the American store in Malmö is a treat still, and always has been, but it's just not realistic to do any kind of regular shopping there since paying import prices for cereal or Campbell's soups is not an option most of the time. They, together with the American store in Stockholm, made a deal some years back to supply the ICA (and some other grocery store chains in Sweden) with the Top 10 most-purchased American food products (purchased by SWEDES, not Americans, mind you) and so for a long time we've actually been able to find marshmallows, peanut butter, maple syrup, hard pretzels, Hellmann's mayonnaise AND Miracle Whip, caesar salad dressing, croutons (yeah, I know, don't ask me) and a few other items happily shelved together.

Besides candy, the one food item I probably miss the most is Campbell's soups. There are excellent canned soup brands available here, but I still miss the ones I grew up with, and that's usually the first thing I think of when someone asks me if they can bring me back something from America.

When I first moved to Sweden, the care package lists I gave my mom and family were really long, and when I think of some of the things I asked for now, it makes me laugh. There are still lots of things I import, mostly toiletries, over-the-counter remedies and cosmetics, but even those I am slowly finding substitutes for (well, except for huge bottles of Advil and Tylenol Cold Medicine. There are no substitutes for those.) Today, I found out that the shampoo and conditioner that I've been taming Barky with for all these years is going off the market and will no longer be available. My mom will probably jump for joy since the bottles were HUGE and weighed a TON and she always had to bring a half dozen of them with her, every visit. A friend recently recommended a product here that I've been trying the past few weeks which seems to be keeping the poodle restrained so at least the timing was good.

Because I'm pretty well stocked up on my personal necessities (thanks to my mom and sister and husband's business trip last November) and also because I'm trying NOT to have candy in the house for awhile, I've actually found myself saying, "No thanks, I don't need anything" to several people who've asked me if they can bring me something, which kind of leaves me feeling a little strange. Don't I miss things anymore? Well, yes, of course I do. But what I miss mostly is the prices and the selection available in the States and someone else can't bring me back a can of that.

I miss bookstores full of English books. I'm very close to going off into a paean to shopping in America, because I'm so excited at the thought of going "home," even though realistically I can't afford to just go crazy when I get there anyway. I'm not even a shopper usually, but man, I am really looking forward to stepping foot into Target and Bed Bath & Beyond and Crate & Barrel and Pier One Imports and BORDERS and BARNES AND NOBLE and F.Y.E. and Best Buy and C.J. Banks and yeah, you get the idea. Be still, my stifled shopping heart!

***

Chocolate and Candy-Pink Birthday Wishes to Holly Burns!
 cheerful
mood: cheerful
music: Sophie B Hawkins—Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover


Comments
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oh I recognize this, only from the other way around!
pickled herring, kaviar, swedish hard Cheeses (no. 1 care-package list!), mums-mums, julmust, lingon, marabou, nyponsoppa, risgrynsgrot, varma koppen and saft!
And unfortunately we live in a part of the US that doesn't have neither H&M nor IKEA, also I miss INDISKA something fierce. The two things fairly easy to get over here are crisp bread and gingersnaps, but that's it.

Every time I read how much you miss English bookstores I'm astonished that Malmo doesn't have such a bookstore. The Uppsala english Bookshop is going swimmingly well and has existed for at least a decade, you'd love it!

Anders uses to crave Kalles Kaviar and Turkiska Peber the most :) There must be an IKEA coming soon, those things are popping up all over the U.S. like mushrooms! Malmö has a lot more English books on the shelves than they used to and Hamrelius for one has a whole wall of English books, but they don't it's still not enough, and I'm lucky to find 1 or 2 books that appeal to me or are on my list. Most of the time I walk out disappointed. In the States I routinely have to put 10 books BACK because the pile in my arms is already over $50. :) Probably better for my bank balance, but still. And actually, a LOT of the English books available here are by British authors. And it's not just the fiction section. I miss that ALL the sections aren't in English. It's just not the same, somehow. I know that sounds weird, but there it is.

I bought a huge pile of books from The Uppsala English Bookshop at their booth at the Gothenburg book fair in September. I wish they would open a store down here! And I wish the Science Fiction bookstore in Stockholm would open a store down here too!

I really hope your trip comes together and you can do all the things you want to and see all the people you want to. You're due! One thing you can be happy about, even with a firm grip on your wallet, is that the exchange rate is in your favor!

True! I had forgotten about that side of it! Woot!

I feel odd. The only food that I miss are soda crackers to stuff into soup. The other crackers that they sell just don't taste the same to me. We have less choices up here and no American store so maybe it's just a local thing.

The first thing I did in the US was stand and gape at all of the choices in Meijers. I know you'll enjoy every well-deserved second of the treats in the shops.

I remember doing that gaping thing at Meijer's too! Meijer's ROCKS!

Wow. I wish I could be a little bug on your shoulder when you hit the states, and "Target and Bed Bath & Beyond and Crate & Barrel and Pier One Imports and BORDERS and BARNES AND NOBLE and F.Y.E. and Best Buy and C.J. Banks ...".. It sounds like a wonder not to be missed!!
Good Luck in planning your US trip.

*happy dance*

(Anonymous)

Men... men...

