Things British Expats Miss: Food

Things British Expats Miss

Whenever a group of British expats get together the conversation always ends up leading to the same subject; what products and tasty treats do you miss from England? Everyone has at least one thing that they miss, something that they can’t find here in The Netherlands or something that simply does not compare to its British counterpart. This usually involves childhood favourites, items for special occasions or just something that is considered quintessentially British. It’s the kind of conversation that leads to me browsing the British Corner Shop website at two in the morning, while trying to resist the urge to lick the screen.

So when the British Corner Shop actually contacted me a few days ago and asked if I would be interested in receiving a free selection of their items I was not able to say yes fast enough. Of course I would love to receive a free care package from home… But what items to get? I started thinking about all those conversations I’d had with other British expats and asked myself the same question; what are the things British Expats miss the most when they are living abroad?

Things British Expats Miss: Food

Proper Tea:

Tea is more than just an important part of British life. It ‘is’ British life. A lot of the things that we have achieved as a country would have been impossible without our unique ability to solve any crisis with ‘a nice cup of tea’.

Once a British person has chosen their favourite brand of tea they will stick with it for life with a devotion not seen in most marriages. In fact, if you believe in such things it is possible to say that ‘you don’t choose the tea, the tea chooses you’. That is why sometimes only a British brand of tea bag will do.

This might also explain why my Dad sometimes carries around a pocket full of his own favourite brand of tea bags when visiting The Netherlands and sneakily switches them with whatever tea bag he has been given.

Nice Biscuits:

The British love a good biscuit almost as much as they love a good cup of tea. This is possibly because of the important role the biscuit plays within the tea drinking experience. The Dutch might melt their stroopwafels above their coffee cups but we Brits have a proud tradition of dunking. A good host always offers a packet of biscuits to their guests for tea dunking purposes.

The category of biscuit is very important too. There are two main options: Basic biscuits (such as Digestives and Rich Tea Biscuits) or what is sometimes referred to as ‘the fancy biscuits’ (such as Chocolate Digestives, Jammie Dodgers, Bonbons, etc). The biscuits you choose to serve can tell your guests a lot about you and what you think of them. Likewise, the way your guest reacts to an offer of biscuits can tell you a lot about them. For example, a good guest always politely refuses at least once before accepting a biscuit. It’s traditional.

Crisps:

In England no school pack lunch or visit to the pub would be complete without a packet of crisps. The Dutch might be very adventures with their flavours (paprika, bolognaise, etc) but for some reason they have never fully embrace the good old British salt and vinegar or cheese and onion crisps and that is a shame.

It’s not just these two flavours that a lot of Brits miss either. Britain has a proud tradition of novelty crisps that have never quite made it to Holland; Monster Munch, Quavers, Skips, Wotsits, Hula Hoops, Squares, Space Raiders and (one of my personal favourites) Frazzles which are technically more like real bacon than Dutch bacon.

Bacon:

Yes, technically the Dutch have bacon but it is not bacon as we Brits know it. To us bacon is not bacon unless it is thick with streaks of fat in it. However, to the Dutch bacon is not bacon unless it is sliced as thin as possible and can be mistaken for sandwich meat. Neither side will ever truly agree on which one is correct (even though we all know it is the British thick bacon). It’s one of the things British expats miss the most.

Out of desperation I once tried to make British bacon by frying a whole pack of Dutch bacon together into a single block… It didn’t work.

Mints:

The Dutch have some very good mints but I’m talking specifically about Polos; the mint with the hole. Until they have tried them I don’t think the Dutch are able to fully understand why anyone would want a mint with a bit missing from it. Surely it must be broken. It’s certainly not value for money. They simply don’t understand the joy of being able to put the tip of your tongue through the hole in the middle or seeing how thin you can get it before it breaks.

My Dutch wife was very easily converted to ‘the mint with the hole’. In fact, as soon as she heard that I would be receiving a package from the British Corner Shop her first reaction was to shout, “Get Polos!!”

