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October 14, 2011

Supermarkets: cultural hotspots

A wrestler in a supermarket

A wrestler in a supermarket. Photo: Hernan Garcia Crespo / Flickr

One of the great things about travel is how even ordinary errands can become cultural adventures. For example, the simple act of going grocery shopping. Ben Groundwater, who writes “The Backpacker” column for The Sydney Morning Herald, waxed poetic in this article: Culture shop: the joy of supermarkets.

Groundwater recounts his memories of his favorite supermarkets. He admits that he sometimes remembers them better than the sightseeing landmarks.  Taste and even smell are powerful senses, often intimately linked to our memories.  The bite of good kung pao chicken will always send my mind back to a certain Szechuan restaurant in Taipei, Taiwan. The taste of a particular cheese brings back visions of France. The list goes on.

Have you ever been to any supermarkets or street markets that made an impression? Please share your stories in the comments.

Posted by | Comments (5) 
Category: Food and Drink, Notes from the collective travel mind


5 Responses to “Supermarkets: cultural hotspots”

  1. Wendy Says:

    I was in a large grocery store in Le Mans, France and I walked down an aisle that was wall-to-wall yogurt. I thought we had a lot of food choices in America until I saw the amazing selection in France. My favorite one had flecks of chocolate in it. French yogurt is very, very good.

  2. Sage Says:

    In Indonesia, my pens died and I went to a store to buy a couple new ones–I couldn’t believe the attention I received when I was out to purchase two pens that cost about 50 cent in US dollars… The worker had me try out a half dozen types! In grocery stores, it’s always fun to see what’s available.

  3. Don Says:

    In Thailand, I went to a grocery store where a young lady offered me a free drink of Scotch. It was to promote a certain brand of whisky. I remember thinking, ” This would probably never happen in the States”

  4. Rudolph Aspirant Says:

    OMG ! I am so ENVIOUS of you guys ! You cannot imagine how boring and lacking in variety are the regualr grocery stores in Norway: 2 types of yogurt and maybe max. 4, (if you’re lucky), of coffee, that’s it ! I am LONGING for Genoa salami and I just cannot find it ! There are some Asian specialty grocery boutiques with slightly more variety, but it is all Asian…but I want cheeses and salamis, etc. !

  5. Davis Says:

    My most memorable shopping experience was in Managua, Nicaragua, during the days of Sandinismo. As a foreigner, I was able to go to the Dollar Store, where the nomenklatura were able to shop, and found a very good, though not spectacular, selection of foreign products.

    In the stores where ordinary Nicaraguans were allowed to shop with Nicaraguan money, there were rum and Coca-Cola and Ray-O-Vac batteries — all local products — and wire coat hangers. Several aisles of wire coat hangers.

    And plantains.

    Fortunately, I am not much of a shopper and by that time had learned to like plantains.

    And rum and Coca-Cola.

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