The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

DISPLACED Q: What items from home can you not live without?

UK department store John Lewis recently announced it would soon launch versions of its Website for shoppers in 27 countries, including the USA, Australia, and Singapore. The company has no plans to open stores in these locations, however; all orders will be delivered by courier.

Marks and Spencer, another institution of the British High Street, already ships to 80 countries worldwide, even though it has over 300 international stores scattered around the globe.

It seems both John Lewis and M&S  understand something that all expats know — there are certain items you only feel comfortable buying from home.

Marks & Spencer, for example, accounts for around thirty percent of the UK lingerie market; it’s not unreasonable to assume that displaced Brits with diminishing lingerie supplies and no access to M&S stores make up a goodly proportion of the international shipping numbers. Meanwhile, John Lewis has the most popular gift list in the UK. How about some Conran bed linen or Denby pottery to make your relations feel at home in their Moscow abode? Sometimes only the familiar will do.

It’s not all about the goods, either. Expat in Germany, in her March 17 post, explained why she hesitated to buy a wedding dress in Germany instead of in her native Canada. It had nothing to do with the quality of wedding gowns and everything to do with the charming honesty of German sales assistants that made her pine for a gentler shopping experience at home.

But these facts and anecdotes made us wonder: No matter how displaced you have become, are there certain items — other than food — that you still prefer to import from your home country?

Two members of the Displaced Nation Team kick off the discussion:

Kate Allison: During my 15 years as a Brit in the US, I have been known to ask visitors to bring gifts of children’s cotton pyjamas. The cotton in the UK is much nicer, somehow, than in the US. I also had a brief sojourn into Next duvet covers, because duvets aren’t as popular in the US as they are in Europe.  Last time I was over, though, it was shoes that caught my eye. And yes, they came from Marks and Spencer. It’s not that they were any better than their American counterparts — just different, and not from Macy’s.

ML Awanohara: As far as wedding (and other special) dresses go, the more exotic the better. I was never an expat in Rome but went shopping for my wedding dress a few years back in a charming boutique, Maga Morgana, very near the Piazza Navona. (If I had it to do over, I’d have studied abroad in Italy — art history, of course. So perhaps I was playing out that fantasy…) Kate, it’s funny you mention shoes. While living in the UK and Japan, I always preferred to buy shoes in the US. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the shoes in those countries — I coveted them. But they made my feet hurt, something to do with the “last” not being big enough. I noticed recently on an expat news feed that displaced New Zealanders often head to a shop called Minnie Cooper’s as soon as they get home. This piqued my curiosity: is it for the styles, the NZ leather, or both?

Your turn to chime in: What homey items, apart from food, have you yet to wean yourself off?

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5 responses to “DISPLACED Q: What items from home can you not live without?

  1. amblerangel May 10, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    Shoes- without a doubt. I’m in Japan. I order from the US- although one particular brand is French and the other Italian.The shoes here are a) very small so finding a size that fits a western foot is hard and b) are of a unique style I find hard to match with my existing outfits.

  2. ML Awanohara May 10, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    Shoes again! People who say that one of the best things about living abroad is the chance to walk in someone else’s moccasins have clearly never tried them on.

    When I lived in Tokyo, most of the shoes had what one of my British expat friends called “gold bits” on them. May I deduce from your comment that styles haven’t changed? (Though the funny thing was, I got to like them after a while! I just couldn’t wear them…)

  3. MissNeriss May 11, 2011 at 3:22 am

    I can honestly say that I don’t pine for shoes from Australia. Shoes from the UK, absolutely! Mostly because I went down a size and can always find something that fits, and cheaply (because that’s what’s most important). I also used to import my knickers from M&S via visiting friends, but I had to bite the bullet and find something here in the Netherlands.

    The item from Australia that I can’t live without though is tampons. I’m sure it sounds strange, but ask any Australian woman abroad and they’ll tell you, Aussie tampons are the best. Do you want cotton? Tampax? Silky covering? Funky or discreet packaging? Zip lock bags? You can get it all. Here? Nope. So, I get regular care packages from home. Thank goodness they don’t weigh very much!

  4. Emily Henry May 25, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    Here are some random items I “import” with me each time I return from the U.K. to my home (since 2007) in California:
    1. Bisto gravy granules (why, oh why isn’t this miracle available in America?)
    2. Garnier Pure foaming face wash (nope, not available in the U.S.)
    3. P.G. Tips tea bags (too expensive here.)
    4. Stuffing (not the same, at all, as the stuffing in the U.S.)
    5. Bread sauce (can you tell that I miss roast dinners?)
    6. Primark clothes and accessories (yes, it’s cheap in every way, but so good and cheap.)
    7. Squash (the drink, not the vegetable)

    • Kate Allison May 25, 2011 at 5:48 pm

      Interesting, the number of people who import PG Tips and Paxo! I’ve been using Tetley’s British Blend tea for years ( I agree, PG Tips is way too expensive here) and Pepperidge Farm stuffing is now my favourite. But the local supermarket sells gravy granules! Not Bisto, I grant you, but imported gravy granules nonetheless.

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