Thursday, 30 August 2012

I could be wrong, but this is what I think I saw.

And so we're back! I have to say that was one of the best trips back to Scotland that we've had. The flight was great and I was able to take a lot less stuff in my bag for the kids now I have an iPad. Much as I don't want the kids to get too into playing games on computers and so on, it made a two hour flight much easier and pass quicker for them. I had downloaded books and activities for them, such as colouring book apps, drawing apps, Lego apps, and a bunch of phonics and maths apps that Orla really enjoys.

Once in Scotland we had 6 days of shopping to do, which had I been child-free I could probably have done in a day! It was great fun though, and this time back felt different again to the other times. I had forgotten a little how different the weather is. I expected it to be a bit colder, even with my mum saying things like "oh no, it's roasting here!" when it was just over 20 degrees C in Scotland, but over 30 in Berlin. So, I did pack a couple of jumpers, and rain jackets, but I forgot the whole four seasons in one day thing. Even though you might set out on a walk with bright blue skies, it can be pouring with rain ten minutes later. I must have been caught out ooh, maybe 6 days in a row.

But the other things I noticed were the people. Wow! This time round the obesity crisis was really clear to me. Perhaps because of the stark contrast with Berliners, who are generally very slim and tall, but I was taken aback by the percentage of people of nearly all age groups who were seriously overweight. And it's not that hard to see why. Aside from the junkies (of which there seems to be a lot in Ayr), you can see alcoholism and poverty on the faces of a lot of people. It's not a pretty sight.

Talking to my sister-in-law, she told me how with a lot of product deals on at the supermarkets, these are the options that people are going for. Why would you buy a pack of chicken breasts when there are ready meals on offer that are far cheaper to feed your family. And the supermarkets do seem so full of ready made products. Admittedly when I was in, it was quite briefly, but my eye was caught by the increased number of products for kids. Things like packs of Tilda rice for kids - the kind that you can just bung in the microwave for a couple of minutes. But why is it for kids? What has it got in it that makes it more appealing for kids than normal rice?

Outside one supermarket I saw a billboard advert for Weetabix baked with Golden Syrup. I couldn't believe it. Why does anyone need that product? And how is this helping the obesity crisis? Of course it's all about money. I know that. And I know that while the government (presumably) is still harping on about the weight of the nation, and the growing pressure this puts on the health and thus the NHS, they don't seem to be doing very much to stop it from getting worse. Because the government could clamp down on all of this, but there must be too much money at stake.

Is this UK industry now?: the diet industry; the food industry; dealing with the effects of poor diet industry? Not to mention the advertising industry. And I guess there's a lot of tax in amongst all that lot. I'm starting to wonder if Ryanair were just saying out loud with their "fat tax" what the government is thinking. (or doing). The stark contrast to Germany even hit me when I was clothes shopping in Debenhams. Standing at the till, I had Orla pestering me with "Can you get me that? Can I try those?" and right beside me was a big stand with these 'grab bags' of chocolate! Why do you need to have food on sale literally everywhere you go? Putting all this temptation in people's paths is not helping anyone.

The 'High Street' itself is not in much better shape. Presumably Ayr High Street is not much different from most around the country. There have been a lot of closures due to the recession, and beyond the mainstays of M&S, Debenhams, and so on, the majority of shops seem to be really cheap clothing shops, and £1 shops. And everyone loves the £1 shops. As my sister-in-law said, "Why would you pay 60p for 1 bar of chocolate when you can get a pack of 3 for £1 in the £1 shops?". And she's right. Because it doesn't make sense. And people have got used to this sense of things being a £ being good value, and according to her the supermarkets have used this to their advantage too, and there are a lot of deals where things are now priced at the £1 price point. After all, "It's only £1!"

But oh! Forgive me! I'm not my usual self. I'm not that into politics and to be honest I don't know all the in's and out's of the situation nor can I even claim to have the smallest clue as to what the current government is actually doing to tackle Britain's problems, all you're getting here are my impressions from what I've seen. And, of course I am not immune to the whole thing too. I shopped like a mad woman when I was there. I couldn't believe the amazing prices I saw everywhere, and even things that my mum thought were expensive, I thought were brilliant value compared to here in Germany.

So it'll be no surprise if my next post is all about the contents of the big box we're expecting to turn up later today. I know, I'm weak. There are even some of those grab bags of chocolate in there....


  1. It is so hard to resist when temptation is literally on every corner! I have to consciously resist those impulse buys, even at my tiny local post office, I find myself scanning the shelves, now I'm sure I need more envelopes, how about a cheap bit of plastic for the kids? or some parcel tape, gotta have some parcel tape! And don't get me started on the chocolate at shop counters..!

    1. Ha, ha, you can never have enough tape! I know that all the supermarket deals were around when I was living in England, but I wonder whether my brain is now out of the habit of expecting them, and so this time round it was like entering this world for the first time. I'd like to say that living in Germany has made me a more conscientious shopper;that with more expensive prices I have become a better person who buys only what I need- but given the size of the box that should be arriving today, I don't think I am any better at resisting the marketing than anyone else!

  2. I do sometimes wonder if I would feed Milo completely different if I were in the UK. I'd like to think I wouldn't but I don't know for sure when like you say, it is so much more affordable to eat rubbish then to eat healthily in the UK. So sad what is happening. It always shocks me when there. I love a bit a' gorgeous packaging though which is seriously missing here.

    1. You know, I was thinking the same thing: I would like to continue to make everything from scratch - much as I moan about having to do so here! but it's so much better for all of us. But when I looked around I could see how much pre-prepared stuff was available and even just looking at things like little sausage rolls or whatever, I would so easily buy those for our lunch... it's a slippery slope! It wouldn't be very long before any intention of even making my own sausage rolls would be gone! (Not that I have made any here - but I'm in the mood for one!).

      And you are right about the packaging. I get drawn in by that too, and also just the fact that patterns and designs on things are lovely on things on the High Street, for example you could buy some really pretty cups in M&S or BHS or Wilkos or whereever, but you'd either have to go to a wee individual shop that sells more 'designer' stuff or buy from Etsy to get things as pretty here.

      And also, Happy Birthday! xx

  3. This is a really interesting blog. I used to live in Germany 20 years ago .... WHAT A CULTURE SHOCK. So much was soon different to the uk. I think I'd have survived far better had the Internet been available then. It continues to fascinate me how people only just across the channel can differ so enormously from each (huge differences even across the Rhein!).... I'll continue reading


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