back to article ‘For the love of Pete, America, learn about decent chocolate’

If it's Sunday it must be time for another instalment of The eXpat Files, our weekly chat with a fellow reader who decided to move to another country in search of adventure, career advancement, and something else to do on weekends. This week, meet Andre Ben Hamou, a Brit who moved to Los Angeles, and scored a gig at Riot Games …

  1. Fihart

    Not chocolate.

    Have to agree, but Californians (for example) just don't eat confectionery. Lots of sweet carbonated drinks, but chocolate never. In fact when in LA I discovered an English-run bakery that had actual buns and small cakes. Offered them to puzzled workmates, all refused.

    In fact, LA has English grocery stores with essential like decent tea bags, marmalade and Marmite.

    On the plus side, US has cheap champagne, cheap decent ice cream, sour-dough bread, blueberry jam, Laura Scudder peanut butter (the best PB I've ever found).

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Not chocolate.

      I lived in N.Cal for two years around the Millenium and found that there is so much other interesting stuff to snack on that I never really bothered about the crap proprietry chocolate. In all gas stations there is the wonderful although a little expensive jerky in a range of flavours. If you like crispy or well cooked bacon you will like jerky, not the same as bacon but has that delicious savoury 'want more' quality.

      Aside from that the state produces so much good wine at stupidly cheap prices that choosing can be a real problem.

      I don't know much about LA but in the North food shopping was good and there were always a few good offers on in the supermarkets mostly I think because of their buying power. Safeways in California alone was a bigger concern than the whole of the UK.

      Nowadays I dislike US international politics but the American people as individuals are still the same, warm, generous and usually willing to accept most people on their terms.

      Given a choice I would still live there although where I live in Spain is hard to beat.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Not chocolate.

        "American people as individuals are still the same, warm, generous and usually willing to accept most people on their terms"

        Until you mention you are atheist! Didn't go down well at all!

        1. Irony Deficient

          Re: Not chocolate.

          Tom 7, do you believe that there are no US atheists? Or that US atheists disapprove of atheism in other parts of the world?

          1. Tom 7 Silver badge

            Re: Not chocolate.

            I'm fully aware of US atheists - there are a lot of them but they are seriously outnumbered by the 'faithful' many of whom seem to think that if you dont believe in a sky fairy (of any kind) then you must be evil. I was even told not to apply for a job at a company I was working at (for my UK employer) because of my beliefs. Not that I had any intention of working there - I find the 'work ethic' very unproductive.

        2. Eddy Ito Silver badge

          Re: Not chocolate.

          How well atheism goes down really depends on where in the US you are. There is a huge difference between the Northeast corner of the country and the bible-belt. While working on a project for a bit near Rocket City a weekend drive through the countryside revealed there are probably more baptist churches per square mile than there are coffee shops in NYC.

          In California it seems to me that San Fran/Berkeley really don't care much about religion where LA/OC has a much higher religiosity index where it's typically only the Christians and the very few evangelical atheists that are particularly vocal about it. To be fair, the evangelical atheists have a point since many of the Christian groups are militant in suppressing other religions through either conversion, obstructing the founding of temples or intimidation*.

          *Where a gang of a dozen wannabe apostles park themselves at all corners of an intersection shouting through a bullhorn about how they have been saved from their gang member days of burglary, assault, murder, etc and I can understand how that might be intimidating in a reserved predominantly Asian community where the local command of English isn't the best. I don't find their actions intimidating since it was a busy lighted intersection but I certainly wouldn't want to meet any of them alone in a deserted parking lot or a dark alley.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Not chocolate.

            Christian Crusading state vs Islamic Jihadi state

            With the rationalists caught in the middle. As usual.

            Maybe one day we can evolve beyond the need to spill blood over a mythical sky fairy and actually live as human beings.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Not chocolate.

              You should try even hinting that you might be a Christian in a UK IT work setting........ The abuse you get is frightening and I'm not talking about trying to convert people or start arguments. The abuse starts if someone finds out you have christian leanings even if you didn't say anything yourself.

              1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

                Re: Not chocolate.

                Don't sweat it AC, your bible bearing brethren on this side of the pond are no different from your anti-Christian cohorts. I honestly couldn't count how many times I've been told that I'm going to hell and need to be saved, that I should repent, etc. or how many times I've pointed out that the whole concept of hell is at odds with a Christian God. Don't know how your boss is but there's always filing a complaint if it's a hostile work environment.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Not chocolate.

                The large UK IT company I used to work for was a pretty mixed bunch as far as religions go - with staff from all over the world. Religion was rarely discussed and was never a real source of friction.

