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To the shops … with questions

Whole FoodsAnd welcome to Whole Foods, Charleston (At 923 Houston Northcutt Blvd, Mount Pleasant, Charleston).

It’s not a run-of-the-mill supermarket, but instead does a lot of speciality foods, and thus I figured it would be a good place to look to see if they had any imported British stuff – and they did!

Unfortunately, nothing on my great list that I wanted, but they did have enough things to make me think that if worst came to the worst then I could at least go and buy some PG Tips – albeit at about three times the price that I’d usually expect to pay for them.

Amusingly, they were in the ‘ethnic’ food aisle along with Asian, Thai, Kosher and Macrobiotic food, but some GB stuff was there – Marmite (no Bovril), HP Sauce, Sarons Vinegar, Batchelors Beans (not Heinz!), Colemans Mustard, PG Tips and Typhoo tea. Even McVitities Digestives biscuits too! Yum.

But I didn’t buy anything … nope, I just flagged it as a future potential buying spot, and instead I found myself down at the cold meats counter loading up on slices of local honey cured ham.

The very friendly Betty serving there chatted to me as if I was an old old friend. How long had I been in Charleston? What was I doing here? Etc … oh, and a couple of slices of ham for you sir – there you go.

Onto the checkout to pay, where the equally friendly David chit-chatted away, and was suprised that I was happy to pack my own bags. “Most people expect me to do it!” he said “I have to scan all their stuff and pack their food for them”. “Well I could hang around for half an hour and pack for you if you like!” I joked – I think he might have taken me seriously for a moment. Either way .. friendly.

Which is the bizarre thing. Very bizarre.

Talk to a complete stranger in a shop – totally friendly. What – just because they want your business?

And yet … get introduced by Leigh to one of her friends/colleagues, and they make the tinest of small talk and then completely ignore you. Oh thanks a fucking lot, that’s charming isn’t it?

It’s happened a couple of times now. We’ve been out somewhere with some people and met someone, and they meet me. Someone who knows who I am. Someone who I know Leigh has previously told them about me.

Someone who therefore knows that I’ve packed up home, left a great job behind, moved 4,000 miles, put myself through all sorts of pressure and stress to get here, have got engaged and am getting married, and yet – and yet – they make the tiniest of smalltalk, and then ignore me not asking one decent question.

And I’m like … what? Can you think of nothing to say? Are you afraid of me? Are you anti-British? What? What is it? And it’s shite. Really shite.

It turns out though it’s not just me either. We talk about it – and I find out that Leigh felt the same at somepoints when she was over in England at Easter.

iBlog USAThere she is, about to whisk me away from all my friends, family, off to another country for a long time, and some people couldn’t be bothered to ask even anything vaguely interesting. People who knew about her, knew what was going on, but made absolute idle chit-chat and small talk. I’m not saying that everyone did it (and i’m not saying that everyone here does it too), but it’s happened to both of us now in each others environments, and it just seems strange.

Why? Why do people do that? Did people not believe that I was about to leave? Do people here now not really believe that I am staying? Or can they just simply not think of anything to say because they think that there’s some weird cultural divide?

For goodness sake, just talk people … talk and ask questions and let the conversation flow. And you’ll find that the two nations aren’t so divided after all.

Oh, and I made myself a shiny new iBlogUSA logo too, you’ve probably noticed.

41 responses to “To the shops … with questions”

  1. zuzula says:

    hmm, i think it’s less of a cultural divide and more because it’s just always a bit awkward meeting friends/colleagues’ other halves for the first time. Because while you know your friend/colleague very well, you’ve not really seen them as part of their new couple. Also you don’t know what they know about you, they don’t know what you know about them, which is a bit of a headfuck!

    Glad you’ve tracked down marmite and PG Tips. We still send my uncle salad cream because he’s not found a nice equivalent in the US yet!

  2. Jono says:

    I can’t speak for those you now walk amongst, but when Leigh was here I imagine most people didn’t want to bombard her with personal questions. We don’t like to make things awkward, after all. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.

    As for how the Americans treat you, try being less British and just jumping into the conversation. I remember being sat in a bar in San Francisco, cringing as a fellow Brit demonstrated that speaking at the top of your voice would attract no attention whatsoever, in stark contrast to how the same behaviour would be received in your average UK pub. OK, excluding Wetherspoons from that.

