The last night of our very first holiday together, on the Greek island of Zakynthos, was ruined by a leechy couple called Marcia and Preston who refused to read the signals we were giving out that we wanted to be left alone.
It was all my fault. I bumped into Marcia in one of those unisex toilets you find in some bars. When she saw me she’d announced “I cannae get used tae these toilets.”
When I answered something like “Aye, they are a wee bit odd,” she latched onto the shared accent and that was the beginning of the end of Andy and I gazing into each other’s eyes over candlelit Tequila Sunrises.
Reading a Tripdavisor forum thread reminded me of Marcia and Preston. During the course of a neverending monologue from Marcia, with an “aye, that’s right” thrown in by Preston every now and again, she mentioned their suitcase was half-filled with tins of Spam. It snapped me out of the self-induced coma I’d retreated into. What sort of strange person would pack Spam?
It was our introduction to the weird world of holidaymakers who take food products from home on holiday with them.
The Tripadvisor thread was about finding decent bacon on Tenerife. It’s not like you can’t find bacon on Tenerife, even British style; however, it was a task seemingly so difficult that some people took bacon with them on holiday.
A couple of years ago a Barclaycard consumers’ report revealed a third of Brit holidaymakers pack home comfort foods to take on holiday. The surprising top ten list included ketchup, vinegar, Marmite, jam, chocolate spread, long life milk, butter, stuffing mix, Cadbury’s Flake, and gravy granules.
Another survey by Sunshine back in 2013 also came up with a third of holidaymakers packing fave foods, including crisps, chocolate bars, cereals and tea-bags.
I’m guessing most of those surveyed weren’t heading to Outer Mongolia or Doctor Congo (I know before anyone points it out). In which case they are THE most bizarre lists for the simple reason you can pick up nearly every one of these items, including familiar brands, in just about any decent-sized supermarket in most European countries. Nutella is even an Italian brand for heaven’s sake.
There are no Brit tourists where we shop in Portugal and we can easily get most of the items on these lists. It was the same on Tenerife where our ‘go to’ supermarket was also stocked to suit the local population.
The lists make no sense on any level… unless this condiment-packing crew never, ever venture into local supermarkets in destinations they visit. That might explain why so many bought the ‘EU dictating the shape of bananas’ nonsense in the gutter press – they don’t know what fruit and veg actually look like in supermarkets around Europe.
Just imagine, Brexit might have been avoided if more of the British holidaymakers who stick like glue to their hotels had simply popped into local supermarkets.
Finding one item on those lists, stuffing mix, has proved an issue for us over the years. Knowing we usually have to make our own stuffing at Christmas, a friend supplied us with Paxo a couple of times.
“Aha,” the eagle-eyed might say. “So it’s okay for you to have British foods brought to you?”
Yes it is. My mum always brings us square slice sausages and tattie scones when she visits, and we normally return with a couple of edible goodies after a visit to Britain. I don’t see any hypocrisy in that. We live abroad and eat local food products for the majority of the year. Returning with a booty of mini pork pies and a couple of blocks of tablet is a rare treat. The key difference is, it’s a change from what we normally eat rather than a continuation of.
If anyone was spending a prolonged period in one location I wouldn’t raise an eyebrow at them packing favourite foodie items they might not be able to pick up wherever they’re staying. Not being able to go a week or two in another country without having their favourite brand of ketchup is the thing I can’t get my head around.
The Tripadvisor bacon debate showed some holidaymakers don’t just toss jars or packets of food into their suitcases, some take elaborate measures. Here’s a gem of a tip from the thread.
“… buy in UK, deep freeze, wrap in layers of newspaper, (a good insulator ) pack in your hold luggage last minute. It will still be frozen when you get here.”
Seriously? Why bother? Apart from being an enjoyable part of travel, eating local is just so much easier.