                The major voiced abuse was against the few openly gay members of staff - and that was about a decade ago.

                Many Muslims seemed to have their lives ruled by religious dogma - as did the Roman Catholics and Scottish severe Protestants. The English Roman Catholic men were difficult to fathom - almost atheists but still paying lip service to their childhood indoctrination.

                The general atheists were mainly men, quiet but probably in the majority. The younger English members seemed to have been brought up with no family religion.

                In the last decade I went from "I'm sorry - I am an atheist" to just saying "I am an atheist". The attempts by the religious organisations in the last two decades to interfere in civil legislation on "moral" grounds have caused people to stop, think, and question. Even apparently staunch Christians have surprised me by no longer attending their church in disagreement with the outdated practices.

    2. CrazyLikeAFox

      Re: Not chocolate.

      If you are after peanut butter, you need to try Pics peanut butter. Even an aussie has to admit this kiwi company is making some fantastic stuff.

      http://reallygood.co.nz/

  2. Fazal Majid

    US chocolate stereotypes are 20 years out of date

    European expat here, been living in San Francisco for nearly 15 years. Comments about American chocolate are ignorant. Just because LA is a wasteland doesn't mean Hershey's is the only choice available. There are some world-class US-based chocolate makers like Amano (Salt Lake City) or Guittard (Bay Area) that can compete with the best Europe has to offer. The US artisanal chocolate scene is vibrant, as is the bean-to-bar movement. Remember, the US is a huge and wealthy country, and even if the average standard of chocolate is abysmal, a small fraction of connoisseurs can easily sustain quality suppliers.

    US chocolate standards are stricter than Europe's, as only a product made with 100% cocoa butter can be labeled as chocolate, whereas in Europe, because of British lobbying "chocolate" can be legally adulterated with up to 5% margarine. Granted, Hershey's is lobbying to water standards down to European standards, but they haven't succeeded yet.

    1. jemmyww

      Re: US chocolate stereotypes are 20 years out of date

      There is some great chocolate to be had in the US, especially in California. Dandelion Chocolate, and TCHO, both from San Francisco, are probably the best quality wise. My favourite though is Moonstruck Chocolate, from Portland, OR. Whole Foods tends to carry the best selection.

      These are bars of chocolate though. If you're looking for good boxed chocolate then my opinion is that it doesn't level up to the chocolate makers in Europe... or even the small artisan chocolate makers we discovered in New Zealand. Most towns in America seem to have a chocolatier... but they usually use poor quality chocolate like Guittard (sorry). There's the odd good one. Good luck though, I just travelled across the USA, then moved to Copenhagen, and there's more good chocolates in this one city than all of continental America.

      1. Swarthy Silver badge

        Re: US chocolate stereotypes are 20 years out of date

        For good boxed chocolates in CA, I find that See's Candies do a more than acceptable job, there is also Joseph Schmidt. For bar chocolate, I am a fan of Trader Joe's pound-plus. The bars on that one are large enough that I don't ed up putting "body and soul" into grated chocolate for pastries, and it is decent chocolate.

        As a left-pondian I may have to define "decent" chocolate: decent chocolate is stuff that can be eaten by itself at room temperature. Hershey's is not decent; it needs to be frozen, melted, and/or mixed with other ingredients to be edible(-ish).

        Russel Stover is not chocolate, much less decent.

    2. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: US chocolate stereotypes are 20 years out of date

      Hahaha. No.

      Hershey's bars have the smell (and slight taste!) of human vomit because it has butyric acid in it. This is the main component of puke, and it's also given off by cocoa beans when they lose freshness and start to go pong. Hershey bought these old crap beans because he was a cheap bastard and now Americans actually think chocolate is supposed to taste that way.

      This was a shock and a major disappointment to a friend of mine who grew up in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

      There's also PGPR (polyglycerol polyricinoleate) which is a cocoa butter substitute in American KitKat bars and other things. I bought a couple because I'm an Android fanboi, but then I wondered why it tasted like motor oil. This is why.

      1. Captain Hogwash Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: it tasted like motor oil

        How do you know?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: US chocolate stereotypes are 20 years out of date

        "Hershey's bars have the smell (and slight taste!) of human vomit"

        Thanks for that bit of enlightenment. When I lived there in the 80's the chocolate was a real shock to the system, and when I mentioned the vomit odour I just drew blank looks. Hersheys must be the absolute pinnacle of marketing; if you can shift so much of something that disgusting, you really have the magic touch.

