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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Shopping in the UK

My bud, NFAH has kindly fulfilled my request to be my guest poster today on literally 4 days notice. Short notice? No problem. "Oh and do you want a tour of the town I live in while you are at it?" she asked. To which I replied "Of course you silly cow!" (or something of that sort)... So I am actually off with her getting a tour of her town with my brother while she is posting here. It is amazing how she can be two places at once. The wonders of the internet! So without further ado....Not From Around Here or as I call her NFAH.

I have joked that in the UK, many shops are so specializes that one has to go to a banana store to find a banana. Now that was a tongue-in-cheek thing to say, but in some ways it is true. My local "high street" has a string of specialist shops, and I could go to Ryman for a printer cartridge, Lakeland for a new nonstick frying pan, Boots for lipstick, Oddbins for a bottle of wine, Next for new socks and Sainsbury's for a pint of milk. I exaggerate slightly for effect, but I would definitely say that the biggest difference between shopping in the US and the UK is the sheer number of stores I visit in the average month. In the US, I would often see only a Target and a Byerly's or Rainbow grocery store in most months; the two stores were often in the same vicinity so I could park the car once and do all my shopping in one place. I might occasionally venture out to a mall for clothes, but I did not stop off at so many small shops in the course of an average week.

I'm not meaning to imply that there are no department stores in the UK. A relatively new John Lewis superstore is within walking distance for me, and I have bought a ball gown, a purse, shoes, kitchen sponges, drain un-clogger and a coffee machine there. They even have the same sort of "Michael Graves for Target" stuff. So I'm not complaining. Just noting that on my early arrival, I had to learn to find the larger, American style one-stop-shopping stores that I was used to.

I know people could complain at this stage that I am missing the point and that I should be frequenting the multitude of mini-shops run by Britain's nation of shopkeepers instead of seeking out the "one stop shopping" options. I'm sure I would find it more amusing IF I DIDN'T HAVE A JOB. A job that requires me to actually work all day. When the little stores are open only from 10-5:30 Mon-Sat or thereabouts. It's just not practical. I do indeed finding myself taking a few hours out of the normal work day when there is an errand I need to run and it's not going to be possible in the evening or weekend. And this makes me sigh. Target was open until 10 pm seven days a week, and the grocery stores were open 24 hours in the states.

Lest I seem too despondent, let me fill you in on the shopping secret that makes Britain beautiful. Washable suits. The Next store in my neighborhood now provides all of my work clothes, and were I to move back to the US I would have to take frequent trips back to the UK to buy more clothes. The local dry-cleaning shops are open the same restrictive hours as many of the other shops, so that was never going to work with my Ann Taylor clothes or my Banana Republic suits. And my environmental self hated to dry clean anything and preferred washable clothes but I had no option in the US. Dress for work is generally more formal here, and I have no choice but to dress up in suits most days to fit in. But Next sells (Hillary-Clinton-Style) pantsuits that are fully machine washable and I love them. Especially because they are a big enough chain to stock petites, which means I can buy things and wear them straight away. At five feet tall (I have no idea what that is in meters/metres, sorry!) I need petites. And I love my new English clothes. So it is yet another case of not wrong, just different, (link iota's blog of that name) and things are sometimes better and sometimes worse in one country or the other.
Dear Everyone,
I didn't do Dear So and So... this week but if you did feel free to link up!


Chairman Bill said...

The key is what you do with the extra time shopping at a department store give you.

In days of yore the Saturday shopping trip was an event in itself.

Miss America said...

I have also found the Tesco superstore and ASDA (as loathe as I am to go in there) are pretty good for one stop shopping. In one ASDA shopping trip I did purchase bedroom slippers, butter and a cheese grater in the same trip! I totally hear you about the small specialty shops - it's very different than my beloved Target (and you mentioned Byerly's...I SOOOO miss Lund's! I used to live right up the street from one!).

Michele said...

Washable suits? I would love those. Just another reason I need to make a trip over there.

Joanie said...

I have the first link up on Mr. Linky! Cool!

I don't think I ever lived in a town where you had a lot of specialty shops like that (with the exception of a mall). Some parts of Philadelphia are like that, though. Chestnut Hill comes to mind.

Here in the States, though, those little shops usually mean higher prices too. Thank goodness for Target!

Anonymous said...

I live in a town where you only have three choices: Wal-Mart, K-Mart or Target. I miss the old High Streets and downtown areas.

mo.stoneskin said...

Along with washable suits another great thing is that they dry quickly and if you hang them right they don't need pressing. The perfect solution to all life's problems if you ask me.

Big Mama Cass said...

awww i miss your dear so and so :(

Unknown said...

This was an interesting post. I laughed out loud about the twitter and the taco bell food : ) Good luck in England. Do you love the accents?

Almost American said...

Washable suits? Another thing to add to my shopping list for my next trip to the UK! (I gave away all my dry-clean only clothes several years ago.)