Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Not in Kansas Anymore

It has taken me all of 10 days to build up quite a list of "haves" and "have nots" here in Romania.  And by this I mean- items which are quite common in America that one either can or cannot find in Romania.  Some of which I expected, but of which totally caught me off guard.  I'm not talking about wanting Tropicana OJ instead of the Romanian brand.  I'm talking flat out does not exist here and people are truly confused when you inquire about these items.  In any event, I have been compiling a list, and though it is certainly not exhaustive, it is perhaps some of the more notable items.

First the "does not exist here" list:

Marshmallows or any kind of marshmallow derivative

Hummus: my life may in fact be over

Mouthwash: at least of any palatable variety.  The one kind I found was truly disgusting

Chocolate chips: travesty of all travesties

Ziploc bags: how in the WORLD can I organize my life??

Clothing Dryers: the fact that we have one in our apartment is apparently a luxury beyond comprehension to most Romanians

Dryer Sheets: with no dryers, there isn't much of a market.  but since we have a dryer, we could use some dryer sheets

Cereal: this isn't totally nonexistent, but you are lucky to see more than two types in a store. And let's just say that Honey Nut Cheerios here aren't so much like home

Cheddar Cheese: while there are lots of cheeses, this is not one that is easily found

Molasses: not so heartbreaking, but it falls under the heading of "very confusing substance to Romanians"

Easy Mac: my Romanian roommate Simona describes it as "disgusting and unnatural" (Luci received some in a care package). While she is probably right, it's a crucial item for lazy comfort-food nights

Tissues: ok, they exist, but they're hella expensive for some reason

Peanut Butter: again, you can find it occasionally, but it's hella expensive

Candies such as Swedish Fish, Sour Patch Kids, Milks Duds, Tootsie Rolls, Starbursts, and other wonderfully bite-sized treats

Moving on to the "lots and lots of these items" list:

Bread: I think it is like corn in America.  It's everywhere.  And dirt cheap.  We're talking 40 cents for a loaf of homemade bread

Eggs: again, this is a staple in the diet of Romanians.  Loads of eggs here

Potatoes: yet again, you can't find an apartment without a big bag of them laying around

Cheese: it's seriously intense to walk down the cheese aisle of a supermarket here.  The fact that they have literally an entire aisle- both sides- of cheese is pretty much awesome

Sausages and sausage-like substances: again, an entire aisle of gradations of scary sausages.  Or at least round tubular meat-like products.  Not sure I will venture into this aisle all that often

Snack foods: kind of like in America, there are entire aisles devoted to snack foods.  But here it's all so NEW to me, I can try out each and every brand and variety and figure out which ones I like!

Yogurt: I bring this one up just because I love yogurt outside of America, because it's just way more natural, more like yogurt and less like a bunch of chemicals made to resemble yogurt.  And the flavors!  Mandarin! Pear! Apple! And all quite tasty

Chocolate: I think I'm ok with not having Hershey's and Mars brands if in exchange I get Swiss chocolate brands.  Because that's "local" here.  And cheap.  Mmmm

Bottled water: I'm not sure if it's because the water here is uber calcium-filled so people don't drink from the tap, or if marketers in America have just convinced us it is acceptable to pay $3 for a 16 ounce bottle of water.  But.  Here you can buy 2.5 litres of water for $1.  Yes, it is true

Fornetti: it's basically like the "Starbucks" of Romania, only because they are everywhere, not because they sell coffee.  What the do sell, however, is tasty little pastry treats that are scrumptious.  I need to try all the flavors, but so far my favorite is apricot.  I may or may not be drooling just thinking about them

I have not yet decided which (or whether) side outweighs the other.  Perhaps I will report back in about five months.  In the mean time, I will rely upon care packages to keep my cabinets stocked with my favorite American goodies, while exploring all the new wonderful foods in my new land.  Bon appetit.   

2 comments:

cwatts said...

Liz, it's hilarious to read this post and understand you completely! You might as well give up on finding cheap yellow cheddar cheese, easy mac and peanut butter. I even had Reese's candy stolen from a package I received in Russia. As for tissues- have you tried looking for the little pocket packs? For some reason those were super cheap in Russia while boxes were expensive. Also, nutella and honey are great substitutes. There is also some seriously great candy/sweets if you're willing to experiment. There are marshmellow candies, but no marshmellow in the form we see them in the US. If you can find one or two "comfort" items it will go a long way. I look forward to hearing more about your time in Iasi!

preethi said...

Okay, chocolate I guess you could chop up the good stuff in place of chips. Hummus, maybe you could make your own out of chickpeas. But no ziploc bags??? This is truly a tragedy!! I not only use them to organize food, but papers, tie thingies, paper clips, and anything else that will fit inside of one of the many sizes. I feel your pain.

Also, loved talking to you today. :)