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British Expat Newsletter: October 2014

Hello, and welcome to those of you who have recently signed up.

In this issue

This month

Here’s our news about the latest additions to the BE website.

Sorry, there hasn’t been much to report on the site. But we do still have our regular features.

Just for a change, our latest Pic of the Week isn’t a location but an animal – a cheeky raccoon that’s found its way into a hollow tree.

And our latest Quick Quiz is a test of your vocabulary – five unusual words that we’ve come across on our webby travels recently. How many of them do you recognise?

Editorial: Shifting shopping patterns

Is a weekly shop at the weekend part of your routine? It hasn’t been part of ours for a long time.

Part of the reason is that we haven’t been living in the usual UK routine of a Monday-to-Friday daytime working pattern for over a decade. Although Dave’s office hours nominally followed that pattern while we were based in Delhi in the early 2000s, the fact that we had a driver meant that I could go out to the markets whenever I felt like it. And then in Thailand, although we would go on a big shop to lay in supplies, we did it when we needed it – and most often not at the weekend, to avoid the crowds.

But the big change in our shopping pattern here in the UK has been the growth of Internet shopping. While shopping online is a worldwide phenomenon, it’s taken root more strongly in some countries than in others. The UK’s supposedly one of the countries where online shopping has made the biggest inroads, comfortably outstripping other large European countries and even the US.

OK, we’re all familiar with the Amazon phenomenon. But online grocery shopping has been around for a surprisingly long time too. Even before 2000 Asda were running their ASDA@home service, through a big depot in the Croydon area. (I see they’ve dropped the name now, presumably because the novelty’s worn off.) We even gave it a go ourselves, though we quickly learned not to order meat, fish or fruit and veg – we kept being sent stuff that we’d have rejected if we’d been in the shop ourselves.

But now that we’re back in the UK, it seems that things have moved on still further. Not only has online grocery shopping become far more widespread, but German budget chains Aldi and Lidl have shaken up the British supermarket scene too. In response, Tesco and Sainsbury seem to have put a lot more effort into rolling out their smaller local branches, Tesco Express and Sainsbury’s Local.

How successful have the “big four” been in fighting the tide? Not very, apparently. According to the BBC Business website, consumers are increasingly “shopping smart”, often going to several big stores for their fortnightly or monthly shop and topping up from the supermarkets’ local branches, or convenience stores like Londis and Spar. They seem to be more price-aware in doing this too, checking price comparison websites and planning their shops to maximise their value for money.

(Needless to say, the supermarkets don’t like this. A couple of years back a consumer reporter from The Guardian was told by a Tesco deputy manager that he couldn’t write down prices of items on their shelves because it was “illegal”.)

This certainly tallies with our experience. We have it very easy where we are, with two decent supermarkets within five minutes’ walk (Sainsbury’s Local isn’t even the better of the two; the Co-op wins that particular accolade.) and a branch of Waitrose just 15 minutes away by public transport. We don’t even need a car – we just put in an online order for the bulky stuff and buy the perishables locally as we need them.

I can imagine that things are different elsewhere, though. Anyone living almost anywhere outside Greater London and the other major urban centres might find themselves struggling to manage the weekly shop without a car. You don’t even have to leave mainland Great Britain to find yourself beyond reach of the major supermarkets: if you’re in Mid Wales, the Lake District or the Highlands you could be struggling to get anyone to deliver to you.

So perhaps shopping hasn’t been transformed all that much after all.

Has online shopping taken off where you are? Or do people still shop for things in the way they’ve done for years, or even decades? Why not let us know on the forum?

Write for British Expat

Would you like to write for British Expat? Sorry, we don’t pay for articles but if you have a website we’ll link to it in the author’s blurb below any of your articles we publish. We use all sorts of content as long as it’s useful and/or interesting to our readership.

Besides articles, we also publish quick trivia quizzes—five questions about any subject. So, if you’d like to write for us but don’t feel like producing a literary masterpiece, then why not try writing a quickie quiz about your city, country, or even your hobby? Please use our contact form to get in touch.

British Expat Amazon Shopping

Amazon don’t just do books, you know. We’ve teamed up with them to bring you the ultimate in online shopping—from a micro SD card to a garden shed! A great way to do your shopping online, especially if the shops aren’t up to much in your part of the world.
BE Amazon Shop: UK & EU | BE Amazon Shop: non-EU

And now for something completely different…

This part of the newsletter’s normally a complete departure from the rest of the subject matter, but this time round it’s quite closely related to the editorial. It’s a completely different way of living, though!

It’s Hallowe’en tonight (and apparently the warmest in Britain since records began), so here’s something about pumpkins. While most people hollow them out and stick a candle inside to make a lantern, this artist has chosen to paint hers instead, with a whole range of celeb faces over the years. OK, so they’re not always spitting images of their models (Hagrid looked more like Fidel Castro to us), but they’re a bit of fun anyway.
Mashable: Artist paints Kim Jong-un caricature onto 374-pound pumpkin

So there’s a round-up of all that’s been going on. Come on over and see for yourself! Don’t forget…
Visit the BE website and join in with our lively community!

Till next time…

Happy surfing!

British Expat—the definitive home for British expats

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