The allure of far-off destinations lies in doing the things and visiting the places that one cannot do or visit at home, so hanging out at grocery stores, 7-Elevens, and chemists may seem like a waste of your valuable, limited time. Let me assure you, fellow travellers, it is not.
Though I cherish the fancy wooden spoons and little pieces of pottery I have picked up in my travels, some of my most prized edible souvenirs are the ones I’ve purchased at everyday — some would say “boring” — markets and shops. These are the locations where you will find the snacks of the people (and teens). It’s where you’ll find special-to-you editions of familiar foods, and brand new consumables to widen your palate.
It’s all fine and good to spend one’s time wandering the stalls of artisanal food halls, but did Torvehallerne — which I never managed to pronounce correctly — have Smash, the sweet and salty snack that is essentially a bag of Bugles dipped in creamy milk chocolate? It did not.
I found those treasures at a gas station, and I just had a few with my coffee. And while it’s true Cadbury mini eggs are available for purchase in Australia, it was at a Walgreens-esque store called “Normal” where I found them studded with Daim, a crunchy almond toffee.
Do you think you’ll find prawn cocktail Pringles at Borough Market? No, you fool, you’ll find them at Tesco, and you should pick up some store-brand strawberry laces while you’re there. (And then go to Marks & Spencer for a wide variety of ham- and roast-flavored crisps.)
As for 7-Eleven, it is worth noting that we have the worst examples of the genre. At the Copenhagen stores, I found Haribo my eyes had never before gazed upon, and bars of ruby chocolate Kit Kats. (I also found surprisingly delicious hot dogs and skewers of meat, which I ate, as well as a whole bunch of organic juices and paleo options, which I was not very interested in.)
According to my co-workers who travelled to Tokyo, Japanese 7-Elevens absolutely own, and provide completely satisfactory sushi rolls at reasonable prices. So take a break from the Instagrammed and internet-recommended, and spend some time at the boring, mundane shops and stores that the locals shop at week in and week out. That’s where you’ll find the real treasures (or at least really good potato chips).
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