When 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.