An Expat’s Shopping Basket – weird yet wonderful!

On Sunday night, RR and I arrived back in Switzerland after a wonderful but exhausting trip to England. RR had driven over 2 weeks ago, and I joined him partway through the first week. I managed to fit in seeing a large number of family and friends, we took in 2 rugby games, went to see the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain play in Basingstoke, got my sewing machine serviced, and did a not insubstantial amount of shopping.

Whilst the journey back home to Lausanne was long and extremely tiring, one of the major advantages of driving over has to be the opportunity to fit in a proper supermarket trip, and to stock up on what I consider to be all the ‘essentials’ of British life. Whenever I do one of these major grocery shops, I always wonder what the checkout person thinks about what can only be described as the rather odd assortment of products lined up on the conveyor belt.

Not your average weekly shop, that’s for sure!

So, if you’re at all interested in what a longish-term forty-something expat misses the most about England (apart from friends and family, that is), here, in no particular order, is my rundown of the essentials of my shopping basket (or, in our case, a rather large shopping trolley!)

1. Assorted cleaning products.

Swiss cleaning products are rubbish. They are waaaay too eco-friendly, and just don’t seem to get things clean enough. We normally source ours over the border in France, at the local Carrefour supermarket, where one can generally find a large number of British and American expats in the cleaning products aisle, fighting over the last bottle of Domestos 🙂 (for my American friends out there, Domestos is the British version of Clorox …)

This trip back, I took the opportunity to pick up some products that you can’t find in Carrefour, or pack into a suitcase to take back on the plane.

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2. Proper marmalade

Not Bonne Maman bitter orange jam or any other inferior substitute – the real deal 🙂

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3. Assorted curry ingredients and spices

Ok, so maybe we went a bit crazy here, but they were £1 a jar and there was loads of choice, whereas they cost a fiver a pop here for a choice of 2. Poppadoms are self-explanatory, and the assortment of spices – well, you can never have too many. And we do eat rather a lot of curry…

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4. Marmite

Love it or hate it (I love it, RR hates it) – in my opinion, it’s as much a breakfast necessity as marmalade…

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5. Ribena

Not available here. Especially not the reduced sugar version 🙂

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6. Heinz Baked Beans

Ok, so you can get a tin of beans here if you’re willing to shell out £2, but we can get a four-pack for the same price back in the UK. So we bought 2…

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7. Assorted Cadbury’s chocolate

I know, I know, Switzerland is awash with chocolate, all of it delicious and creamy, but trust me when I tell you that there are times when only Cadbury’s will do.

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8. English cheese

Ditto for cheddar and Wensleydale cheese. Swiss cheese is yummy, but for a decent cheese on toast or cheese sandwich, you need a proper, sharp cheddar. Gruyere just doesn’t cut it.

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9. Crumpets

I used to live on crumpets back in England, so I really do miss them. And guess what – you can’t find them here…

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10. Baking products

Yes, I know you can make self raising flour by adding stuff to regular flour, but it never seems to work as well. This should last me a while, I hope…

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11. Marigold Swiss Bouillon Powder

Despite it’s name, it’s not actually Swiss, and you can’t get it here. We find other stock powders waaaaay too salty. And we use it a lot.  

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12. PG Tips

Last, but by no means least, the mainstay of a British expat’s store cupboard – proper teabags. British teabags don’t come individually wrapped in namby-pamby packets of 20 envelopes. They come in boxes of 240 (which will generally last us 4-6 weeks, depending on how thirsty we are). An absolute essential 🙂

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So there you have it. I love living in Switzerland, really I do. We have a wonderful life here, and have no plans to move away any time soon, but sometimes a little taste of home is just what’s needed to put the world to rights.

What do you think?

5 responses

  1. Elita @ Busy Needle Quilting | Reply

    I think I need to come with the boys & have cheese on toast with a cuppa! 🙂

    1. We now have more tea than we know what to do with, as emergency tea rations have been coming in from concerned friends and family :-)Come on over when I’m back from hols, so much catching up to do, so little time… Hope to see you soon, my lovely xxx

  2. I got quite nostalgic for the UK yesterday when I saw all your very British groceries. Thank you very much for my Twinnings liquorice tea, I think I’m hooked on it.

  3. Yes! Lovely post. I’d add lemon curd, oatcakes, chutney (ideally made by Granny) and barley water to your perfect list. But keep the evil cleaning products! Love the slight ‘coals to Newcastle’ aspect of telling the squeaky-clean Swiss they are not clean enough, while importing foreign chocolate… ! JJ

  4. Ha, we do similar shops on the way home from France, I’m sure the French cashiers think we’re nuts too!

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