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[Comments] (2) the great supermarket class war: A while ago there was some #middleclassinsults trend going around twitter. I don't follow twitter so I don't know about these things unless they bleed over into facebook/ blogs, but I had a look at this one and thought it was retty stupid. Anyway I can't remember how it transpired but it lead to a discussion amongst my friend group consisting of brits and non-brits of the middleclass-ness or lack there of of various british supermarkets. My idea is it going something like this:

Waitrose
Sainsburys*
Tesco
Morrisons
Somerfield
Lidl
Iceland

*I have put Sainsburys above Tesco, despite the fact that I have found shopping for the same things comparable. This is because Sainsburys seems to have a better range of "Taste the Difference" "organics" etc.

The bottom rung sort of bleeds together. I've never been to Lidl but I think Iceland is pretty rank. Budgens/ Costcutter are local supermarkets that never have big versions with delis, etc, so I'm not including them here. (I'm not sure if Iceland qualifies by those terms but it is important to the discussion so whatever.) I'm not sure where Co-op fits in. M&S I have excluded because it is not a grocery store, it is a food store, where you can only buy food that has been preparded and prepacked and costs 4 times what it would if you made it yourself. (I went in one looking for vanilla back in my FOB days... turns out they don't do an M&S own brand vanilla!)

The Hypothesis I want to put forward is simple: It is ironic that in the UK, there is more class status attached to the supermarket where you shop, despite the fact that there is less likely to be a choice (ie you live in a big city and don't have a car, or you live in a small community with only one supermarket in driving distance, and that supermarket has put all of the local shops out of business). In the states this is less likely to be the case (broad generalization and based only on my experience in the highly populated south west where everyone has a car and lives within 10 minutes of 10 supermarkets.)

In the states, by contrast, there are a few exceptions. Whole Foods and similar where the snobby hippies shop. Trader Joes where the proper hippies, students, and other cool people (yes, that is a value judgement) shop. Local and 'mexican' super markets where poor and down to earth people shop. But that's about it. Everything else: Albertsons, Vons, Super Target, those foriegn ones I've only heard of (HEB etc) seem pretty much the same and no one is gong to sneer at you for shopping at one rather than the other. Maybe because they are tooo busy sneering at your for shopping at Walmart. Hmmm. But even that doesn't seem to have the same stigma that it used to.

Back in the UK, where there is great statement attached to your supermarket of choice (or not so choice) not to mention potential price difference, consider the following case study. I have lives in 5 different places since moving to london (all in 2.5 years!) and in each place there was one supermarket within walking distance (proper one with deli, bakery, butcher etc). The first place I lived, in halls in the center of London, had a Waitrose nearby. This is highly ironic. Being central London, the only housing nearby was for students, council flats, and the very rich. The Waitrose catered for the very rich but left the rest of us with little choice. I didn't have a kitchen, so it wasn't a huge deal. I could get my microwave ready meals at the Tesco across from Russell Square tube, about the size of a postage stamp and always with a queue four times as long. Oh well. Then I moved to Seven Sisters where I considered myself lucky to have an enormous Tesco across the street. I suppose this is where I aquired my Tesco habit because when I lvied here before I always shopped at Sainsburys. In East Finchley there was a Budgens and an Iceland. The Iceland was horrible and I only went in if I was feeling particuarily poor, and the Budgens was hideously expensive, mainly because they don't have their own brand so you have to buy the name brand -- thus the refuge for the desperate. There was a massive Sainsburys in Muswell Hill, always crowded but well stocked, however it was a 15 mintute walk (20 with heavy groceries) or a bus ride, and at the time I had a severe bus phobia, so we lived mainly on Tesco orders and topped up at Budgens or places "in town." In Dalston, near Newington Green, there is a massive Sainsburys in the worst shopping centre known to man. Dalston is teeming with life, butchers and vegetable markets and ethnic food stores, so I never understood how that Sainsburys thrived much less was always more crowded than Disneyland, but some things you can only get in a supermarket, or its better, or cheaper, or easier to do your shopping all at once. I don't know. For whatever of those reasons I have been there many times myself, and I always end up wanting to chew my arm off to escape. It's that bad. Well, no more.

