Do you enter a store and know exactly where you need to go? To find your brand of toothpaste or your favorite crackers? Are there certain brands that you have bought for years and cannot imagine buying anything else? Were you a Skippy kid from way back and you still reach for a jar of Skippy peanut butter today? There are many of you out there, and I know, because I used to be just like you. But now that has all changed.

I have written that American culture has influenced the quality of life in the Netherlands. From TV, movies, music and the numerous products that are available here… American “stuff” is here. Even so, I have struggled to find specific items that I was used to while living in the United States.

I have been searching online for certain things. There are companies in the Netherlands that sell American products, but the prices are very high and you have to pay shipping costs.

I could ask friends to mail me things, but again, the cost is just ridiculous. Just the price of mailing a small package of feathers from the U.S. would be mailing a block of cement. It is just unbelievably high, so that option is not going to fly.

My challenge was to find a store in this country that sold the products I wanted. In Utrecht there is one very small store that sells American and British products and the prices are high. I did find a store about 30 minutes from here that was a regular grocery store that had numerous international products. All of my hope was in one grocery basket.

We went to the city of Amstelveen to Kingsalmarkt with hope of finding at least a few items. I was looking for some specific things, but also ready to be surprised. My expectations were low, and I knew I would be happy with just a few things. But I did not expect to walk into the promised land.

As I walked in, I saw America and it was in the form of Milk Duds. There was a display of Milk Duds greeting me. I don’t even care for Milk Duds, but I knew that I would be okay if this store had boxes of American candies. Immediately, this place made me smile. Noises were coming out of my mouth, that I did not know were possible in a public place. There were shelves and shelves of American items and why was this so wonderful? There are really two reasons. First, it reminded me of life in the USA and second, it gave me choices.

I was prepared for the prices to be high, and they were. One can of Campbell’s soup was 2.45 Euros (about $3.50). I cannot find condensed soup anywhere, so this was a great find. There is no root beer in the Netherlands, but here I found individual cans of A&W root beer for one euro a can. That was my big treat of the day, getting a can of root beer.

There was one big ticket item I was looking for: pancake mix. I had shipped pancake mix with my books and stuff, so that I could make American pancakes for the children. The Dutch are famous for their pancakes, but they are very different from American pancakes. They are much thinner and come in two sizes: one is as big as a hubcap and the other is as small as a bottle cap. They usually put chocolate on top, or some kind of strange molasses stuff. But my pancakes were a big hit with the kids and I was running out of mix.

I was going down the aisle, and then these bright blinking lights were on the top shelf. I saw a box of Bisquick just glowing right at me. I think it was calling my name. Then I heard  “America the Beautiful” through the store speakers. I stood there with my mouth open and looked up at that box. And then I saw the price…equal to about $11.00. For one box. That is a lot of Euros. But it was cheaper than paying the shipping, and so I got the box without hesitation.

This was a good day. I now know that I can come back here whenever I run out of those certain things that I need. But the bad news is that they still don’t sell my brand of deodorant or toothpaste. My teeth and body will have to adjust to new brands. Speaking of teeth, the vision of Milk Duds took me back to when I was young and getting a box to take to the movies. That box would last for almost the whole film. It is just a little bit of America coming to me, and that is a good thing.

I may end up toothless and smelly, but I will continue to make the best American pancakes in the Netherlands. Well, that is what the kinderen (children) say and who am I to argue?

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  • Stan  On August 15, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    How can you possibly survive in such an uncivilized backwater? Even Maine carries Milk Duds.

  • Judy Savage  On August 15, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    Whenever I was traveling outside the States I always immersed myself in the local culture, eating different food, drinking different drinks, sometimes buying different clothes than we had at home. The only thing I REALLY missed was crispy bacon while I was in England. I couldn’t wait to get back home and get really cooked bacon. Otherwise, I enjoyed those many new experiences. So I guess, Jane, that you are still enjoying many new experiences but you have been gone long enough now that those favorite foods are still being missed. When I eventually get to visit you, I’ll pack just a few clothes and stuff my suitcase with Bisquick, toothpaste and deodorant for you. Of course, maybe by then you will have gotten used to your new favorites……. I LOVED Milk Duds!

  • Aledys Ver  On August 16, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    I just love that name, “Milk Duds”! 😀 I can imagine the excitement you must have felt, walking into that store and discovering all those delicious treats from back home. Sometimes our family or friends there don’t really get what it means to us to find stuff that they take for granted. When they say, ‘hey, I feel like having Milk Duds!”, they just have to get out of the house and go to the store to get them – for us is a bit more complicated…

  • Jane Moore Houghton  On August 24, 2011 at 4:07 am

    Ha! I was just having a conversation with Rachel today who was wondering if you were able to find your beloved Jiffy over there. 🙂 I could mail myself over there and may just do that one of these days, I mean. – how expensive could it be? Miss you

  • High Tea Utrecht  On August 31, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    I have been searching for Milk Buds for ages in the Netherlands. Could you pls tell me where you found them?

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