Baffled in Britain

Things that show I have become a foreigner in what was until recently my own country:

  • My new inability to pick a chocolate bar in a newsagent. Seriously, there’s LOADS. It’s overwhelming. What is a Bliss Bar? What are Crunchie Rocks? I simply can’t imagine what they might taste like and I don’t want to commit to something weird as my chocolate-munching time is limited here. Solution: buy Wispa. Always Wispa. Wispa is safe.
  • Ditto biscuits.
  • Pay as you Go mobiles. Confusing, impossible to top up with a credit card and require constant trips to newsagents where I will be patronised and smirked at by a 16 year old. Actually, maybe newsagents in general are an issue for me? Which brings me to…
  • …The Daily Mail. I’d forgotten.
  • Shop assistants try to flog you credit facilities whenever you buy ANYTHING, no matter how mundane. Example, Socks in a well-known department store. Total £4. Would I like to save 10% today by opening a store card? No, I wouldn’t, and I suspect the 185% APR might swallow up the 40p saving pretty quickly too, non?
  • Driving. Actually, I quite like this. Not so keen on the eye-watering cost of fuel though.
  • Fifty Shades of Grey is EVERYWHERE. I’m confused. Since when did it become acceptable to read porn on the bus? What am I missing here?
  • Radio 1. It’s really rubbish now. Is this me-as-a-foreigner or just me-getting-old? Not sure.
  • Weather. OK, this summer hasn’t exactly been a flag-cracker, but I’m turning blue and grabbing a cardie as my family members are fanning themselves with rolled-up newspapers. Has Asia permanently broken my thermostat? Are they just built hardier than I am?
  • Who is Jessie J?
  • I keep forgetting what the money is. Embarrassing in a queue. Also I have no idea what things should cost. Is £2 for a loaf of bread good or am I being ripped off? Should I try to haggle? This is probably how most grannies felt post-decimalisation.
  • Supermarkets. Cathedrals of consumerism, and I mean that in a good way. 500 types of cheese! 800 types of yoghurt! 120 shades of Lipstick! Car insurance! Costa Coffee! Inflatable paddling pools! Supermarkets are BRILLIANT in the UK! More of this, please.

Above all, I’m left with a sense of almost-but-not-quite familiarity in a way that can be really quite disconcerting. Like when you put a book down somewhere and it’s not quite where you thought you left it when you get back. It’s good to be back. Not so long next time, eh?




2 thoughts on “Baffled in Britain

  1. omg kate i loved this post and i totally know how u feel!!!! i miss the supermarkets sooooo much!! chocolates….they’ve come out with all sorts of newbies, totally confusing. asia truly ruins ur thermostat…i freeze when i go home to london all the time lol and bread now costing 2 quid…i went into my local londis with a pound thinking i could get a can of coke and a chocolate bar….fail!! hope ur otherwise having a great time at home, would love to see u and baby taitai when ur back in hk…oohh but pay as you go…you should be able to top up with your cc/dc, i always do and they remember your details as well 🙂 xx


  2. There is now a whole table in Waterstones dedicated to 50 Shades Of Grey and books that look like it. Weird times.

    Having lived here for a while, I also now understand why my auntie always got so excited to visit Sainsburys!


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