        Bacon though was worse. In Texas, steak (beef of any kind) was virtually throwaway prices, but bacon was virtually unobtainable. The only thing you could reliably get was the optimistically named "breakfast slices"; some form of pretty unrecognisable meat/fat formed into a thin slice of something vaguely bacon shaped but with perfectly straight sides. Just thinking about it makes me shudder. I think my mind must have expunged whatever passed for black pudding in the interests of sanity...

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: US chocolate stereotypes are 20 years out of date

        > Hershey's bars have the smell (and slight taste!) of human vomit because it has butyric acid in it.

        If you want to experience this first hand, try Hershey's Kisses, small drops of, erm, "chocolate" which definately taste of bile.

        Tried them early on after my emigration to Canada: I thought that they'd been spiked.Other Hershey chocolate is not quite as bad though.

        Here in BC, there is a more recent interest in proper chocolate. We have a chocolate store chain called "Purdey's" which sell pretty decent choc. It's quite expensive but pretty nice.

        We also have a Lindt outlet which sells some really nice stuff.

    3. JustNiz

      Re: US chocolate stereotypes are 20 years out of date

      I'm an English expat, been living in the US for about 12 years.

      I think the actual chocolate (and cheese, and good bread, and reasonable cornish pasties) problem in the US is not that you can't find it _somewhere_, its just that its going to require uncommon local knowledge of where, and a (probably 50 mile+) special trip to get it. Then it will be hideously expensive.

      Pretty much all food in the US (even stuff that you wouldn't expect like bread, milk etc.) gets massively oversweetened with high fructose corn syrup. On top of that natural food like meat and especially vegetables have little to no natural taste (relative to same in the UK/EU) because they are all genetically modified to grow unnaturally large as fast as possible.

      Its so prevalent that when arriving (back) here, the only taste you experience at all for about 2 weeks is high fructose corn syrup. After then, your taste buds just give up and shut down in total sumbission so you cant taste anything anymore, except spicy food.

      I think Its why Hersheys, Liptons and Buweiser can all get away with tasting like crap yet are pretty much the only brands that Americans buy. They literally can't taste them, and also have hardly any opportunity to experience actual chocolate, tea and beer.

      IMHO nothing is as good as the bar of plain Galaxy and regular old Cheddar you find cheap at just about every supermarket in the UK, and cost a fortune here in the US if you can find them at all.

  3. banjomike
    Thumb Up

    Don't forget the fruitcake...

    ...Americans are so bad at making anything that resembles a fruitcake that THEY make jokes about it. Tastes like wallboard and looks like housebricks. I agree that Hersheys and the rest are dire. And the cinnamon chewing gum...

  4. illiad

    At least someone has explained why Hershey's is so so good, due to strict labelling!! :)

    the idiots in UK are so used to cheap 'milk chocolate' that they cannot stand the proper dark stuff!!

    The french call it Vegelait as it has more oil than choc !!LOL

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      By hearsay - Cadbury's chocolate is considered to have deteriorated since it was taken over by a USA company - who possibly also make Hershey. A friend once brought me a present of a Hershey bar from New York. It was unappetising in both taste and texture - just very sweet.

      1. Irony Deficient

        Cadbury

        Anonymous Coward, Cadbury was purchased by Kraft Foods (now Mondelēz International). The Hershey Company makes certain Cadbury products only for the US market under a previous licensing arrangement; Hershey has never been part of Kraft/Mondelēz.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Cadbury

          "Cadbury was purchased by Kraft Foods "

          And what a success that has turned out to be, for all concerned (other than the M+A people).

          "Chocolate workers are being told they must ‘demonstrate a new set of behaviours,’ with those who do not want to sign up to ‘High Performing Bournville’ invited to take redundancy.

          [snip]

          Working methods, shift patterns, terms and conditions and contracts of employment are all thought to be under scrutiny, while Mondelez has warned that jobs will inevitably go in the process." [1]

          Normally-invisible local MP Steve McCabe (age 59, allegedly Lab) said "The profile of the workforce does need to change. It needs a younger workforce who are better equipped in terms of technology."

          Well Mr McCabe. I hope your constituency electors, many past or present Cadbury employees and others close to them, remember your words when the General Election comes round next year.

          Mind you, he'll be 60 next year, and he's in a marginal seat, so maybe he's planning on drawing his MP's pension rather than standing again.

          He's right in one sense though: British business does indeed generally need a better trained workforce. It needs investment in people as well as in technology, Older people can learn too. Some older people even have something to contribute, frequently something based on years of experience which the straight-from-college clueless MBAs frequently in charge would do well to remember.

          [1] http://www.birminghampost.co.uk/business/business-news/cadbury-bournville-cant-return-days-7993515

        2. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

          Is it Cadbury's or haven'they cleaned the toilets?

