I hadn’t been to our local supermarket for the last two months, but I fully expected it to be more or less as I had left it, given that I can go a year or more between trips to our local shop in the UK and very little changes beyond some light rearranging of the aisles. So this morning was definitely a cultural experience.
The first surprise was the price rises. Ok so inflation here is officially 8%, but everyone including the IMF knows that 28% is closer to the mark, so of course it would make perfect sense that everything had gone up 5% in our absence. I just wasn’t prepared for the reality to be quite that stark.
And the other thing was the gaps on the shelves. Policy here at the moment is for strict limits on imports, and the few products which do get through are subject to a 50% tax. These measures are supposed to encourage an increase in local manufacturing, but the gaps on the shelves suggest that the policy might not entirely be having the desired effect. Bleach, washing up liquid, and roll-on deodorant seem to have become relics of a past era, while washing powder has largely been replaced with tablets of soap. Bizarrely the depleted washing up liquid section was sporting a jaunty sign reassuring the consumer that in the ongoing absence of washing up liquid, the makers of Skip clothes wash powder have confirmed that this can be used to wash dishes. I’m sure they’re right, it’s all based on the same stuff, but given that washing powder itself is becoming as rare as rocking horse droppings I can’t quite see how the advice would be helpful.
Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t talking about Soviet food queues, or even post-War UK ration books, but I did take my shopping list to a hitherto western-style supermarket fully confident that I would be able to restock on the household essentials, and I did come out scratching my head and wondering what else won’t be there next week.