Before moving abroad it is hard to imagine what things you will miss most about your home country. You may be worried about leaving your family behind and missing out on time with loved ones, missing your favourite shops or your trusted hair dresser, or wishing your best friend was close by to share your thoughts and worries about every day life and its problems.
In fact, once you have had time for adjustment, many of these things fall into place. Modern technologies mean that phone and video calls are easy and extremely good quality, new friends emerge, and your best friends and family members will no doubt visit frequently.
In fact when you ask a group of expats a year or two after they arrive in their new country, once they have had time to settle, whether they still miss anything from home you are almost guaranteed to hear the same answer from them all. Food.
Put any group of expats together and within minutes you will find the conversation moving to the topic of food – and more accurately, the foods they are missing. English families who have rarely cooked a roast dinner in their lives suddenly find themselves craving roast beef with horseradish and all the trimmings for Sunday lunch… every Sunday. Thoughts of apple pie and custard, a rich chicken curry or a hefty chunk of lemon meringue pie refuse to leave your head. And as for baked beans, peanut butter and Marmite… enough said.
Whatever your home country may be, there is no doubt one particular food (or more) that leaves your mouth watering just at the thought of it.
So what can you do to find your favourite foods after you’ve moved?
1. Choose your destination carefully
Wherever you go in the world, some areas are more “foreign” than others. If you are relocating to an area with a large expat community, the chances are there are already various sources of imported and speciality foods.
If you are moving to Spain and its Costas, the Portuguese Algarve or just about any major capital city, you are sure to find the odd mini market run by expats for expats, stocking all your favourite things. You may also find a particular chain of supermarkets stocks more imported items than others. These things you will find out over time, both through trial and error and through the course of conversations with fellow expats as you get to meet more and more of them. If you are buying goods that have been imported, expect to pay significantly more than you would in your home country for the same item, however. Stories abound of €5 tins of baked beans, €8 packets of American pancake mix and famous brand tomato ketchup for €10!
2. Order from the Internet
We all know that the wonders of modern technology have made shopping for clothing, electronics and household goods from the comfort of your armchair not just easy but also enjoyable. Depending on where in the world you are, you may find it is just as easy to shop this way for your favourite foods. A simple internet search will return plenty of specialist food suppliers offering delivery services all over the world. If a supplier is located in your new country of residence, so much the better, but many are just as well set up to deliver across borders. Bear in mind that delivery costs may be steep and only certain foodstuffs are suitable for shipping this way, but depending on what you are ordering it can often be a viable option. Remember to check also for any restrictions on items that can be brought into the country and for any applicable import taxes.
3. Put in your orders from friends and family members who are visiting
Friends or family who are visiting are usually more than happy to bring a few of your favourite foodstuffs. Send them your wish list, or to make things even easier you could shop online and have a delivery sent to them ready to pop straight into their suitcase. Local friends in your new country will also often be happy to pick up the occasional item for you when they go visiting. Be aware that they are probably presented with a wish list from half the expat population however, so keep your requests to a minimum unless you know they have plenty of spare space in their luggage!
4. Learn how to make your own
One of the most rewarding aspects of finding yourself without your favourite foods on your doorstep is learning how to make your own. What you make will depend on what you miss of course, and you will still need to have access to the basic ingredients, but even if a recipe calls for something you cannot lay your hands on, it is usually possible to find a perfectly good alternative with a little creativity and effort.
Pickles, chutneys and chilli sauces are all extremely popular in the UK but there are many countries in the world where it is almost impossible to find them. In fact a little vinegar, sugar and fruit or vegetables are all you need to create some mouthwatering examples of your own. And for those missing their favourite curries, as long as you have access to some chillies and fragrant spices it is remarkably easy to make your own curry paste, ready to create delicious fresh curries that are probably far tastier than those you are craving from home. Even baked beans are easily made with a little search on the internet for the perfect recipe!
5. Club together
Of course, making your own condiments and dishes from scratch may be worth it, but it can also be time consuming. One option is to club together with other expats to take turns in making your favourite foods in large quantities, or even to organise theme nights, for which each individual makes and brings a particular item. This way you can enjoy all your favourite dishes in a Thai, Indian, Chinese or Mexican bonanza without needing to spend all day slaving over a hot stove.