          I still can't get my head around how they allowed a small amount of fecal matter to ... ah never mind I already know and it would only upset you..

          I just can't understand...

          And you say the American stuff is crap?

          Oh man... I...

      2. Pedigree-Pete Bronze badge

        Hersheys

        My local corner store was recently acquired by new owners who brought in Hersheys. Now I've only been to the US twice. 2nd time I knew to leave the chocolate out. I bought some for my chocolate loving SO, she nearly threw it out after 1 square, but my son couldn't have that. He took a bite & binned it immediately. Guess it's just "taste".

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      "the idiots in UK are so used to cheap 'milk chocolate' that they cannot stand the proper dark stuff!!"

      The UK chocolate is lower cocoa content than Europe, the US chocolate is even lower.

      And I am told they have some strange manufacturing thing that makes it even worse and gives it that plastic taste.

      In the UK dark chocolate is very popular and any supermarket has a wide choice, from Lindt with a variety of enhancements, through to own brand 80%+ content.

      Hersheys, Sees, Ghirardelli, tried them all in my time the the US. All poor.

      Now beer is a different matter. US has some super craft breweries that make decent brews that don't need to have the taste chilled out of them to make them drinkable.

      Remember cliché-uttering yanks, beer that is not cold is a GOOD thing. If you need to chill it to make it drinkable then there is something wrong with the taste. Or yours.

      1. BongoJoe

        Remember cliché-uttering yanks, beer that is not cold is a GOOD thing. If you need to chill it to make it drinkable then there is something wrong with the taste. Or yours.

        Halleluyah!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Watch your tongue

    A very dynamic friend spent two years in IT in the USA in the 1970s. When meeting a problem with an undecided outcome her favourite positive saying was "let's lick it and see". She was quietly informed that this expression was definitely not to be used in polite company in Arizona - especially by a woman.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Countries separated by a common language

    In the 1970s working in various countries I discovered that English-speaking does not necessarily mean English thinking - even if English is a country's indigenous language. It's not just a question of dictionary meanings - but the cultural assumptions behind certain usage.

    One of the best yardsticks was the Carry On films. They were invariably popular - but the non-UK audience (and the censors) laughed at the slapstick and missed the verbal/visual double entendres.

    1. Irony Deficient

      Re: Countries separated by a common language

      Anonymous Coward, a similar thing happened when I saw A Fish Called Wanda when it was first released in the States. During the parts that I found funny enough to laugh out loud at, I was the only one in the audience doing so — yet I’m US born and raised. The parts that everyone else found uproariously hilarious didn’t strike me as exceptionally funny.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Countries separated by a common language

      As a large scale English speaking culture, I've always found Indians, particularly from the north, a great deal easier to click with than Americans, perhaps because they genuinely get the idea (with a few caveats) of 'self-deprecating' in speech. Its not always a meeting of minds, but more often than not its a very substantial overlap. Even in Hindi, some plays on words are very similar to those we find funny, in particular their fondness for 'robust' language and banter reminds me of the years I've spent in London's East End.

  7. Khaptain Silver badge

    >Ben Hamou: The guides (books and otherwise) for expats are surprisingly good. Also, join something like a British expats group on Facebook. There is simply no substitute for making friends with real humans who can tell you when you’re about to step off a cliff.

    I have lived, for a minimum of 1 year up to 20 years, and worked in several countries and I can't think of a worse piece of advice. If you want to get to know a country and it's people, talk to the locals not the expats... Expats are usually a close knit community that wrap and warp their own ideas into that of the local culture thereby giving an unobjective view on things.. Usually they do not speak the local language, culture and actually have only a very superficial overview of there environment, this is not conducive to getting to know new cultures......

    I was on a flight recently where the guy sitting next to me explained how had lived and worked in Geneva for 8 years and didn't speak a word of French, he was proud to tell me how he was very active in the expat community though..... one word, pathetic....

    When in Rome.....

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      But the expats know things that the locals would never know.

      How to get an XYZ visa, or if you need one. How to get a local bank account if you only have a foreign credit history. Which insurance companies accept your UK no-claims history,

      And where to buy marmite

      1. Khaptain Silver badge

        >How to get an XYZ visa, or if you need one.

        A quick call to your embassy or ambassador will suply you with the correct information...

        >How to get a local bank account if you only have a foreign credit history.

        Just walk into a bank and ask...

        >Which insurance companies accept your UK no-claims history

        Walk into a insurance agence and ask.

        Expats can only know about their own particular cases, they can't definatively answers for yours...

        In each of the above cases you are eventually going to have to deal with each of the final suppliers, so why not simply start with them... and usually by beginning a the source we learn a lot more than just the intial subject...

