What is the same, and what’s different in the UK

I must confess, one of the things I was most nervous about in moving to the UK was where I’d find my brands – mostly in relation to cosmetics. As it turns out, that’s been one of the easier areas.  Let me describe what’s the same here, and what’s different from life in the U.S.

1. Cosmetics and toiletries

I had heard that it can be tough to find American brands of makeup, shampoos, etc in the UK.  This has turned out to be no problem! I found everything I used in U.S. here with the exception of deodorant; they do have the brand (Dove for Men), but for some reason, sprays and roll-ons are the thing here, and I like the stick kind. I tried one from Nivea instead and actually really like it. And I smell like a lady again!  No problem on face wash (Biore), shampoo/conditioner (Herbal Essences or Dove), toothpaste (Sensodyne) or tampons (Tampax.)

One advantage here is that you find the full range of Nivea products here – in the U.S. you’d usually see body wash, lotions, and lip gloss.  Here they also have deodorant, a full line of facial products, and sunscreen.  I love Nivea.  In addition to the deodorant, I have their body wash, lotion and night cream.  I may be switching to their day cream when mine runs out because while I can get it here, it’s insanely expensive (Murad.) I’ve also heard good things about Boots’ line of products, so I’ll report back when I’ve tried those out.

2. Clothing and shoes

The stores I recognize: Gap, H&M, Forever 21 (not that I shop there), Topshop, Zara.  I have also seen a Sketchers store, some higher end designer stuff I wouldn’t have shopped in the U.S., and familiar makeup brands like Bare Minerals.   We also have a Costco.  Everything else is new, including all the department stores (JC Penney, I miss you. And Target!)

The purchases I’ve made in these categories so far: a raincoat with hoodie (Costco), a big black bag for hauling my lunch and extra sweater to work (Primark), a pair of boots, and two more on the way (New Look), and a bunch of smaller accessories at Primark.  And two cheapie necklaces at H&M.

I haven’t actually tried to buy clothes yet; I am still not sure who has decent quality and prices (H&M, F21, Primark all seem cheaply made; Topshop and Zara are expensive.  I’m not feeling Gap’s normcore campaign at the moment.) Anyone do any clothing shopping in the UK and have tips for me?

3. Groceries

Again, other than Costco, I don’t know any of the brands, though I’ve heard of Tesco (thanks, Lily Allen.)  Just on the main road behind our flat, we have three mini-grocery stores, three ethnic delis, and a couple convenience stores.  Still, I like to take the subway ride over to a bigger grocery store, since I like to have choices.

Again, there’s issues with brands – there are more Heinz things here than I ever saw in the U.S., though that might just be a regional thing – soups, canned vegetables, etc.  Pickles here are terrible.  They have a really good brand of gluten-free bread called Genius; not sure if it’s sold in the U.S. but I don’t remember seeing it.  The “Mexican food” aisle (shelf) is usually just kits from Old El Paso, though I did manage to find their salsa once.  Even Lupe Pinto’s has a kind of crummy salsa selection.  Things like refried beans and corn tortillas/tortilla chips have to be purchased at Lupe Pinto’s too, you can get flour tortillas in stores (they call them wraps) but I can’t eat those.  Apparently they don’t have graham crackers in Scotland.

4. Restaurants

As you’d expect, you’ll see the usual fast food suspects here – McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, KFC, Pizza Hut and Domino’s.  The only chain sit-down restaurant I’ve seen is TGI Friday’s.  No Taco Bell and no Red Robin, which is a bummer.  I usually don’t know enough to know what is a chain here, other than Pizza Express (which has a great range of options for gluten-free people.) Starbucks everywhere.  Which brings us to…

5. Coffee

Sad to report, Keurig has not gotten big here (probably because of all the trash it generates.) There are other pod-based machines but they are expensive.  I’ve seen regular coffee makers, but they seem to be less common as well. What is popular is instant coffee.  As a result, it’s not quite as bad as in the U.S.  I’ve been making an instant coffee “mocha” every day (instant coffee + hot cocoa mix + hot water + milk) that is pretty tolerable.  I miss my Keurig.

I’m going to leave you with this abomination I saw at the grocery store (and did not purchase):

Hot dogs in a jar and in a CAN.  No, I did not purchase them.
Hot dogs in a jar and in a CAN.  ETA: that’s actually a can printed to look like a jar.  Just hot dogs in cans.

One thought on “What is the same, and what’s different in the UK

  1. Hello T!
    Yes, many more Nivea products in the UK… I like Nivea too. Boots is/are good… both kinds…for your feet and the chemist! Tough to shop when all the packaging is unfamiliar… I remember that coming to the US. You might try Marks and Spencer for an equivalent (or higher end) JCP… That’s if they are in Glasgow. By the way, my sister and her husband say that the Glaswegian dialect is the most impossible to understand out of all the Scottish dialects! Still warm days in ABQ but a few chilly mornings…as for the tinned hot dogs, fish and chips are likely a better bet!

    Liked by 1 person

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