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Czech Life

This is not just any blog

Earlier this week I reached an important marker in my expat life. A real milestone. A turning point.

I went to M&S Food on Wenceslas Square.

I have avoided this for the past thirteen months for a few reasons. Part of me (the weird part that makes up demanding rules by which to live, according to hubby) thinks it’s a sign of failure to frequent such an English chain store in the Czech Republic. I feel I have somehow failed an unwritten expat-initiation test by not being able to decipher Czech signage or properly understand Czech shop assistants, or just by not wanting to buy solely Czech brands.

Perhaps more fundamentally, I avoided M&S food even in England, on the basis that it was overpriced (it still is), packaged in a non-environmentally friendly manner (it is) and encouraged people to put meals in the microwave rather than actually cook (also true).  I have clearly managed to leave all these concerns at the store’s very welcoming doors as on Monday night, I joined the expat masses in M&S.

It all started with a hunt for vanilla extract, which I could not find for love nor money in Tescos, Albert, Billa or any of the four different potraviny-s I went to on Sunday evening when I decided I wanted to make cookies. I already know that someone is going to leave a comment below saying ‘didn’t you know you can get vanilla extract at x?‘. NO! I clearly didn’t know. Which is why I succumbed to the evil empire of marks & sparks.

After Sunday’s vanilla extract failure, I thought I’d solve myself the well-documented pain of food shopping in Prague and decided to cave in completely and get all the cookie ingredients from M&S.

As I walked in I almost laughed. I don’t know why it took me by surprise as most multinationals operate this way now, but everything was identical. It was like being in M&S in Paternoster Square, or Clapham or Whetstone, or anywhere else.  The signage, the smell, the display, everything was the same. Even the customers were familiar: Bachelors grabbing a meal for one. Couples pretending that a two-person microwave meal and cheap bottle of wine is just as much fun as actually going out for dinner. Full-time house wives spending a second mortgage on ready-meals in order to keep pretending to their hard-working hubby that they actually can cook.

As much as I’m still a tad disappointed with myself (standards – both eco and personal – are clearly slipping) I got everything I needed and it was the nicest shopping experience I’ve had in ages. Shelves and shelves of things I recognised, in colourful branded packaging designed to play tricks with your mind and, crucially, vanilla extract. 

This all came at a price, however. If M&S food is on the expensive in the UK, it’s astronomical here.  I could eat for a week for the amount I spent on just a few items. I am about to bake the most expensive cookies in the whole world.

But I can rest easy, safe in the knowledge that now they won’t just be any cookies. They will be organic, over-priced,  over-packaged, English-speaking, white chocolate and cranberry expat cookies.  I’ll try to save you some.


About CzechingIn

A blog about an English lady living in Prague.


7 thoughts on “This is not just any blog

  1. I had the same experience today at H & M (not really an American store but a familiar one) A different, actually better, selection of merchandise but the same displays and music. Even the clerk insisted on speaking English – when she heard my limited and badly pronounced attempt at her native language!

    But I did get a really cute outfit!

    Posted by Maureen Ronan Burns | November 16, 2011, 6:46 pm
  2. Well they can be expensive on some things, but there are plenty of things which I think are actually good prices. Their baked beans are cheaper than Billa, risotto rice realtively cheap, English IPA beer forgiveable at Kc 40. You need to check out Globus – I understand now the joy of choice after the paucity of communism. A choice of fish! Fresh lamb! Asparagus!!

    Posted by Jim | November 16, 2011, 7:45 pm
  3. Maybe because Prague was the first city I even went to M&S or maybe because I stocked up on food there today but I don’t see it as a failure at all. If you only went there and never tried anything local- that would be a failure to adapt but that’s not the case!
    Now, time to share those cookies!

    Posted by Jennie | November 16, 2011, 8:02 pm
  4. I agree entirely with Jennie, you have not failed, quite the opposite in fact. You achieved something you otherwise may never have done…..now go one better and post me one!

    Posted by Kath | November 16, 2011, 9:32 pm
  5. ah thanks ladies, that is lovely! Cookies will be on their way soon 🙂

    Posted by CzechingIn | November 16, 2011, 10:38 pm
  6. In a similar way, I remember ‘giving in’ and going to Waitrose in Abu Dhabi & Dubai…it was daylight robbery but sometimes it was absolutely necessary!

    Posted by gregnbaker | December 20, 2011, 12:39 am

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