  3. Skarlett says:

    I’ve had the same expierence as Leigh when I’m introduced to Colin’s coworkers and some of his friends.
    I have always taken it as most Brits aren’t as outgoing as I am.
    When Colin is here, most of my friends are quiet around him, and I take that as they’re not sure whats ok to talk about, and they are still shocked that I’m actually engaged.
    The person I’m engaged too being there only intensifies the shock.

    I generally find that people in the south, or from the south or more outgoing and talkative than the rest of the U.S.

    Also, don’t be surprised if women you’ve never met call you Hon or Sweetie.
    I still find myself doing that.

  4. Because it’s a bit weird. Your friends have spent 5+ years or whatever talking to you as you are – and then suddenly there you are with the love of your life. Normally you’d be talking about that hilarious time you mixed up a sheep’s carcass with marmite and nipple clamps with hilarious results – but they don’t know what’s acceptable and not acceptable to your new partner – and they don’t want to rock the boat understandably. So stick to the small talk.

    How to get around it? The partner aka “newcomer” should gabble away, talk like an eejit. That way, the “old gang” should be able to figure out where the partner is coming from, what they think, how they feel and gradually get into the gang.

    If this ever works, I’ll let you know.

  5. Paul says:

    Firstly, I can’t believe you took your digital camera when you went to the supermarket, I must remember to do that the next time I go to Sainsburys!

    In response to your post, most bizarre. In my experience, meeting new Deaf people they make sure everyone is included and talking, so I’d put it down to us Hearies being a bunch of ignorant twats!

  6. Hey! I asked her how she would grade a cheese! What more do you want?

    But my friends’ friends aren’t necessarily my friends. My partner’s friends aren’t necessarily my friends.

    [ie: Remember what I told you.]

  7. daniel says:

    This is truly a mystery. I’ve noticed it too. yes, you’re right about the way Southerners act toward strangers in predictable encounters (check-out lines, passing non-commitally, etc.), but there is a stand-offishness that doesn’t isn’t often remarked upon, and it seems to take place in social settings where one might conceivably hold a longer, more meaningful conversation.

    I think it has something to do with enforcing some unspoken social pecking order.

    Were the friends in question young professionals, childless and moving within an established circle?

  8. Bob Hannent says:

    Last year I went to Greece to spend time with my girlfriend in her native Greece. After a touristic stop in the romantic Santorini we went to stay at her sister’s flat in Crete (amazingly her sister and sister’s bf moved out while we stayed in their place!).

    I was taken out and introduced to all the interesting and important young players in Crete, and I felt well received despite being quite British. It could just be that when I am in an unfamilure place I naturally tend to be quite open. It is a reaction to ensure I am not isolated, but it is probably also that the Greeks are naturally very open, curious and friendly people.

    Same thing applies to visits to friends in Poland previously. I don’t think your a shy one, as when you are comfortable, Geoff, I’ve seen you randomly jump on strangers and talk to them. No idea what it is you had then…

  9. Chich says:

    Bloody hell Geoff, didn’t realise you’d gone and got yourself engaged! The stuff i missed whilst i was in Australia with 6 other women….Just comes as such a shock and means i’ve got a load of backlog of blog reading to do. Not gonna say anything more until I’ve had a read to understand what the hell has gone on. Sending a hug to Leigh and congratulations to both of you (Yeah Geoff you know I’m that soft lol). Speak soon

  10. Rob(Geoff's brother-in-law) says:


  11. Let me comment on this as both a native Californian and transplanted Hawaiian. And as someone who visited England recently as well.

    I think this experience is somewhat cultural, as well as personal…that is..completely dependent on the individual personalities involved.

    When I was in England last year, I found everyone very friendly and outgoing, in that British sort of way. The night we went to dinner at the curry place, I was the newcomer and all at our table were very welcoming, friendly, engaging and witty with me. I never felt left out of anything. In general you folks on the Continent are well versed in the art of conversation, something sadly lost on most Yanks. I ate it up!

    Maybe this person who slighted you is kind of a boor anyway and you are just experiencing what an ordinary fiancι would experience, British or American. However, that being said, Americans are a different lot, and many are quite self-centered and only into conversation that’s all about them.

