2 weeks in the UK already, and as usual, being a traveller that just passes through, I have lots of generalisations to make about it:
1) Microwaved Food Culture
No wonder they have people like Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver. I mean, it's not surprising that you need heroes to save the country from bad food considering the easy-to-cook microwaveable nonsense stocked in the aisles of supermarkets. Some of these boxed foods are actually pretty cheap, and it's not that hard to find boxes for below a pound (S$2.25).
I confess to being rather enamoured by them at first. What’s not to like? You don’t spend too much more as compared to buying the ingredients separately and cooking it yourself, plus this saves all the effort. Just remove the paper packaging, pierce holes in the film lid and pop the entire thing into the microwave and voila! Cottage pie is ready for dinner.
But I think I kind of overdid it. After ten consecutive days of popping stuff into the microwave, I have gotten quite sick of it. The food has started to taste more and more terrible, and the very smell of the preservatives-laden food is beginning to induce nauseating reactions in me.
I swear especially never to eat TESCO’s frozen chicken pies again.
2) Drinking Culture
In Singapore, when we want to hang out, we generally have a variety of things to do that does not involve alcohol. Not in the UK, though. Several conversations with new friends I made here revealed that drinking is very much a part of the British culture. They admitted that drinking is actually a pretty serious problem in the UK. In most cases, hanging out with friends = drinking. They really don’t do much of anything else, like watching movies, going shopping, going to chalets (sorry, no good sunny weather), going to eat cheap hawker food (because there’s none here), staying over at friends’ house, playing mahjong, eating buffets, singing karaoke, blah blah blah… Well, yeah, you get my point. In Britain, its just drinking and drinking and getting drunk every Friday and Saturday night. I know some people in Singapore do that too, but by far the majority can’t afford to spend so much on liquor what with the heavy excise taxes and all. Plus, its not in our culture to get drunk whenever we meet friends. And of course, we don’t have as many good beers and pubs as the UK.
3) Organisations Love to Act Virtuous
Maybe its more of a Western thing than specifically a British characteristic, but I’ve noticed that shops and restaurants here love playing up their green credentials. All the major supermarkets can’t help but print large messages on their plastic bags advertising that its made from 30% recycled plastic, and exhorting shoppers to reuse the bags. And everything from fruits to coffee gets a ‘organic’ and ‘fairtrade’ label saying that they procured the good in question from ethical sources which help to build and not exploit local communities. And of course, all the charity shops doing a huge business of getting people to donate by spending with them.
I get the impression that Britain is really into ethical, green, charitable stuff. Why then, is there still so much litter on the streets, and people not sort out their garbage? Food for thought, just don’t let it be microwaved food…
Note: Every country is unique and has their own quirks and peculiarities. I hate classifying them based on stereotypes, but sometimes I just can’t help doing so. Take it with a pinch of salt!