Comfort Zone

latte artWhen you’re completely out of your element, you search for the familiar anywhere you can find it.  Even the smallest of daily tasks can be daunting — grocery shopping, putting gas in the car, driving.  I don’t know how it happened, but Starbucks became my comfort zone in the first few weeks here — at least I knew what I was ordering and how to ask for it there.  Starbucks, thank you for being the same in England and in America. 

Although it’s getting easier, just over a month in, food shopping is the most intimidating and mentally exhausting exercise in my week.  I don’t know where anything is, I don’t know what anything is, and sometimes I don’t know whether the things I’m looking for even exist in that store. 

Although there are more cream options in the dairy aisle at my grocery store than I’ve ever imagined, they apparently do not have half and half or sour cream in British grocery stores.  They DO, however, have single cream, double cream, and clotted cream.  When we arrived here, I did not know what any of those actually were.  (I’ve since learned, and clotted cream is an invention we really should bring to America.)

The first time I went to the grocery store without Matt (although I was accompanied by all four children, which does NOT make things easier), I came home with apples, salad, pasta, and bread.  It was all I could manage.  And we were in the store for over an hour.  At first, we couldn’t even figure out how to get a shopping cart (called a trolley here), because they were chained together.  A 1-pound coin finally solved that, but those few minutes of confusion were disconcerting.

It’s getting easier with time (doesn’t everything?), and we manage to get it all done.  I allow more time for everything — time to get lost at least once then figure out the right way, time to search every single solitary aisle in the grocery store because you can’t find sugar where you think it should be, time to stare at a row of chained-up grocery store carts until you see the tiny coin slot that will allow you to free one and enter the store. 

And time to stop at Starbucks so you can order a latte with confidence and have a moment of calm.

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10 thoughts on “Comfort Zone

  1. ayoung0426

    This brings me back to when I spent a semester in Ireland. I went to London for a weekend trip and nearly screamed when I saw a Starbucks (there were none in Dublin at the time). Ireland also didn’t have pretzels. I nearly left and went back home when I discovered that. Hang in there!

    1. Little Nesting Doll Post author

      HA, pretzels were the deal breaker! I could do without pretzels, but I’d have a hard time giving up chips and salsa. Thankfully Matt has commissary privileges so I can get it on post — not a lot of Mexican food in British grocery shops!

  2. Natalie

    The first time I tried getting a trolley I asked another shopper incredulously “They charge you a pound to use the cart?”. They were nice enough to explain that I would get it back once I put the trolley back in its proper place.

    Most stores do have sour cream, but creme fraiche (kind of a french version of sour cream, just not as sour) is great too. Buttermilk is available in Tesco, but you have to really look for it (with the flavored milk drinks)! Clotted cream is the amazing!! Scones, clotted cream & strawberry jam = heaven!!!!

    Asda is the UK version of Walmart. I avoided Walmart in the states because I always spent what seemed like an hour trying to check out – but it the ones here are laid out similarly to american Walmarts… You can try shopping online too. You can have it delivered to your house for less than £5 usually and sometimes free. Or you can click and collect – but I would start out with a home delivery. Waitrose = expensive but great quality; Tesco, Sainsbury, Morrison’s = middle of the road; Asda = Walmart/cheaper; Lidl (pronounced liddle) = very cheap.

    FYI – at Tesco the sugar & flour are on the same aisle as the eggs & bread 🙂 Oh yeah – eggs aren’t refrigerated, lol 🙂

    You’re right, It does get easier 😉

    1. Little Nesting Doll Post author

      We’ve actually found 2 farm shops that deliver to our house now, so that makes me happier! The food is organic and delicious and the prices are pretty close to the grocery store prices, but I don’t have to go anywhere — it all comes right to us! Then I don’t have to wander like a lost puppy trying to find anything. Winning!

      We haven’t tried creme fraiche yet, but I was wondering if it could sub for sour cream. We’ll put it in our next order! 🙂

      And I think we could all happily eat scones, clotted cream, and jam for every breakfast! It’s everyone’s new fave.

  3. Sheri

    Oh, friend, I remember those feelings. But after 3 years living in Germany, moving back to the states was almost the same “Eek, I’m out of my comfort zone again,” thoughts! Give yourself time and grace, and enjoy that clotted cream!

    1. Little Nesting Doll Post author

      It’s hard to feel out of your element, especially when you’re trying to model low-stress, non-anxious, I-Love-Change behavior for your children! 🙂 Clotted cream on scones and a latte to the rescue!

  4. Jocelyn Nelson

    It’s tough at first, but you’ll soon find your way around! We definitely have sour cream here so try looking again. Also, we have Costco too. They carry a lot of familiar foods and the cafe has many of the same items as in the States. I would second doing your shopping online from any of the main grocery stores. Delivery is cheap/ free and rather than hunting around for something, you can just type it in to find it. Then you’ll start to recognise the packaging and that will make in-store shopping easier. I’ve lived in the UK for 13 years now and there’s pretty much not anything that I can’t get here food-wise that I miss. Lastly, I would suggest buying some kitchen scales and a few British cookbooks because everything is weighed out in grams here, not cups, and UK recipes will be easier to follow because the ingredients will be obtainable. Good luck!

    1. Little Nesting Doll Post author

      We’ve already had a few moments where we look at each other like, “How much is 500g???” Did we just buy one serving of pasta, or enough for our whole family???” 😉 We’re figuring it out slowly, but I think a second set of measuring cups (or a kitchen scale) is on the list of things we need to buy.

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