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British Expat Newsletter:
28 June 2006

Hello, and welcome to those who have joined up since our last newsletter.

In this issue

  • This week: Supermarkets
  • Virtual Snacks
  • Bizarre Searches
  • Quotation and joke

This week

Where do you do your shopping? The answer to that question seems to depend heavily on how economically advanced the country is that you’re living in.

In South Asia, for instance, the answer is very often that YOU don’t – your cook goes to the market and does it for you (although it may be worth braving the stares of the crowds every now and again to go along yourself and check what’s available, and at what price). In Western Europe, the edge-of-town hypermarket is generally king, although those who care about their food may have managed to track down a proper baker/fishmonger/butcher.

In between you’ve got places like Malta – a few supermarkets, but quite a few mobile shops as well, especially for vegetables – or Thailand, where most people still shop at markets or from hawkers with motorbike and sidecar, but a growing number are making use of the giant all-purpose stores like Lotus Tesco, Carrefour and Big ‘C’.

It’s interesting to see that when supermarkets are introduced into developing economies, they very rapidly catch on; above all with the more affluent parts of society, but also on a more modest scale with the middle class – the people who have their own small business and who have made it beyond unskilled labour or subsistence farming. OK, so these modestly well-off people may not be able to afford a car and a fridge to do a weekly shop in a hypermarket, but they may be able to make use of local convenience stores. 7-Eleven and similar stores are springing up like wildfire in Thailand and in other countries where they’re allowed.

Much the same happened in Britain in the last century. Although the first Co-op shop opened as early as 1844 (in Rochdale), and Thomas Lipton had as many as 500 outlets by 1914, it wasn’t until 1948 that Britain’s first self-service store opened (again, it was a Co-op, in Southsea). But after that, the growth was rapid. Sainsbury’s opened their first self-service store in 1950, and chains such as Tesco, Asda, Mace and VG followed suit. By the 1970s the corner shop was pretty much in decline – and at pretty much the same time, the first hypermarkets started opening, such as Carrefour in the New Town of Telford. Another twenty years later, and the butchers, bakers, greengrocers and fishmongers were all feeling the pinch.

Paradoxically, perhaps, the trend’s now starting to reverse. Although buying everything under one roof is undoubtedly convenient, more and more people are starting to question the quality of what they’re buying. This is not so much from the point of view of fitness for consumption – the supermarkets’ record is pretty good on that score. The issue is one of taste; people don’t want to buy tomatoes bred for their shape and colour, they’d rather have a bit of taste in them. There’s another paradox in this, too: a bit of imperfection is somehow seen as confirming that the produce is more “wholesome”, or at least more natural. Hence, I suppose, the rise of the farmer’s market.

But it may already be too late for the specialist shops. During our enforced stay in London last year we were glad to see that the fishmonger we used to frequent four years earlier was still in business. But the butcher we used to use had vanished.

It’s all “progress” I suppose, but interesting nonetheless how we seem to have turned full circle.

Do you have anything to say about this topic, or do you have some suggestions for other issues we might discuss in our weekly email? Why not comment and tell us about it?

Virtual Snacks

Just a few suggestions if you have a little time to spare:

The Co-op has a page of 101 “Did you know?”-type questions about the UK and international co-operative movements. For instance, did you know that Richard Burton first earned a living selling men’s suits at a Co-op in South Wales?
[Obsolete link removed]

Sainsbury’s have a good online museum. The navigation’s a bit quirky, but they’ve got a lot of interesting stuff from the earliest days of the Sainsbury empire, the Second World War, and their more recent developments.
[Obsolete link removed]

Bizarre Searches

Some strange search terms which have led people to visit British Expat recently:

  • rotal barby can
  • huamn horse legs
  • british gas halloween
  • veronica smith microsoft lottery
  • blue whales erections
  • malawi shandy
  • bash the penguin
  • weird insects
  • over two-thirds of the effectiveness of negotiation is determined by nonverbal communication
  • cheesy lyrics
  • posted pets in canada
  • fights to bodrum

Till next time…
Happy surfing!

Kay
Editor
British Expat Magazine

Quotation

“If you’re choosing between supermarkets, look for what services you want, what reports you want, whether you want retirement tools, or detailed reports on taxes. The point of a supermarket is convenience. If it’s not convenient, then it defeats the purpose.”

– Russ Kinnel, US investment guru

Joke

A guy goes to a supermarket and notices a beautiful blonde waving at him and saying a sweet “Hello!” He’s rather taken aback, because he can’t place where he knows her from.

Finally he says, “Um, do you know me?”

She replies, “I think you’re the father of one of my children.”

Uh oh….

He thinks back to the only time he has ever been unfaithful and has a sudden recollection of a drunken party.

“My god,” he says. “Are you the stripper from Jim’s stag party that I coaxed into a private room with a £50 note, and then we had sex on the pool table with all my mates watching from the door while I yelled ‘I call the corner pocket!’ and you screamed ‘Harder, harder!’ and ‘Deeper, deeper!’?”

She hardly missed a beat when she said, “Well, no. I’m your son’s maths teacher.”

PG Author: Kay McMahon

Kay has been an expat for nearly 30 years. She set up the British Expat website back in early 2000, whilst living in London and missing the expat life. These days she spends much of her time lugging computers and cameras around the world. (Dave gets to deal with all the really heavy stuff.)

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