Campbell soup is available here in many stores...? My ICA store has them. Have been for years and years. As long as I have been buying my own food at least. And that's a long time! :) Are they not the same Campbell soups or? I have bought them a lot. Especially tomato soup - a favourite...

www.campbellsoup.se

The thing I would miss most I think would be candy too. Saltlakrits. I could not survive without it! I would miss filmjölk and knäckebröd (Wasa Sport!) as well.

Hmmm your post made me hungry!

/Mia

http://mias.blogg.se



filmjölk. you're so right about that. :-)

(no subject) - (Anonymous)   Expand  
(no subject) - (Anonymous)   Expand  
(Anonymous)
BURNING A HOLE IN MY POCKET

Ha, I know exactly what you mean. My life is always better when there is Kalles Kaviar in the fridge, and turkish peppar in the cupboard. They opened an IKEA close enough to work to take a long lunch, and I go sometimes, just to soak in some swedish-ness.

Bookstores are a big difference between Sweden and here, and I think the US has a leg up.

PS - how about the way that swedes say marshmellow (marsh-MELLO)? That always makes me laugh.

Take care,
AngelaM
(threecrowns.squarespace.com)

Re: BURNING A HOLE IN MY POCKET

What makes me laugh is that what they consider a marshmallow is not really what I am thinking of when *I* say it. I want the white soft squishy ones to cook over campfires or make rice krispie treats from. They're thinking of the soft candy ones that are colored and flavored. They're slightly harder than ours.

(Anonymous)

What a great post! We had our international women's group meeting this week and hosted a Valentine's party. 3 of our American members organised it and they brought in a few imported treats. One was cinnamon hearts. I laughed when I spotted 3 of our Nordic members pick them up and try them. They each quickly made a face and thought about spitting them out. Then a few Dutch lades tried them and loved them, asking if they could take a few extra in their pockets. I thought it was an interesting cultural observation!
Love your journal.... and have been reading for quite a long time now. Keep it up!
Kim, a Canadian in Albania (acrossthelana.blogspot.com)

Cinnamon candy! Yum! They don't have it here at all and most Swedes treat it with suspicion, too. Instead they have salt licorice which is just plain nasty. :D

Thanks for the nice compliments!

(Anonymous)

You mentioned Advil, which is Ibuprofen, which is marketed as Brufen in a lot of countries, including Australia and Sweden. Would this work?

http://www.apoteket.se/apoteket/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=3172&ProductSKU=55232&prodinfotype=&showBuy=false&action=showProdInfo

Which "Tylenol Cold Medicine" do you use?

Russell

there are several different ibuprofen tablets available here but you only get them in small packets of 10-30 or so, not in the handy american 500 pill jars. :-)

CJ Banks rules! We miss some of the specialty foods in Nevada- so it even works across the US!

It kills me that they have such a crappy website and no possibility to order online!

Grr I just posted & got timed out.LJ sometimes is so inefficient. Anyway, all I said was that I think sweeds are smart for buying local & in season, and sometimes i think americans are a little too shopping-happy...but i remember missing so many things when i was in germany for a year...let alone a decade!

LJ seems to do that a lot to you! :(

I know what you mean and overall I really appreciate the not-so-consumer-oriented society here, but every once in awhile O! I miss shopping in the States!!

Having been on both sides of this, I know what you mean. I went from missing American stuff to craving Swedish things. Alas, such is the burden for anyone who gets too accustomed to the local delights. I hear your lust for books, I had my mom brings TONS of books with her when she'd come. One thing not on your list but would be on mine if I were in Sweden again- Bath & Body Works.

BTW, great work on trying to watch what you eat. It's very inspiring!

There are lots of things I would miss from Sweden if we ever moved away. I STILL miss certain things from Belgium and Germany. Mmmm...frikadelles!

I hear you! There's a chain here in Kuwait that imports American/European products, and will import anything you want (well, except booze or pork, of course.) But that's prohibitively expensive when all I want is a brand of deodorant I prefer or my favorite yogurt. I adjust, and really their product range is actually pretty impressive. You can get almost anything you want, but in waves; there will be grape jelly on the shelves for a month, but then none for six. This also means the expats buy up all they can find, creating a scarcity when there needn't be one. It's quite frustrating, and yet we all do it because we're all frustrated!

Some days I miss Target so much I could cry.

Don't get me started on deodorant! :X

We usually have the run on stuff at Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you don't get in there early and buy stuffing and pumpkin pie filling you're out of luck!

Ooooh, let me make perfectly clear, I do NOT miss green jello salad in the least! Funeral potatoes, a little, perhaps. ;) But the Swedish thing I missed while in New York? The equally unhealthy halv special (it's a west coast thing) WITH gurkmajonnäs of course!

Denial is such a sad thing. :P You know you miss it, go on, admit it, you'll feel better.

I TOTALLY understand what you are writing here.

Of course you do! :D

(Anonymous)

I find that I really only miss mexican food. Real mexican food.

That and Nyquil which I have an ample supply of now.

ooh and spicy hot cinnamon candy.

And shopping at 2am (but you really can't ship that in a box).

Nicole
misfitduck.com



I don't care that much for Mexican food so I don't miss it, but I sure miss a good juicy STEAK!

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