So! After all the discussion the other day, I stopped in at Costco on my way home from church yesterday, just to check it out. I went in as a guest, not intending to buy anything, just looking at what they have.
Well, two things became apparent to me pretty quickly. I *could* get a Costco membership so that I could get some of the things that, frankly, looked delicious that I can’t get anywhere else. I could get giant slabs of salmon that I could cut up and freeze, and they had some prepared chicken salad that looked good, some great cheeses, a few frozen thingies, and some snackie things. They have all the cleaning products I use, and I could basically buy them once a year and be good. But the more I walked around, the more I thought to myself “I can get these things anywhere.”
The other big thing I noticed—which is something I already know about Americans—is that Americans like things BIG. I mean B-I-G! It wasn’t just the giant shelves filled with emperor-sized bags of chips or tubs of salsa. It wasn’t just the massive TVs (for sale) that greet you when you walk into warehouse stores. It wasn’t even the huge carts people were wheeling around the stores. It was the gigantic trucks I saw in the parking lot. I ended up following one massive, monster truck out of the parking lot and down the road a little…and it had one person in it. Tiny cab, gigantic truck.
So what is this fascination Americans have with largeness? Because when I was in London last summer, the “big” thing I noticed was that everything was small. Or rather, everything was to scale. The cars were compact and suitable for city driving (and I should note that even watching British TV, like, chat shows, not dramas, the cars out in the country are small too, unless they’re working farm vehicles). The portions of food at the modest-sized supermarkets were just right for consumption without waste, and same with the portions served at restaurants.
This is not a judgement of any kind, it’s just an observation about what appears to be a national character thing. I’ve always been told, too, for example, that in Paris, people shop for what they’re going to eat that day as opposed to making a trip to the grocery store to stock up for the week or longer. It seems to me to be a different philosophy of need and a different way of viewing what is necessary.
Now, I think part of the American way of thinking must come because in a lot of areas, that once every other week trip to Costco is all you’re going to get, since you live so far out in the middle of nowhere. Europe doesn’t have that many middles of nowhere left. But the Costco I went to yesterday was in suburban Philadelphia. You could drive through no more than two traffic lights in any direction and hit another supermarket. And you have to drive for a while before you hit remote country (although we have a lot of “nearby country” just outside of the suburbs). So the practical aspect of bulk shopping can’t be as important here as, say, having a huge family that eats a lot. But I dunno if that scenario applies to everyone either.
At the end of the day, I’ll be honest and say that the European “less is more” system is more appealing to me. That’s just the way I am. But then, as far back as college, I’ve been told—by Europeans—that I’m more British than most British people, and definitely more British than American. So at the end of the day, I think I’ll skip the bulk store membership and keep making my daily trips out to more local shops.