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Weekly photo challenge: Foreign

Before we moved to live in the Netherlands, people warned us that as vegetarians, we wouldn’t have much luck with (or get much joy out of) Dutch food. Whilst it is certainly no vegetarian paradise, we didn’t find it all that bad. Certainly, there were even some Dutch foods (mainly of the sweet variety, such as appeltaart and stroopwafels) of which we became huge fans during our time living in Holland.

Moving to the Netherlands equipped with only limited Dutch language skills meant our trips to the supermarket in the first few months were quite challenging and made for some interesting exchanges as we navigated the payment system at the checkout, as well as navigating the aisles (such as when I eagerly utilised my fledgling Dutch language skills and asked a supermarket staff member “How are the eggs?” rather than “Where are the eggs?”). Being foreign in a country suddenly adds a level of challenge to daily tasks and interactions such as going to the supermarket which you’d otherwise take the ease of doing for granted. As a tourist, it can be fun, but when you are trying to integrate into a different society for an extended period of time, it can be tiring and frustrating.

This being said, through our regular trips to Albert Heijn, Digros, Super de Boer and Jumbo, we found that our Dutch vocabulary grew  exponentially as we learnt the various product and item names (once we managed to locate them in the store). Before long, we knew where to find the red kidney beans that no one else seemed to buy, became familiar with which spices our local supermarket did sell (not many) and didn’t (a lot), and we discovered the deliciousness of appelstroop. We learnt the difference between karne melk and halfvolle melk (the former we did not want, the latter we did). Bit by bit, what was once foreign and unfamiliar became familiar to us, even if never quite normal.

Since we’ve moved back to New Zealand, we’ve found that our local supermarket has a lot more selection since we left over two years ago, and it’s been exciting to rediscover old favourite cooking ingredients (such as easy access to baking powder which really makes cakes rise!) and to find new ones to try out. We’re no longer foreign in our own supermarket, which is strangely comforting. Yet, we had a strange experience a few days ago: whilst browsing the aisles to decide what we’d cook for dinner, we discovered that our local supermarket, right here in Wellington, has a dedicated (limited, but not tiny) Dutch food section. That’s it in the photos above. We couldn’t help but laugh – right before our eyes, on the other side of the world, we found ourselves seeing products bearing the familiar Albert Heijn logo, products with labels written entirely en Nederlands, and some of our much-loved stroopwafels and speculaas.

We’d come full circle; the foreign was familiar, but it was foreign-familiar in a familiar place.

We didn’t make any purchases from the Dutch section of New World this time around, but at least now we know we can stock our cupboards full of stroopjes any time we want, a dangerous discovery…


Photos by CIA, New World, Wellington, New Zealand, October 2012.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Living as we do between Sydney and Amsterdam, we manage to do without Albert Hein gherkins for a few months each year.

    Now I know they’re available in the Southern Hemisphere, I must look out for them in Australian supermarkets – they’ll be needed to go with the onions and raw herrings, as soon as we start getting them here too.

    October 27, 2012
  2. Speculaas is something that’s making its way into the NYC lexicon and consciousness via Trader Joe’s speculaas-filled chocolate bars. What the heck is it? I’ve tasted and am not particularly impressed…maybe it’s an acquired taste? xoM

    October 28, 2012

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