Expat in the Grocery Store

Believe it or not finding your way around a supermarket in a new country is no mean feat.  You know what it’s like when you go to do your normal weekly shop and they’ve changed the aisles around? Annoying right? So combine that with the fact that things aren’t necessarily grouped in the same department that you are used to and you don’t recognize any packaging what should be a 40 minute task start to finish ends up taking the whole morning.


When we first arrived we only had one car so every time I needed to stock the cupboards my shop-phobic men came with me.  The only aisles they were interested in were the ones marked ‘chips’, ‘cookies’ and ‘candy’ meanwhile I am chasing around the store with armfuls of cereal and pasta trying to find where on earth the trolley was.  Two weeks in and I issued an ultimatum; if you want to eat ever again I shop ALONE! (A week later we bought a second car!)


You have to be patient and it takes time to form new shopping habits. It’s easy to gravitate towards the familiar but it’s very expensive to buy imported food.  It is a lovely treat when you find something familiar I was so excited when I found custard creams and salad cream I updated my Facebook status right there in the middle of the store! But it really shouldn’t be something you do all the time.

I’ve had a couple of perculiar experiences lately;

  • I really fancied lamb for Sunday lunch so I’m walking up and down by the chilled meat reading the labels Pork…Beef…Chicken …nothing, no lamb. This country is the second largest in the world with 3.8 million square miles but apparently no sheep.


  • I came across a selection of Pataks indian sauces , excellent I think, chicken curry for dinner and what better to accompany a curry than Pappadums, so yet again I find myself wandering around the store in circles. This is a multi racial country it can’t be that difficult to find something Indian right? So I find myself an employee.

“Excuse me, can you tell me if you sell pappadums?”

*Blank expression* “Pardon me?”

“Pappadums they are like a big flat crisps, not crisp… chips, you eat it with Indian food?”

“Sorry Mam, I don’t know what that word is you said but international food is in aisle 7”

That much I had worked out for myself but seriously, ‘I don’t know what that word is’??? Did it sound like I hiccupped or something?  I’ve since given up asking staff and just ask other women shoppers, you get a much more sensible reply. FYI the international food aisle did not have any pappadums but it did have 50 different varieties of salsa!


So I suppose the moral of the story is discovering new food is part of the fun of exploring a new culture, but if you need to travel miles out of your way to buy McVities Digestives or something that vaguely resembles an English sausage or beg your family and friends to send you “proper Cadbury’s” once in a while (not that I ever have done any of those things…honest) then that’s OK too.


Proper Cadbury’s



7 thoughts on “Expat in the Grocery Store

  1. Jill

    Sounds like another adventure Lou lol. I know when we were in America we had fun food shopping lol. When we come over give me a list and I will bring whatever you fancy xx

    1. Lou Post author

      We loved it too when we were visiting. Now it’s part of daily life it’s a different matter. You’d better bring an extra suitcase it could be a long list, haha!

  2. Zhu

    I couldn’t believe booze wasn’t sold in supermarkets when I first came to Ontario. Of course, now, when I got back to France, I’m shocked to see a wine section at the local supermarket!

    The UK is much better than Canada when it comes to Indian food and yes, poppadum aren’t widely available here. My local Walmart in Ottawa has a brand new section for “British” food though, including imported Cadbury 😉

    1. Lou Post author

      It still annoys me that I have to make a special trip to the LCBO to pick up a bottle of wine! I eventually found pappadums in sobeys. Our Walmart only gets the imported cadburys at Christmas so it’s like a magnet for expats getting their chocolate fix

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