    In Hawaii, EVERYONE (almost) is friendly to everyone, friend or stranger. We call it the aloha spirit. It’s something that’s perhaps a holdover from the steamship days of the 19th Century. In California, in contrast, there’s so much ‘stimulation’ all over that somehow that personalized feeling is lost. So you may find that whereever you travel to Stateside, you’ll encounter this overly ‘familar’ (as you once called it) “American’ gregariousness. One day to our shock, you might have changed into ‘gregarious’ yourself.

    Tetley is a better tea than Yorkshire or PG Tips. Very cheap at Sainsbury’s–that’s why I bought lots!

    Love the logo!

  12. James (510) says:

    6 – I almost always have my digital camera with me, just because its so tiny. I was out last Friday and got a fantastic photo of some poor sod’s burst radiator, steam jets and all. I probably wouldn’t take a D50 with me though!

  13. Tower Block Tina says:

    Think you should just hang on in there Geoff, people are just not sure of you. It’s like when you start a new job, and everyone circles round you for a few weeks not sure if you’ll fit in. You have to serve your ‘apprenticeship’ within the organisation or social situation. They see you as an intruder, a threat maybe to their well-ordered group.

    Beware of those who are too friendly at first,it could be false. Better to keep cool and let things build up gradually. Just be nice and pleasant, and they will come round and gradually accept you. You need to get their confidence. (If not then both find some new friends.)

  14. Amy says:

    You’ll fit in soon enough with the fiances gang. No doubt they have to check you out, deem you worthy. You will be fine in no time πŸ™‚

  15. Neil says:

    HP Sauce?! Marmite?! PG Tips?!

    My kind of shop!

  16. Chz says:

    My personal experience in the States is that Southerners are more outwardly friendly (extremely so!), but more difficult to to actually “get in with”, as it were. Whereas the Yanks (in the US sense – north-easterners) are more likely to completely ignore you in a casual environment, but warm up very quickly in a social setting. Cultural differences.

  17. geofftech says:

    #6 – Paul, first rule of having a non-text-only blog : Take your camera with you everywhere. everywhere. you take your eyes with you everywhere which see things all the time, and there’s no way you can permamently record it unless you have your camera with you all the time, is there? so i always take my camera with me (my coolpix) – except for the times that I forget to, and then get really annoyed. I only take the D50 to special occassions.

    #10 – Chich, LOL! Where have you been? Engaged AND emmigrated mate.. catch up! πŸ™‚

    Back to people …

    I was in a queue (line) in Staples yesterday and Leigh got told by the lady in front of me (who i was being polite and chatty to), that I was “A keeper”. but if I’d of met her in a social situation, and not at the checkout of a shop, I wonder whether she would be so chatty to me or not.

    everything that everyone says here makes sense (thanks for some of the longest and most intellectually constructive comments that I’ve had for some time!) and know that it’s just a matter of time and settling in. so i’ll get there .. eventually .. just needs a little time.

  18. Paul says:

    Thank you for your advice oh wise one, I might get a cheap 2 or 3 MP camera for such occasions. Or I guess I could use my N70 phone, but I still haven’t properly checked out the quality on it.

  19. Rob(Geoff's brother-in-law) says:

    #18….Oh, sorry! I’ll come back with something, long, sensitive, & a teensy bit patronising(like some of the other comments). In the meantime…..chin-up, eh! I’ll get me coat…………………!

  20. Ciaran says:

    Geoff, face it mate. Nobody likes you. We are having a celebration at work now you’ve buggered off and the general consensus is “thank fuck that prick has fucked off”.
    Thats what you get for supporting spurs!

    Only joking mate.

    Its not really waht you get for supporting spurs πŸ™‚

  21. Fimb says:

    Personally, as a rule, the first time I meet a friends new girl / boyfriend, I am pretty terrified of them.. and so probably only make small talk, in an effort to not make them hate me too quickly! This is intensified if the friend is male and his partner female..
    Now, the only thing more terrifying than this, is meeting a new boyfriends friends.. *L* meeting the Husbands mates was probably one of the most fear inducing experiences of my life.

