Thursday, January 07, 2016

The secret place The Frau goes to feel foreign again

It's strange, but sometimes you miss being a foreigner.

The Frau's hometown, Naperville, IL, has a solution for that.

Food stall outside the Asian grocery store in Naperville, IL
It's called the H Mart

It was here, in this Asian grocery store last week, that The Frau gripped her shopping list (filled with items she needed to cook some Asian and Indian dishes from her Swiss Hiltl Cookbook), pleasantly overwhelmed with the feeling that she may never find half the things on it.

Most of the people in the store were not speaking English. There were words on the food packages that The Frau couldn't read. Even the vegetables were foreign. 

It was wonderful. 

In fact, it was so foreign and wonderful that The Frau has decided that her New Year's resolution is to come here at least once a month to enjoy that foreign feeling--at least when she's not getting enough of it feeling like a foreigner in her own country.

To think, Yodelers: H Mart has always been there, in The Frau's childhood Chicago suburban village, just waiting for her to come in and appreciate it.

And that day has finally come.

Sometimes it takes being an expat and then coming home again to understand the joy of being out of your element. Many find only fear in this situation. And The Frau is concerned that too many Americans these days find differences scary. To those Americans, The Frau recommends a passport and an airline ticket. Or if that's not possible, then the second best thing: a trip to the local H Mart. 

Repats: Do you have a secret place you go to feel foreign sometimes?

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

I live in the heart of cowboy country where you can't even find a rap station on any radio (and that's fine by me lol) but there is NO place around here that takes us to another realm. What really caught my eye was the name Hilti (sorry if I misspelled it) but I recognize that name as being a Vegan restaurant in Schwiez!! So I looked up the book on Amazon and am really intrigued. Just curious if you a veteran Vegan or just trying it out? I love trying new Vegan recipes and have been 90/10 Vegan for about 3 years now.

Anonymous said...

If you're ever in Tahoe City, CA check out the Tahoe House Coffee house....the parents are from Winterthur and Kanton Zurich and the 2 daughters run the cafe. It's incredibly cute, complete with Swiss pictures and wait for it.....nussgipfeli AND fondue (Emmi). Total gem of a place to get your Swiss on. :)

Chantal said...

Hiltl is Switzerland's (and Europe's) oldest vegetarian restaurant. It serves international inspired recipes, including many Asian and Indian dishes. They have wonderful food and cookbooks!

Anneliese said...

There's also a really cool Japanese market in Arlington heights! Mitsuwa!

Anneliese said...

There's also a really cool Japanese market in Arlington heights! Mitsuwa!

Anonymous said...

Mitsuwa is awesome. In Westmont there was a proper Chinese supermarket called Diho.

"Different" experiences are all around you, you just have to seek them out. No passport or plane ticket required. Go to Chicago's south side Chinatown, or Argyle Street. Go to Devon Avenue, and Pilsen.

I'm a child of immigrants, and I've traveled to quite a few places around the world thanks to my parents making it a point to take us when we were growing up. So many people are incredibly Euro-centric. Forget Europe for a moment. Think Asia. Exciting things are happening! There's a certain "spice" to life there!

That said, over the years, travel has become less enjoyable due to worldwide fear when it comes to safety, and to things becoming so similar in so many places. Forget about McDonalds and Starbucks, I'm talking about the high streets lined with the same old cheesy Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel etc. shops.

I like doing whatever I can to make my version of paradise at home, not spending my money on airlines and accommodations for tourism revenue elsewhere. Seek out what you can virtually right in your own backyard in the suburbs and in Chicago. Viisit New York and Washington and San Francisco and Miami, places with many people of different ethnic backgrounds, not your average whitebread people who think that because of a seemingly French-inspired first name and vaguely Western European last name that they must be French and whatever, but when looking beyond the simple surname and digging further finds out that he's just as Polish or Albanian as he is anything else.

Hiltl is to proper Asian vegetarian food what Taco Bell is to Mexican...with much higher prices. :-(

Anonymous said...

This is hilarious to me - I do the same thing. I lived in Switzerland as an expat for 3 yrs. and visit the Super G mart here in Greensboro when I need that feeling. Sometimes I am never happier to be "back" in the US after an hour there!

Hattie said...

I live in Hawaii!
When people come to visit, when they leave they say, "I'm going back to the U.S." This place fulfills all my needs for diversity, nature, etc. etc. while providing me the benefits of citizenship in my country of birth.
The worst culture shock I ever experienced was moving from the SF Bay Area to Madison, Wisconsin in the 60s. I had not realized until then that I was not normal. It was Main Street in the Midwest in those days. The worst thing you could say about anything was that it was "different." It's much better now, of course.
We in Hawaii do have to fly a lot, which is why we have Global Entry. Truly worth the money and time. I highly recommend it.

Brandon said...

I was born and raised, and still live, in Hawaii. I've been to the mainland (Sacramento) only once, and have never left the United States. As Hattie says, there's diversity in Hawaii. Because of my limited travels, I've not yet experienced culture shock, but when I went to Sacramento, I checked out a Russian bookstore in the North Highlands area. I don't think there's anything like it in Hawaii. But then Sac'to doesn't have Shirokiya.

Chantal said...

When I was in Hawaii last year I did hear people talk about the U.S. like it was another country. It's definitely far enough away to be one! Hawaii is beautiful and I'm proud it is our country--and you are lucky to live there!

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