The whole reason for these musing is because I recently discovered Morrisons. I took Tonks to the vet in "Stamford Hill" (the bit of Stamford Hill that's right by Stoke Newington station) and I noticed the Morrisons. In my head I got it confused with Somerfield which sells Co-op products so I thought I would go there and check it out and buy some fairtrade chocolate. (There is a Somerfield nearby but I didn't find it.) Whoo hoo! It was one of the most pleasant grocery shopping experiences of my time here. It was crowded, sure, but everyone was polite, the shelves were well stocked, the staff were friendly, no screaming babies and despite the crowds there were no massive queues because all the tills were open. There was a bakery, a butcher, a fishmonger, and a deli, and everything was that much cheaper than Tesco or Sainsburys, but still the same quality. All a 5 minute bike ride from my house. Now, I am trying to kick the supermarket habit, for reasons I'll explain later because this is already too long and I've sat here ages writing it, so I doubt I'll be going to Morrisons every week. But it sure is nice to know its there. I came out very excited, and when I remembered that shopping at Morrisons is supposed to be an insult, I laughed.

On the supermarket class scale, this makes no sense. Morrisons is definitely a 'lower class' supermarket according to these #middleclassinsults. The prices are cheaper, too. But the people in Dalston are not going to trek all the way to Stamford Hill to shop at Morrisons, and the people in Stamford Hill/ Stokie are not going to trek all the way to Dalston to shop in Sainsburys. Stoke Newington and Stamford Hill (to a lesser extent) are definitley areas of middle class-ness in between Dalston and Seven Sisters. For a lot of people, (probably *most* people in London) your supermarket is determined by location. There are always ways around it such as delivery but come on. Why the scale? Why the snobbery?

Vast generalization here, I think that in the US the class obsession is more to do with image, whereas in Britian its more about substance. It's possible that this is changing. That might explain the topsy turviness of this example. A tin of tomatoes is, after all, a tin of tomatoes no matter what the label looks like (except the basics ones... I have in fact found those to be inferior) so, it shouldn't matter where you shop. Hmmm.

Update: Sorry John and Susie, my comments have stopped emailing so I don't notice them till I get on here and now it's not letting me post a new comment. to answer your question what I meant was probably a broad generalization that's not true, but in general I was thinking of American obsession with knock-off designer goods vs. British "poshness" which requires the wearing of quality goods such as Barbour or Hunter wellies, the more worn the better because it means you have been out at your country estate exercising the horses and maintaining the hedge. Or something. (And yes, I have a pair of Hunter wellies thanks to Leonard, and they are the best. Not only do they make me posh by default, they are a great purple color, I get loads of compliments every time I wear them, AND they keep the bottom half of my legs completely dry. Plus they will probably last forever so I will still be wearing them when I am walking my dogs on my country estate. =) And thanks!

[Comments] (1) Clothes maketh the woman: It's about time I updated on how my goals for this year are going. I have been meaning to do it for about two months. So far, so good. I have had only one blip.

Sometime in February when it was pouring down rain I was very jealous of Edd who just put on his normal gear and one of those foldaway rain jackets over it. I don't have one of those so I put on my normal rain jacket, but the hood is a bit too effective, meaning I can't see. So by the time I showed up at work I was completely soaked. Thinking about how handy it would be to have one, especially in spring when showers can take you by surprise and an umbrella doesn't go very well with bicycles unless you are in Amsterdam, I nearly went on Amazon and getting myself a foldaway mac but then I remembered my goal. I looked in charity shops, tried to get one on freecycle, and even went on Oxfam online, but no luck. Then on my birthday we were in Oxford St buying knives and popped into Uniqlo. There was one on offer there for £15, pretty much what I wanted exactly, although probably made in sweatshop out of evil plastic, but I bought it anyway. Oh well. I hope it is my only blip. I guess the secret is to keep out of stores so there is no temptation.

Other than that I have been very good. I have bought: a winter hat (allowed because of previous need), tights (underwear so allowed -- but I jumped the gun on that one because I haven't worn them yet), a pair of jeans from a charity shop which were a great purchase, I wear them all the time, and just yesterday a cute top from the same charity shop. It's a great charity shop and I could have easily spent £30 or £40 getting lots of cute clothes I don't strictly need. I only allowed myself the top because I thought it would be a wise purchase, like the jeans. I think even when my clothing ban is over, that will be the main way forward.

That and sewing! I got a sewing machine for my birthday and I am so excited. I'm going to try it out today. It's a proper one, a Bernina from the 70s. I did buy a black suit jacket from Oxfam when I went on looking for a mac (one of the other things I wanted to buy this year but don't strictly need... it was a great deal and a lovely jacket but sadly had a cigarette burn on it so I had to send it back). I also bought some fabric and am in danger of becoming my mother. Hopefully the fabric will turn itself into a cute dress and skirt instead of sitting in my closet for 15 years, but I need to do some rudimentary projects first.

I have also gotten a pair of clarks sandals from freecycle but I haven't worn yet. I haven't decided yet if shoes are included in the ban, but I'm going to try to not buy any this year because I have my bases covered.


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