Passports & Sour Cream

02 Jul

I’m a foreigner here.

It’s really quite evident. I sound different. I walk different. I have a different passport.

And apparently, so does my sour cream.

A hundred years ago, an American cooking Mexican food in the United Kingdom would have been quite an astounding thought, but in our global world, it hardly raises an eyebrow.

British Soured Cream

To complement our planned dinner, I purchased some sour cream. Except that here it’s called “British Soured Cream.”

Apparently, it’s significant that the souring process of this cream is complete (soured), but what made a more dramatic impact on me was the fact that it is specifically British soured cream.

I don’t know that I want British soured cream. I’m not even so sure that I want Mexican crema agria. I want familiar, American sour cream.

Yes, the dividing wall of nationality extends even to dinner condiments. There is really no escaping the fact that I am not a native here. Perhaps for locals, the idea of purchasing British soured cream is one of national pride; they don’t want someone else’s sour cream, even if it’s quite similar. They want theirs, manufactured in their country.

I can understand that. Americans have plenty of push to look for the “Made in the USA” tag on various products. I even saw some of that here. A grocery store featured “American-style hot dogs”—they came in a jar, filled with water, looking like 8 well-preserved lab specimens. I never saw anything like that in the U.S.

Needless to say, I didn’t buy the hot dogs. I did buy the soured cream.

And it was good; it wasn’t so different after all. Mostly, all of the oddity was in the name and on the printed label. Where there appeared to be a difference—potentially significant—there turned out to be just a superficial semantic issue.

I am a foreigner here. I do have my differences. But at the core of it, I’m just another person.

I have traveled to many different places (about 20 countries or so), and have often encountered my companions remarking, “This place is a whole other world!”

But they’re wrong. It’s not.

Although some people, places, customs, and languages are very different from what might be familiar to the average American, for all of these differences, it’s not another world. We’re still on the same planet. We still have much in common. After all, we’re still people.

Some differences in life (even between people of the same nationality) are indeed significant, while some are only superficial. But when it comes down to it, we’re still made of the same stuff, whether foreign or local.

Just like soured cream.

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Posted by on July 2, 2012 in Life


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