Not Happy without my HP

15 10 2009

The expression on the waiters face suggested that I had spoken in a foreign language. 

 It was 9.30 in the morning and I will admit that sometimes my London accent can be difficult to understand but all I had done was enquire as to the availability of HP Sauce to go with my breakfast. Granted I was also sitting in a restaurant in Boston, Massachusetts and not in a greasy spoon in North London but I expected that brown sauce was a universal condiment.

This is obviously not the case.

Instead I was offered something called A1 Steak Sauce, which I was assured, was the same thing. I was unconvinced of this for two reasons. Firstly he had no idea what HP Sauce was, so for him to offer something similar would have been a near  impossibility.Secondly the presence of the word “Steak” in the title implied that it was more readily applied at a bbq rather than with sausage and bacon.

However, I am always willing to open myself up to new experiences and so I agreed to try it. Pouring a small amount onto the plate, I then smeared some sauce on to the bacon (which incidentally was not what I would consider to be acceptable in an English breakfast, as it seemed to be burnt to a crisp and brittle to the touch).

To cut a long story short, A1 Steak Sauce is not the same as HP. A1 Steak Sauce is about as similar to HP Sauce as hitting yourself in the head with an axe is to cricket.

This is a minor irritant rather than a complaint, but the HP-cident led me to consider things that I would miss about London.

Family and friends aside, it seemed that things like the tube system, my season ticket at Tottenham Hotspur, the ready availability of chicken jalfrezi or a decent shepherd’s pie and the chance to watch television without adverts every three minutes would leave a big hole in my life.

And I am certainly not alone in wanting to have my home comforts.

Without wishing to name and shame anyone I am friends with, there is a professor who has lived in the UK for a number of years and spends “excess pounds on overpriced, imported American food” that she can’t live without and admits that she brings back “two suitcases full of cereal, brownie mixes and other tripe every visit.” I know (got married to….) someone who on one visit home to Bermuda was charged over $150 in excess luggage due to the amount of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup in her suitcase – a product unavailable in the UK but a staple here in Boston.

Familiar food related cravings are not the only cultural differences that bring our new “home” into sharp focus.

The chance to spend some time in another culture actually makes the appreciation of our own country more intense.

  A friend of mine from New Zealand who has lived in England and is currently in Fiji admits that “Something which surprised me when I lived in the UK was that it made me realise what it meant to be a New Zealander. The experience of living away from NZ sharpened my sense of identity.” He had never thought about it previously and was surprised by his sense of patriotism, and it is something that I can relate to as I am awaiting the arrival of my new England shirt.

Tricia Nesti (US Citizen), spent a semester in London in 2007 and admits that she “still looks the other way when crossing the street” and that “the easy access to public transportation and the ability to go from country to country in Europe” meant that she actually had a desire to not go home. She also gained a historical perspective of Europe, adding that “here (the USA) old is 150 years. When I visited Cambridge, I stayed in a room that was 300 years old” but it was the discovery that we apparently have different cream cheese that really blew her mind. She has now moved to Nottingham for two years (ironic as she will now be able to get decent curry whilst I still haven’t found anything worthy of the name here in Boston).

What about Globalization? The Homogenous appearance of Pop Culture and Society?

There are constant complaints that everything is the same and that individual identity has been replaced by corporate logos. Food companies such as Subway, Starbucks and, of course, McDonalds have become symbols of the availability of the same product in whatever country you visit or reside in. Everywhere you look the Nike ‘Swoosh’ seems to be the clothing of choice, television stations show the same programmes and sports teams such as Manchester United and the New York Yankees are able to sell their merchandise to people who have never seen them play in the flesh.

Does the increased availability of exported and imported cultures satisfy the human desire for familiarity?

If you have made the decision to live abroad, there will obviously be differences to what you have become used to, but if everything was really the same, there would be no point in leaving.

Who wouldn’t want the chance to explore strange new worlds, To seek out new life and new civilizations, To boldly go where …..probably quite a lot of people have gone before (but you get the general idea).

That is one of the reasons why this Londoner has decided to come to the USA and experience life on the other side of the pond, basing myself in TRB (Temporary Residence Boston).

I may struggle to find a decent brown sauce but I will be able to watch baseball at Fenway Park (next season….) or ice hockey at the TD Banknorth Garden, eat at The Cheesecake Factory and watch movies at least three months before my friends in the UK. 

I am also fortunate that I have arrived in the US of A at a time of social change and economic uncertainty as nothing focuses the mind more than adapting to a whole new way of thinking about things previously taken for granted!

And thanks to the vision of Rupert Murdoch, I will not miss a single game of football. What am I thinking….it’s called soccer.




2 responses

17 10 2009

Awesome blog!

I thought about starting my own blog too but I’m just too lazy so, I guess Ill just have to keep checking yours out.

6 11 2009
tony b

A1 steak sauce at Fortnum and Mason in London is £6.99 about $11.50. HP sauce is £0.75/$1.25. Nuff said!

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