Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The ugly American rears his misshapen head

...So last weekend we got together with some fellow US expatriate friends of ours, who also coincidentally hail from the same corner of rural Oregon that we came from. And we were talking about our general adjusting to life in New Zealand experiences, the ups, the downs, the strangenesses of it all, and we were talking about things in America that were different, and there came a horrible, terrible moment when we realized...

...We kinda missed Walmart.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketI know, I know, I'm a "git r done," trucker-hat wearing, Cheeto-eatin' yokel. Indeed, the Walmart in Roseburg, Oregon, where I shopped a couple times a month, was a redneck American paradise, full of gigantic people pushing gigantic shopping carts with soon-to-be-gigantic kids stuffed in them. There was never a time when it wasn't crowded, and I usually ended up leaving with some kind of existential crisis burgeoning in my head.

But in New Zealand, so far, I have yet to find the kind of one-stop, everything-under-the-sun shopping that Walmart, country-gobbling monolith that it is, has to offer. There is Kmart here, but it's quite sparsely stocked compared to the US stores, and the "Walmart equivalent" here is probably something called the Warehouse, which varies between amazing bargains (bought a TV there last week for $168) and astoundingly poor, disorganized stocking at some stores. In general, things are smaller. For instance, at one the other week I was looking for dishwashing soap - and they were simply, apparently, out of stock. Of the two brands they carried. Finding white school glue took me a couple of weeks. Shopping tends to be more of a quest here.

There's a lot of things I love about New Zealand, of course, and I actually dig that it's not yet covered with strip malls and the crap that makes Memphis look like Sacramento look like Cheyenne these days. There's lots of mom 'n' pop shops still, apparently thriving. There's character and a sense of place. I'm adapting, really, and I do kind of like the thrill of the chase of trying to hunt down something as basic as glue (which I bought at the post shop up the street of all places). I really do hope Walmart never comes to New Zealand, and that the fish and chip shops outnumber McDonald's still. But I do kinda miss being able to grab diapers, soap, new jeans, soup, glue and clothespins all at one place. And cheap. Have I mentioned things are expensive here? I never imagined Walmart would be something one could miss.

So I guess in this life it's convenience or character, rarely both.

It's a paradox, ain't it?

I'm so ashamed.

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