This is my second time visiting this stunning city and once again Budapest’s raw beauty, history, and culture completely takes my breath away as if it were my first time seeing it again. The Beautiful architecture and buildings, the lively and varied nightlife and of course the stark contrasts of scenery that can be found here in Budapest all contribute to why I’m so fond of this city and decided to spend my Erasmus here. There is not much I can fault this metropolitan with, however, there is one little thing that makes me want to return home to the comforts of and what I’m used to. And its the shopping culture and experience here in Budapest. And I don’t mean the type of shopping you see Carrie Bradshaw doing in Sex and the City with her pals or Isla Fisher in Confessions of a Shopaholic. Not at all. I’m talking about the everyday, mundane stocking up of groceries and other essentials that do day to day.
One of the first things that come to mind when I think of supermarkets, especially ones like Lidl and Aldi, are these huge shops, that are very spacious, and have a massive selection of products. When I arrived in Budapest I realised that this was not the case for the majority of shops I have visited in the city centre and they were quite small in comparison. The isles seem so tiny to me and I often find that people are banging and barging into you. Being from Ireland, with our major issue with proximity within our culture, it’s something I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get used to. I’m already uncomfortable hugging people, even my best friends, never mind strangers running into me, and I think it goes to show how even such small differences can really differentiate cultures.
Whilst supermarkets here have a massive range of certain products that you’d never see to that extent at home, such as kefir, buckets, and buckets of sour cream and isles full to the brim of processed meats, it’s baffling to me, that some other products, that I’m used to seeing and buying, are completely missing from their inventory. I’ve gone from shop to shop, and don’t think I’ve ever spent this much time trying to complete a grocery shop only to find that a lot of my favourite foods aren’t found anywhere. Not having bagels and turkey bacon for breakfast makes me want to cry and I never would have guessed how much I’d miss a good old cup of Barry’s tea.
I’m surprised by how much an aspect of life I took completely for granted, could have such a huge impact on me and how I settle into a different culture. Culture shock by food, you could say. I feel quite guilty and conflicted because I know how lucky I am to have this amazing opportunity to be able to study in a different and stunning city like Budapest and yet at the same time wish I was back at home every time I think of having to do my grocery shop. Perhaps it shows I’m just spoiled and closed minded or maybe it is something that other non-natives struggle with too? It’s hard to tell.