LONDON— Going to the grocery store is a straightforward, run-of-the-mill trip. However, when living abroad in a new culture, the trip can actually be rather exciting and an essential learning experience.
Here in London, I learned that grocery shopping is something people do almost daily. The British seem to buy only what they need at the moment — bulk shopping isn’t much of a thing. As a result, walking through the sliding glass doors of Tesco, a major British grocery retailer, has become a part of my daily routine as well.
Grocery shopping felt like a true component of my study abroad experience. The addition of the mundane activity into my daily schedule is representative of how living in London has become simple and comfortable for me.
While exploring foreign countries this semester, I am completely aware of the fact that I am just a visitor to a variety of cultures and touristy landmarks. However, now when I return to London it feels as if I am returning to my home away from home.
Two months ago when I arrived in London, this place was just as foreign to me as the other cities I have since visited throughout the past months. I couldn’t have made my way back to my flat without Google Maps, no matter how basic the route, during my first weeks here.
However, the more often I return to the city, the more familiar to me it becomes. London feels less foreign every time I arrive back from a weekend trip. Tube lines and Tesco are now as much, maybe even more, a part of my understanding of London culture as Big Ben and Buckingham Palace are.
In addition to navigating the city, I also have learned to navigate the grocery store. I’ve memorized the route back to my flat through the streets of the city and I’ve memorized the route to the eggs, unrefrigerated, through the aisles of the grocery store.
I also learned that food in London expires quickly, due to the pleasant lack of preservatives. I am no longer surprised when my bananas transition from a vibrant yellow to brown in a single day. The more I understand the things I never thought twice about in America, the more I appreciate London for its cultural differences.
Although my inner American does miss Costco and “real” peanut butter, I am trying to live like a Brit and enjoy the daily trip to the grocery store. However, I still have no shame in googling “Pound to USD” in the fruit aisle.
Passport stamps, unique cuisines and historical buildings have ended up only being part of my once in a lifetime experience here in London. The mundane tasks, like grocery shopping, have proven to be formidable experiences living abroad as well.
I have learned here that familiarity and comfort go hand-in-hand. Although I will likely not consider London home in the future, for these four months, I feel familiar and comfortable enough in London to call it my home.