Friday, April 20, 2007

Creature Comfort

We have been living out of our suitcases for 5 weeks now. It has been an interesting challenge awaiting the arrival of our creature comforts from home. While we sold a lot of our stuff before we moved, and didn’t ship any furniture, we did manage to have a sizable shipment coming our way.

When we arrived and moved into our house, we had to figure out what essential items we would need to get by while awaiting our shipment. I figured a wok could cover all major cooking necessities acting as a pot as well as a pan, so we decided to buy one. Beyond that, I figured a cutting board; colander and one serious meat clever would do the rest.

There was one more base I had to cover. For those of you who know me (Jen), you know that I quite enjoy coffee, so it was very important that I find a coffee maker. When I was in the US, I started using a one cup coffee maker known as Senseo. I first fell in love with this machine when I was visiting a home in Amsterdam and had a cup of coffee made from it. I was quite thrilled to find that 6 months later, it became available in the US. Since then, I haven’t looked back.

When we were trying to decide what we would ship, sell, or store, we initially thought we would sell all electronic devices and use the money to purchase the equivalent items here in China. After all, most of them are made here, right? Wrong. Well, most are made here, that’s correct, but to think they are inexpensive is wrong. Upon further research, we found that many of the items we wanted to replace were far too expensive, some being 3 times more than in the US. For example, my beloved Kitchen Aid stand mixer that was a wedding gift valued around $250 USD, purchased here in China, would cost well over $600 USD!

So instead of selling and replacing everything, we decided that we would purchase a converter (and not the tiny ones you can buy at target in the travel section, but a serious, 40 lb. converter) that would be used for the computer, Phil’s music equipment, and the occasional use of a stand mixer or waffle iron. There were several items I could not bring though. Any items that would be used every day, or items that had heat elements could not be brought, because they would require a much higher wattage than we could accommodate. This meant that I had to leave my Senseo behind. I looked online to try to find one with the right plug and voltage for China, but had no luck.

The first few shopping excursions in China were filled with note taking, getting an idea of the cost for common household items I would need to buy, looking at what was available, and trying to decide what I would purchase. Later in the week I visited a store called Carrefour. Carrefour is a popular French chain that you will find here in Shanghai. It is like a Meijer on steroids. For the foreigner with any hope in finding food they recognize and would actually eat, Carrefour is a welcome presence. This is also where I spotted the first signs that Senseo might exist in this country. Could it be true? Could the bags of Senseo coffee pods on the shelf be an indicator of a coffee maker close by? I quickly raced over to the small appliance section, and lo and behold, there it was- in all of its splendor and coffee making glory. Oh Senseo. I know you’re thinking “this girl is nuts.” Maybe I am. But the bliss I felt over finding this coffee maker was profound, and I think, an excellent example of the experience of an expat. Here I am, in this completely foreign country, looking at brands I’ve never seen, foods I wish I didn’t have to, just hoping to see something familiar. And there it was. I had found it. The joy and excitement that came from this find was odd, but I went with it, and bought it at 2 times the cost of one in the US. Now, I have my coffee and some measure of familiarity and comfort. Oh Senseo!


Will said...

Love it, I also heard that in addition to getting your SENSEO-ON, you even get to do it w/ dutch pods. And suddenly I'm jealous of people living in Shanghai. No wait, that's gone now, I can have pods shipped from friends in AMS... Cheers Kinneys and congrads on finding coffee!

josh said...

"Oh Senseo!"

... that rules.

Curtis said...

I am glad that you found Carrefour. When we visited Boading, china they had something called FU-MART. It was similar to Meijer's except that the Fish department freaked me out.