        I marmite is a large problem then it might be a better solution to simply remain at home rather than miss out on the discovery of local delicacies... I know you were not really serious about the marmite bit I honestly know people that have been upset about not being able to find product X whilst they travelled............

        1. Getriebe

          @Khaptain

          You view of the expat community is closed. What the other guy said is reasonable - its a way of finding out about the odd wrinkles in each location.

          I have lived for over 6 months (if that counts as moving to another country) in 6 countries and speak 4 languages well - but I still would hook up with the non-indigenous groups to find out stuff they have taken years to find

          It does not mean you have to spend any time with hem apart form the very odd meeting

          I reckon your puritanism is getting in the way of sensible judgment.

          1. Khaptain Silver badge

            Re: @Getriebe

            I have now lived for more 29 years in total in 5 different countries, I speak 3 languages fluently and understand small pieces of several others. So I would consider myself as having a sound basis upon which I make my statements.

            But it has nothing to do with the number of years, countries or languages. It is all about attitude. Too often I hear the expats complaining about how things are done "better at home", or they don't like the "s" because they have customs which they don't agree with............

            If someone has no intention of "living" in a country then by all means seek help from the expats. But then again the "lonely planet guides would probably be just as suitable.

            I have met expats that are happy to explain what it is like to live in country X and yet they have never learned more than the tourist sites and the expat pubs.... Have you ever been amongst the Anti-Podeans in London, it would make you weep....

            If travelling, or being an expat, means nothing other than living as you normally do, with the same customs and cultural traits, but in a different country then I am happy to remain within my "puritinacal" frame of mind and continue to avoid the expats like the plaque.

          2. PJI

            @Khaptain

            I have spent most of my working life outside GB, with a couple of short returns (never again). I've worked in the Far East, Australasia, very short stint in USA, bit longer in Middle East and now happily in central/Southern Europe (depending upon how you look at it). I speak or spoke the language in all except the Middle East.

            The fact is, in most countries, to get to know established locals properly, on a personal basis is difficult. They've got their lives, friends, families established. They take for granted what to you is new and unknown, to the extent that it never occurs to them that you can not or do not know. Fellow foreigners who have overcome the initial hurdles, found out how and where to find accommodation at the normal price and where to shop for the sorts of things that expats. need but locals grew up with; what tax advisers, lawyers, banks understand and can, for a reasonable charge, help one to manage assets or liabilities, or writing a will and so on for two different legal and tax regimes, registering with local authorities (even if it is necessary or not) and so on; these people are invaluable. Things like getting medical help at 2 in the morning - where is the hospital? Should I call the GP? Have I got a GP who speaks enough English or whatever language I know? Just had a minor accident in the car - do I have to report it? (In some places, no one will do repairs without a police report).

            Having young children helps, if they are at the local schools. Otherwise, one can live for years without making close friendships with a local, not through anyone's fault.

            Going into the average bank for advice about how to transfer foreign creditworthiness may work in the centre of Zurich or Brussels. In most banks, the staff will hardly be better informed than you.

            It's all very well to be snooty about other expats., no doubt they are at least as snooty about you. But if in a new land, where the language (including American) is not yours, where customs and laws differ from yours, all help should be seized with gratitude. Americans are classic examples: they seem to speak almost the same language - except it has, apart from grammatical and vocabulary differences - different idioms, references, background and semantics - full of false friends (linguistically). Their culture is to be overwhelmingly smiley, "you're my soulmate", "you must come to dinner/come for picnic/borrow my spare car"..... Sadly, see them a couple of days later they've probably almost forgotten who you are - not rudeness, just the culture - easy in - easy out.

            No, if you want to know how to insure your 15 year old sports car (in a place where insurers will not touch a car over 10 years old) or a tax adviser who speaks some of your language and can handle your assets spread across two or three countries or a bank that will handle regular transfers abroad at a lower charge than the amount being transferred, or how to get tickets to that event or which beaches to avoid - fellow foreigners are your friends. If you need to find a kindergarten that will have patience with your child who has not yet learnt the local language (I know of children who, in reaction to unsympathetic handling, started to actively refuse to speak the local language), you need someone who understands the problem and has overcome it.

            Over time, you should become localised, though you will always be a foreigner; if you marry a local, it may happen a bit quicker, a bit more thoroughly, your language skills should become much better. But you will always be a foreigner and even if you no longer need help, at least until the funeral arrangements come, you can help others.

