Thursday, March 31, 2005

A nation's priorities

I'm a firm believer in learning about a people and their culture through the small things. Sure the French are whiney smokers and Americans obese capitalists, but these are such easy stereotypes. What you need to look for are the details which reveal just a little bit more about each country. I find the grocery store aisles to be particularly revealing of a nation's priorities. The French, for example, have a rather large yogurt aisle which normally runs into or is found across from the dairy section. The yogurt selection ranges from organic basic yogurt to fruity milk products with only traces of yogurt. But any point on the spectrum tastes better than its equivalent in the US. (the same goes for chocolate which represents a rather large wall at the grocer's.) The dairy section is, as you can imagine, mostly cheese. But oh what a selection! It sure beats Velveeta or Cheez Whiz!

By the way, if you're ever in the French supermarket Monoprix, the toilet paper is by the wine, coke and water, it's not by the facial tissues and diapers. Must be an essentials vs non-essentials thing.

On the other hand, American supermarkets are dominated by the cereal aisle. Have you ever seen such a sight? What choice! Americans clearly take their cereal seriously. Unfortunately, the majority of them are simply colored crunchy sugar. French cereal (which normally occupy less space than the chocolates) ranges from sweet granola to chocolate versions of every other major cereal grain (oats, rice, corn, etc.) This comes, undoubtedly, from the rich French heritage of a bowl of hot chocolate for breakfast. The Marshall Plan introduced breakfast cereals to the Europeans. I guess the chocolate versions was their way of making it "French."


At 01:13, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One should also point out the chocolate/frozen pizza disparity. America is all frozen pizza and maybe two chocolate choices, unless your at a co-op then you have maybe five choices of chocolate. France on the other hand is all about chocolate and you'd be lucky to find two choices of pizza.

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