Chocolate:

Anyone who grew up in England will know that Cadbury is the one true chocolate to rule them all. There is not much more that can be said on the subject.

Honourable Mentions:

Other things British Expats miss when living in another country include; Yorkshire Pudding, Clotted Cream, Branston Pickle, Mr Kipling (who makes exceedingly good cakes), Bisto gravy, Heinz Baked Beans and anything else made by Heinz.

Is there anything I missed from the list? Did I make the right choices? What food do you miss the most from your country? Do you think there are other things British expats miss?

Shopping

If you are a British expat and have never tried out The British Corner Shop you really should. They have everything you might miss from back home. Just try not to drool on your keyboard too much while browsing (as I did).

17 responses to “Things British Expats Miss: Food”

  1. Gez says:

    Mmmmmm. Food :)
    I must say there’s a lot of ‘food snobbery’ going on in our local expat group, and I seem to be unaffected by it all. Tea – I’ll drink Pickwick English Breakfast tea, and must say have come to prefer the flavour over some of the more well known UK brands. And I find Verkade chocolate digestives almost every bit as good as McVitie’s. I certainly can’t justify spending the extra cash to order specific UK brands when the local stuff tastes almost as good for way less.
    Bacon: the local AH does bacon I find good enough for doing the occasional English breakfast. It’s not the usual wafer thin stuff, but I do know some people prefer their bacon to be almost as thick as gammon, so horses for courses. The thin stuff actually comes into its own when making bacon pancakes (with the bacon fried IN the pancake, not added as a topping).
    Lidl occasionally runs an ‘English week’, and the cherry bakewells they get in certainly make the grade – almost a Mr Kipling level, and way better than the Tesco own-brand we picked up last time we were in the UK (Never again!).
    However, I have opened my other half’s eyes to the wonders of the Frey Bentos pie. We’ll usually bring a couple each back with us when we fly over to my parents, but last time we drove instead, so had the room for somewhere between 15-20 pies on the way back. And what’s better is some came from Poundland, so dirt cheap too :)
    She’s also a fan of thick soups, which other than erwten- and bruinebonensoep you don’t really get over here. So we brought back a healthy stock of those as well, in various flavours :)
    Oh, and whether you self-bake them or packet mix them, scones aren’t somplete without clotted cream, which thankfully seems readily available from Jumbo supermarkets. Just look in the cheese section, not the milk/cream fridges!

    • Annette says:

      Albert Heijn indeed does something that resembles British bacon, it’s called bakbacon. Only thing really off is the shape, which according to my boyfriend is an important part of the experience.
      My Albert Heijn (XL) in Zaandam also does clotted cream, but it is very expensive (3euro’s?) and sadly we don’t have a Jumbo nearby.
      Another good place to go to if you’re in the neighbourhood is ‘a taste from home’ in Haarlem, run by an Irish bloke who branched out from his Irish pub. There is a surprising amount of expats in Haarlem, which is most noticable when rugby is on and there probably was enough demand to open a shop. They do have a website as well http://www.atastefromhome.nl
      But the best thing still seems to be stocking up in Britain. My boyfriend is counting down the days until he can pick up his 240bags of Yorkshire tea in a weeks time. That and pork pies.

  2. Ashley says:

    You’ve missed Cheddar cheese! I make a run into Amsterdam every couple of months to resupply at M&S. The insipid orange stuff they sell at Albert Heijn is not cheddar. I don’t know what it is but I suspect it is Gouda with some sort of artificial cheddar essence added.