            I have come across expatriates who never learn the language. In Asian countries this can be very, very difficult and the disparities between the foreigner¨s way of life and that of even a prosperous local are radically different. Even in Europe, if you work for a large, international firm, if the working language is English and your spouse is English speaking and you work long hours, you will find it very hard to learn much more than how to ask for a glass of beer, even if you take lessons. Francophone areas should be easier, as most Britons, for example, do some French at school and, in my experience, it is rare to meet a foreigner in Geneva who can not cope fairly well and often much better than that, in French. German seems to be less common. Arabic, Chinese languages - rare (I can speak a Chinese language; but my job required it).

            1. Khaptain Silver badge

              Re: @PJI and Getriebe

              If either of you went to a country where there was a non existant expat community how would you go about dealing with the aforementioned tasks ? I am pretty much convinced that you would both be perfectly capable of dealing with all the tasks without any major problem.

              Therefore, why not just begin on that path. Personally I enjoy the challenge of making it on my own although I realise that this is not the same for all.

              If the world was handed to me on a plate, eating would become a chore.

  8. jake Silver badge

    Eh?

    "In the spirit of balance: for the love of Christ, America, learn about decent chocolate and start either making it or mass-importing it."

    Even the mass market Whole Foods has better chocolate on the shelves than anything I've ever seen in DearOldBlighty.

    I'm not an "ex-pat", I'm a Yank (born at Stanford Hospital), but I have spent roughly 20% of my 55-ish years in the British Isles.

    1. Frank Bough

      Re: Eh?

      You can get excellent chocolate in Tesco. How much more ubiquitous do you want?

      1. Martin-73 Silver badge

        Re: Eh?

        To be fair, that's a 'since the 1980s' thing. Prior to that British supermarkets used to sell expensive gross tasting instant coffee (some things never change) and overcooked cabbage.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Martin-73

          I was in England until and for part of the 1980s, being an adult for much of that time. Your criticism may be true of wherever you lived. But in my experience, including the West Country, parts of the North and others, you are spouting cliches that were almost never so. If your mother or wife or self chose to over-cook vegetables and never wanted to buy decent coffee - instant or beans - that was definitely their choice.

          Even now I hear the same old cliches (I live abroad) and my (not English) wife flies to the defence as, in her experience, all over Britain we have had some of the best food and drink served by the friendliest people in even out-of-the-way places.

          Of course, if your idea of British cuisine is a motorway service station, Starbucks, McDonalds and "international" places, you get what you deserve.

          I recall that in USA food was pretty bog standard for the most part, unless one spent a fortune. The reason is that judgement was by quantity and appearance, not by quality and taste. That, in turn, seems to be because a lot of Americans are, firstly, not that well off so price is preeminent and, secondly, because the culture is often one of getting served as fast as possible, getting the food down as fuel and then out, as fast as possible. I have experienced, several times, USA visitors in Europe being astonished that we would spend an hour or two over a meal, with a wait while it is freshly cooked and we drink, then a slow consumption and so on; i.e. the meals is a pleasurable event.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @Martin-73

            > I recall that in USA food was pretty bog standard for the most part, unless one spent a fortune. The reason is that judgement was by quantity and appearance, not by quality and taste.

            Most of the fast food sold in US and Canada is drenched with pickles and chilli sauces. Here in Canada it is *very* common to lace all forms of food with one sort of chilli sauce or another. It is probably a generational habit born if try to ingest bland or awful food historically.

            These days however, food is tasty, cheap, plentiful and full of variety around here such that it hardly seems necessary to enhance it.

          2. Martin-73 Silver badge

            Re: @Martin-73

            It was hyperbole :-)... the cabbage is of course raw when sold :)

            Indeed the independent cafés were (and a few still are) awesome. However, the choice in many supermarkets WAS dire prior to 1980ish

  9. Spanners Silver badge
    Pint

    Beware swimming pools!

    In my childhood, my father worked in a middle eastern country.

    There were lots of nice expat facilities including swimming pools. It took me years to get the visions of very large females in very small bikinis out of my mind...

    The positive thing it said about them was that they were less susceptible to peer pressure than our females..

    "Americans" then just knew that everyone else was desperate to be a US citizen. I have never had anything against people from there but this has never been one of my ambitions. I am sad to see that so many of them now feel that the rest of the planet hates them. That's not true either.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fan of the Expat tales. But the limited length & detail risks making the series shallow!

    Working in the US has severe Tax, COLA and pension / retirement implications, even for expats, and finding lucrative gigs now can be quite tricky IMHO. There's also very serious safety issues in most of the main cities, but you won't find many Americans who can see through the marketing of USA-Inc.

    There are serious issues related to class inequality, racial tensions, gun problems, and in some parts a severe lack of tolerance for wider religious or atheistic views, as was pointed out in another comment.