    #19 – I have a 2megapixel camera on my phone which is fab, and a little tiny 5megapixel camera that I carry at all times I have my handbag.. You never know when a photo will need taking!

  22. #22 You assume that Paul is the sort of man who carries a handbag.

  23. Andrew says:

    #23 – Talking of which, have a look at Diamond Geezer yesterday!

  24. Paul says:

    #23 … dam my secret is out!

  25. Paul says:

    i meant #22 … doh … i guess i should start calling myself Emily Howard. Is this a ladies blog?

  26. Paul, when I feel the need for a ladies camera, for taking photos of flowers and things, I like the Panasonic LZ2, available off she-bay for around £100 as it’s now discontinued. It doesn’t come in pink, but it’s only a small disadvantage

  27. 21. Damned funny comment Ciaran! Didn’t I meet you the night I got the nightshift tour of the BBC?

    27. Ian…I think all those girls you live with are getting you properly trained.

  28. Amy says:

    Hmm, thinking all of those products are readily available in Canada Geoff. Maybe we Canadian’s are more in tune with the finicky needs of a transplanted Brit πŸ˜‰

  29. Paul says:

    Of course, I could just be a tight arse and ask anyone I know if they have an old digital camera they don’t use anymore. Its a real good idea and I guess Geoff was right, “you take your eyes with you…” etc etc … so does anybody have a ladies camera for taking ladies photos, of flowers and animals and pretty dresses … and shit.

  30. going underground says:


    I know you have a sweet tooth and whenever our friends visit the states we
    always get them to bring back See’s Candies peanut brittle
    Trust me this IS delicious probably one of the best sweets / candy
    I have ever tasted, although I know this isn’t readily available everywhere
    across the pond…If you find it please let me know and send me a box!!

  31. A scouse fella (you know the one) says:

    In the Bahamas last year I had a conversation with a fella from Kentucky for about an hour about the rivets he makes; truly fascinating. Much better when he told me he liked Fox news because it was so unbiased and told the story from every perspective. I politely, in a British sort of way, chose not to challenge him, despite knowing that it is a rampant haven of Christian conservatism. Fortunately a nice old lawyer from New York piped up: Fox News, oh really, that is interesting, I’ve never really seen Fox in that light. Priceless. Maybe the colleague had some painful distractions, like piles.

  32. Richard says:

    Why not make an outrageously offensive comment to get a reaction from them?

    You’ll find this more fun after having had a few drinks…

    NB – do not use this approach on members of Leigh’s family.

  33. tami says:

    Reading your blog I decided I wanted to Lunch at Whole Foods. So off we went, my partner and I, and we get to the till and pay for sushi, soup, 2 fancy waters, a small salad (excellant toppings and choices, and a panni- TOTAL COST almost $27.00. We decided to dine in since it was so pricey. But it was some gooood!!

  34. Anthony says:

    Wow, Tami, that’s a veritable A-Z of insubstantial trendy nonsense-food!

  35. geofftech says:

    #34 – I beleive the local in joke is to call Whole Foods “Whole Paycheck” as it is that damn pricey!

    Coming soon, a shop-by-shop comparision of what supermarket USA matches what UK equivalent.

    i.e. Whole Foods = Waitrose, etc…

  36. Coco J. says:

    Geoff- In your comparison of Whole Foods vs Waitrose… does Waitrose have an “American Imports” aisle full of great American treats such as mmm graham crackers, peanut butter, fig newtons and a load of sugary cereals?

  37. Anthony says:

    And how much the equivalent stuff would actually cost to buy.

    If you want to draw up a shopping list for a supermarket by supermarket comparison I’d be happy to go to Sainsbury’s and buy the stuff, as long as it’s not much more than £15 and I’m likely to actually consume most of it!

  38. nikki says:

    We have Whole Foods but you have Waitrose and when i walked in there, I felt like I’d died and gone to heaven! The Waitrose packaging is awesome. As is The Grocer on Elgin and eating in the cafe in the basement of Marks & Spencer.

  39. nikki says:

    and ps: I took my camera to Waitrose…people got tired of my making them look at packages of mashed potatoes when they wanted to see the Queen of England or Big Ben.

  40. World News says:

    Thanks for the info.

  41. Drochrv says:



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