Moving to a new country is an interesting experience. You suddenly need to buy almost everything in your life at once, from furniture to spices, but now you live in a world of unfamiliar brands and strange stores. Here are my impressions of the brands I have encountered.
I take back everything I have ever said about the Swedes. Famed in legend and not-entirely-serious song, IKEA bucks the trend of furniture stores by actually allowing you to buy the stuff that you see there straight away. You go around the massive showroom with a card and a golf pencil, writing down the ID number and bin location of anything you like the look of. Then you eat some meatballs in their café before going downstairs to the stockroom to hunt for the bins you need. Their furniture is not incredibly flash, but it is functional and OK looking. And putting it together is remarkably like playing with Lego.
This is basically a slightly more middle-of-the-road version of The Warehouse, possibly with less absolute junk but also fewer crazy bargains. Maybe Farmers is a better comparison.
Or Whole Wallet as the locals affectionally call it. A chain of very large, very upmarket, very expensive supermarkets. They sell some amazing stuff – the produce section and salad bar is incredible and the butchery has all sorts of great stuff.
But you have to be careful. My first weekend in my new apartment I visited Whole Foods to stock up on basics and get some food. “You are getting paid in US dollars now,” I said to myself, “treat yourself, don’t look at the prices.”
So I bought things like laundry detergent, soap, breakfast stuff, a roasting dish, plus a few days worth of food. Nothing too fancy.
Three. Hundred. Dollars.
And I had to go shopping again a few days later because I didn’t get enough stuff.
On the other hand, the laundry detergent is the best I have ever used, and that $25 steak was very tasty.
Basically the equivalent of Nosh – a smaller store with fewer lines of generally quality stuff. Speaking of Nosh, I used to occasionally buy Cracker Barrel cheese there. I was amused to find that the Cracker Barrel brand is the cheap stuff you find in Target.
There are other Supermarkets that are more affordable. Prices are generally cheaper than in New Zealand but not hugely so. I was surprised by the quantity for fresh fruit and vegetables available – the stereotype of Americans only eating processed food does not seem to be correct. I was expecting beef to be cheaper, what with the factory farming, but it is more expensive than in NZ. Chicken is cheaper, but a funny orange colour. And pork is ridiculously cheap and sold in massive quantities. I am not sure if this is a seasonal thing. I have seen some “NZ/Australia” lamb (seriously, that is how it was labeled), but lamb as a foodstuff is not mainstream here.
Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream
I scoffed at the idea that the US would know much about ice cream when friends back home raved about Ben and Jerry’s, but Reader, I was wrong. I had some just before, and I might just have a little more after I finish writing this.
Cable providers have a terrible reputation in the states, none more-so than Comcast. Think everything you hate about SkyTV combined with your loathing of all things Telecom, with an added monopoly in many areas (including mine). They are the sort of toads to charge you $8 a month for a modem that costs less than $100, or will quote a price for a cable TV package not telling you that it only includes an ancient set-top box with composite out. Their website won’t even show the prices of the plans until you enter a zip code, which they look up to see if they have competition in that area. If not, you get charged $10 a month more.
Why? This video explains it in more detail:
Having said that, I didn’t bother with cable TV and went straight for the not-particularly cheap but decently fast Internet package. Read’em and weep:
Instead of cable TV I went with Netflix. $8 a month for unlimited access to all sorts of streaming TV and movies. They don’t have much in the way of new releases, but the back catalogue is decent, the streaming is of high quality and they don’t show ads. Brilliant.