    Overall, Americans have an overbearing 'be like us' attitude which will may tick-off many people and become quickly tiresome if your threshold for bullshit is low... Should this happen to you, the money will quickly pale in comparison...

    Yes, the weather is an advantage, but the summers can be quite intolerable too, and it appears to be getting warmer overall and feel more like Dubai, because guaranteed air-conditioning isn't a guarantee!!!

    For your own peace of mind, its best to treat the lack of sarcasm or worldly awareness here with a pinch of salt, and just watch the Simpson's or similar TV make fun of USA Inc, and not take life too seriously, with one deadly caveat....

    'Welcome to the Jungle' by Guns 'n' Roses could be an anthem here... Half the people I know have been held-up at gunpoint, and my brother was shot dead in a random shooting! So watch your back on nights out!

    =========================================

    This Expat series is a great idea. So kudos to the Reg. But why not run it out into several pages? Its too shallow as is, and its missing vital detail to be of help to anyone... I've played the Expat game in Asia, South America, North America, Middle-East / EU, so I've got the bug and want to know what its like in places I haven't been to.

    But you can't do that in the 'postcard' sized articles that are being offered at present... Its like picking up a book at the airport because the cover and back blurb look great and then discovering it has absolutely no substance whatsoever in-flight. Take the choccy debate for example. I'm an addict and have the 'Feliz panza' to back it up, but the overriding 'one sided' theme of the comments confirm that the article itself should have been longer and have contained more detail...

    1. Queasy Rider

      Re: Fan of the Expat tales. But the limited length & detail risks making the series shallow!

      No need to expand the column, the comments section does that quite adequately.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The problem food isn't chocolate

    it's GOOD CHEESE that is unobtainable :(

    1. jake Silver badge

      @AC "4 hours ago" (whatever that means, ElReg) Re: The problem food isn't chocolate

      Some of the best cheese on the planet comes from California, specifically the North Bay.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @AC "4 hours ago" (whatever that means, ElReg) The problem food isn't chocolate

        American cheese is IMHO tastless rubber.

        Having lived in the Northeast for two years and travelled extensively all over the country I have yet to find any that tastes even half decent.

        Like most foods on sale in the US, it just seems to have been processed to death.

        The 'North Bay' cheese is obtainable where exactly in say, Alamagordo N.M. (ir is ot CO I can't remember)

        People look at you as if you are from a different planet if you try growing your own. I even had a visit from the Town council about my Veggie patch. 'We leave that to the Farmers plus we don't know what diseases you might get from eating it!' was their comment plus a strong hint that if we carried on, a City Law would be passed to stop me from growing my own.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @AC "4 hours ago" (whatever that means, ElReg) The problem food isn't chocolate

          I've seen burgers here in London advertised with "Montery Jack" cheese. Like it's something to be proud of!!!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The problem food isn't chocolate

      In Canada good cheese can be found but the cost is obscene. It's preserved milk for pity's sake!

      Most supermarket cheese is "cheddar" (quotes deliberate) and largely orange rubber.

      A small lump of Balderson Canadian Cheddar which is fairly nice cheese can cost about CAD$10 in the supermarket which is about 5.50 in sterling.

      Also the import duty on milk products is insane leading to expensive cheese in the shops:

      "Canada applies 200-300 per cent tariffs on dairy products (see Table)."

      http://opencanada.org/features/blogs/roundtable/more-cheese-please/

  12. John Tserkezis

    I can second the fuel prices.

    On my vactation there many years ago, I sat down and worked out their price accounting for exchange rates and conversions. I didn't believe my numbers, so I did them them again. Still not believing my numbers, I had someone else do the conversions. We all came to the same conlusion, their "gas" price was about half our petrol.

    And they still had the gall to complain about their "gas prices".

    1. Dick

      Re: I can second the fuel prices.

      But the gallons are smaller, the octane rating is lower, and it's full of ethanol that rots your fuel system ;-)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I can second the fuel prices.

        Yes, our gallon is smaller. Ironically it makes our quart _almost_ the same as a litre; making it fairly trivial to compare with prices elsewhere.

        Octane numbers posted on the pump at stations here are usually 87, 89, 91 and/or 93. Our octane numbers are the average (mean) of Motor Octane and Research Octane (I'll let you look those up yourself) so yes, they might come in lower than the numbers on the pumps elsewhere. When I filled up at the service plaza on the M25 last year I don't remember the numbers being any different though.