    • Sam says:

      Cheddar cheese is available at the cheese counter in the Jumbo. It’s a small block for 3 euro but it’s worth it to eat a proper jacket potato :)

  3. Joan says:

    You can get British back bacon in pack at Emte and of course we have Marks and Spencer in Den Haag. As a Scot living in Brabant near the German border at trip there is a luxury but if anyone is near its worth noting that if you go later on in the afternoon they slash prices of some of their fresh produce. They do good bacon and black pudding to name but a few tasty treats. Also a tip for after Christmas, they slash the price of their Christmas crackers so its worth buying for next year. As a Scot I miss oatcakes, broth mix and the other day I almost shouted out loud in Lidl when I found a swede (neep for my fellow Scots) which here seems to be a veg from the past. I also found a British shop in Den Haag. A bit small pricey but they had a good selection. It’s a bit sad when you get excited seeing a bag of Wheat Crunchies or a Chocolate Orange! If your near Germany they do Cathedral city cheddar at Edeka. The list is endless of stuff I miss but visitors always get a list to take over.

  4. While living in France, I’ve come to realize that I have relatively “un-American” tastebuds since I rarely find myself craving most processed cakes/candies from back home. That being said, I certainly do occasionally get a hankering for proper burgers and brownies (which I have since learned to make) and Cuban cuisine. I make it a point to fill my suitcase with at least 4 packets of Cuban coffee every year.

    By the way, I bow down to the excellence that is British bacon. I’m one of those rare Americans who has hated crispy bacon strips ever since childhood, and it wasn’t until I went to the British Isles that I genuinely enjoyed eating bacon. :)

  5. (Bo)Jan says:

    The British tea certainly is British, but I’ve recently discovered the Simon Levelt shops and I won’t think about any other kind of tea until I have tried everything they have there! (No, this is not a sponsored answer.)

    About the mints with a hole – they used to produce them unce upon a time in my home country (Serbia). Then they stopped, and argued that the holes were there only because they had an obsolete machine that required the hole in the mold. I guess Brits are more into tradition :)

  6. Colleen hindle says:

    after living in amsterdam for 25 years, now back in the UK, I miss so many dutch delights, not easily available here. The various salades to put on toasts, cold meats, leverwurst, bitterballen, haring, kibling, krokketen, etc etc. And the Indonesian tokos!!!!!!

  7. Kirsty Shaw says:

    Where do I even start….. We regularly indulge in a “food-porn” session in my office, as I work with several ex-pats. It works well and if someone is coming over form the UK the rule is they have to bring something for the team. This is usually tea!

    I would add:
    Heinz Cream of Tomato soup
    Covent Garden Thick Soups…. any soup really!
    A good loaf of Hovis white bread – for the bacon sarnies
    The range of pork sausages available from supermarkets… oh how I miss the sausages!
    A roast dinner… with all the trimmings! Think Christ

  8. William says:

    Here in America, we have Life Savers, instead of Polos:

    http://content.etilize.com/images/900/1026668156.jpg

    They come in mint flavors, but also fruit flavors. Called life Savers because of their shape.

  9. William says:

    Here in America, we have Life Savers, instead of Polos:

    http://content.etilize.com/images/900/1026668156.jpg

    They come in mint flavors, but also fruit flavors. Called life Savers because of their shape.

  10. KAREN VOGELSANG says:

    Marmite!

  11. Nynke says:

    Cadbury’s Chocolate Orange. The only Cadbury chocolate worth eating, imhDutcho.

  12. Claire says:

    Yeah! Polos and cadburry!!

  13. Adrian says:

    It’s funny that most of people traveling totally forget about their home foods and treats and jump into the local culture while moving for a job or study in there you feel more and more the need for home “traditional” foods. It may be an excuse or not but it happens but let’s see the positive side: inviting friends over to visit and bring our favorite foods! :))

  14. Connie Wonnie says:

    Things I have problems finding: plain old breakfast tea, Cheddar, bacon, easy cook brown rice, custard powder, extra thick double cream, bicarbonate of soda, gravy mix, monster munch, cream soda and decent cough sweets (I am sure I miss a gazillion things!).

    I once could of killed my bloke for giving one of my prized cream sodas to someone in the can, for he took a sip and winced! A whole can thrown away! GRRR!!!!

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