Culture Shock at the Grocery Store

In 2014, I moved from Texas to Scotland. I fully expected to find many cultural differences between my old and new homes, but I did not anticipate experiencing true culture shock. That changed on a quick trip to the grocery store. I had a list of items to buy that I assumed were staples in every kitchen: salmon, eggs, berries, and cereal. There were no eggs in the refrigerated section; they were on a shelf near the wine. Next, I looked for salmon, but the store was out of stock. I had never seen a grocery store run out of stock of anything before. Eventually, I found the cereal next to the paper towels and learned that berries were only sold during the summer. I didn’t taste a blueberry again for eight months.

Although frustrating at the time, I now see that shopping in a grocery store in a different country is part of the cultural immersion experience. Discovering how to meal plan and buy and prepare food in a new country can teach you more about a culture than all of its museums combined. Food is a central part of many cultures, and the table is where you find the day-to-day life of a local.

Wonder Voyage adds this element of cultural immersion to nearly every trip by having the participants prepare a meal using a local grocery store at their destination. It can be disorienting and stressful, but the experience is invaluable and each participant walks away with a new appreciation of what it takes to put a meal on the table in that part of the world.

Next time you travel to a new city or country, I challenge you to shop in a local grocery store. Cook a meal with the ingredients you find. Dive into the unknown and discover new flavors and foods. Invite new people to your table to share in the meal. By entering into this shared experience, you will connect with a culture on a deep, meaningful level.

Coeli Lawhead is the daughter of Shawn Small, founder of Wonder Voyage. Traveling as a child is gave her an insatiable desire to continuing exploring the world. She loves to read and write and currently works as a freelance editor in Dallas, TX.

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