        Ethanol rotting fuel systems? I've got a pair of 15 year old cars with 120K and 160K _miles_ on them that don't have rotted fuel systems. The car with 160K on it gets 20/30mpg (city/highway, US gallons), same as it got when it was new. I do take care of my cars, and I've never had to replace hoses or anything else in the fuel system. I can't say the same thing about my two much older cars back in the days before ethanol; I was replacing hoses and much more on a regular basis.

    2. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Re: I can second the fuel prices.

      "We all came to the same conlusion, their "gas" price was about half our petrol. And they still had the gall to complain about their "gas prices"."

      Americans pay similar overall levels of tax as we do, just that their government squeeze it out in different ways, and waste it in different ways. Since the US taxes on road fuels are lower, they Merkins feel the pain of any global petroleum prices increases far more than we do.

      In rough terms the impact of a 10% increase in global crude prices would only increase pump prices by 5% in the UK because fuel duty is a flat rate of around half the full retail price (whereas VAT/sales tax is an ad valorum tax, so varies depending on the sale price).

    3. John Savard Silver badge

      Re: I can second the fuel prices.

      Of course Americans can and should complain about gas prices. In October 1973, contracts with oil companies were unilaterally and illegally broken by Middle Eastern countries in support of a war of aggression against Israel. Similar actions by Latin American countries previously had not been allowed to endure, but here the companies in question were European rather than American, and the countries involved had Soviet backing for their sovereignty.

      So proper gasoline prices are what they would be if: a) oil was around $2.50 a barrel, and b) no taxes were levied upon it. Taxes being money taken by the threat of force from the people who earned it by the sweat of their brow, after all.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I can second the fuel prices.

        "in support of a war of aggression against Israel"

        What other sort of war is there?

        Just to remind you that the Jews as part of creating Israel took what were primarily Palestinians lands (in the late 19th Century, Palestine had ~ 95% Arab inhabitants) by force and kicked many of the indigenous population out via forced death marches and campaigns of terrorist attack on their villages, and has to this day continued to carry out a constant stream of genocidal attacks on the Palestinians - (with highlights such as deliberate use of White Phosphorous on civilians including school children, the shelling of families on a beach and repeatedly deliberately shooting children) - all the while continuing with illegal occupation and settlement building - so you can sympathise why the locals might be a bit miffed about it...

  13. The Axe

    Liberal?

    Cal is not liberal in any definition of the word. Fascist more like as they impose each politician's favourite moral view in a new law every year.

  14. Semtex451 Silver badge

    my 2 cents

    "involved in a bunch of work"

    The Boy has been there too long.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can't find decent chocolate?

    Then you're not trying hard enough. I grew up in L.A., and had the good sense to leave; left the whole state actually, but let's not digress.

    When you say "candy bar" I think of things like a Milky Way or a Snickers. When I'm in the mood for a Bounty, or an Aero, or any of the other brit candy bars I just head down the import aisle as my local supermarket. There's marmite too, although talk about eating things that smell like vomit. No, I won't touch Hershey's milk chocolate, but their Special Dark isn't bad; which is not the same as saying it's great. If you want a slab of good chocolate though, it shouldn't be hard to find Ghiradelli's chocolate in your supermarket.

    As for petrol so cheap it's demoted to gas(oline)? Honestly the only reason petrol is so expensive on your side of the pond is the taxes. I remember back when you lot used to say the petrol taxes all went to subsidize trains and rapid transit. Now the trains, buses, and the tube are obscenely expensive. Where's that tax money going exactly? And why do you put up with it? And no, it's not cheap, whatever the price, not when you were used to it being $2/gallon and now it's $4/gallon. I have no sympathy for California though – in most of the rest of the country it's much lower.

  16. The BigYin

    Spotted Hershey's in a shop recently

    Whatever you do, don't buy it. Buy a candle instead.

    The candle will taste nicer.

  17. Jame_s

    hershey's milk chocolate smells (and probably tastes) like baby puke, their dark stuff is ok. i've heard a couple of theories, one that they use powdered milk (would explain the baby puke smell), another that they use some sour cream in it (for some reason here people dont throw out cream when it goes off, they eat it)

    on another note, they dont know jack shit about bacon here - all most places have is burnt wafer thin streaky bacon. shoulder bacon is rare and back bacon is only available from specialist butchers.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      On the subject of bacon

      ISTR that most US fridges are the size of London palaces. Bacon is pretty easy to make yourself. Takes pork and salt and about a week to make a bacon that is infinitely better than the US stuff. And for a little more effort you can make stuff that will convert a nation.

    2. John Savard Silver badge

      What I've read is that many competitive brands, because Americans have come to like the taste of Hershey's bars, which use a process that allows them to be less demanding of the quality of milk supplied to them, add butyric acid to their product. While I don't know further details, this may add to the understanding of this issue.

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