The Mom-n-Pop Store or Missing the Other

Zachary from Maine who lived abroad in Istanbul for seven years and has just moved back to the States discusses the vicious circle of always missing that which he cannot have.

After having lived in Istanbul for seven years I find myself really missing the intimacy of the little corner store. It takes me hours to find everything at the local grocery store now that I’m back in Maine, whereas I was in and out of the little shops within minutes in Istanbul. I also desperately miss my chatty grocery man and his fresh fruits and vegetables. He also always had a tip for some new Turkish dish I should try (with ingredients from his store naturally) and generally liked gossiping, meaning I was always up-to-date on the neighborhood gossip!
Now in Maine, where I am originally from and now back, we have a lot of mom and pop stores to choose from, it seems like a thing in the States that I always took for granted. Yet they are just somehow, and quite obviously so, not the same!

It’s funny because I really missed the mom and pop stores when I moved overseas, yet now I miss the other Turkish variant of the small tiny grocers where you sometimes have to go down into the cellar and are greeted with the pungent aroma of spices, fresh yogurt and huge blocks of sheep cheese. I remember going into the mom and pop store about two blocks from my new apartment back in Maine and I was somehow disappointed and a bit confused by the very organized array of products in the shelves. Not that my wonderful grocer was not organized in Turkey, but his was an organization one came to appreciate with time.

This discrepancy between these two so similar yet so very different ideas of a store made me wonder about what other things are global yet so different. For example coffee shops: every country has them, yet they all have a different vibe to them. In America for example we have a large coffee drinking culture, yet a coffee-to-go is more common than actually sitting down with a friend and talking over a cappuccino for hours. In Turkey it is an entirely different culture altogether.

People have their favorite coffee shops, to which they always go to and whose owner they are friends with, etc. In my opinion it was almost only men in coffee shops as I cannot recall ever seeing a woman in one, who then sit together, order their teas or coffees and sip for hours while chatting non-stop. What I find funny is that when I was in Istanbul I missed the Starbucks variation of a latte-to-go, and now, walking past Starbucks, I miss the dark little smoke-filled coffee shops of my Istanbul days.
I wonder whether or not anyone else feels this way: never satisfied with that which one is confronted with at one time or another. I have often discussed this with my friends who have also been abroad and I seem to be the only one who intentionally seems to get homesick for exactly that which I cannot have!

Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

4 Responses to “The Mom-n-Pop Store or Missing the Other”

  1. Oh it is so true. For a year I tried to cook Austrian(home) in Australia but gave up and tried new recipes and fresh produce from the markets in Perth. Same in New Zealand where we lived as well. Here in Romania I miss everything from the other side of the world. Now I have to learn to shop and cook European again.

  2. Hi Zachary,
    I totally understand how you feel since I also travel/lived in 3 countries. When you go and live abroad for a longer period of time you are always thinking about things you are missing at home, and you are not noticing how you are slowly adjusting to the new culture people and places and when you go back it starts all over again, I agree, it is a vicious circle. I always say, it would be nice if we can live in places we like so we won’t feel homesick or have to pick one place over another. It gets better with time.


  3. Hi, the blog here made me feel very nostolgic. I too have the simialr thoughts and feelings ..So you are not alone! 🙂 My name is Hari, I am fom India, I lived in germany for a few years for my education. You know but the countries are in the different part of the world. I reacted so differently. & my feeling were always missing a few things & was little down and upset but many times happy for the opportunities I had or explored! It was great reading your writings!
    Best wishes from India, Hari

    PS: when you find interesting you could read my following writitngs on my reactions on travelling! 🙂

  4. Hi, Zach. You aren’t by any means the only one who feels this way. Having living for a long time in both England and Japan, I always have days when I wish I was in one or the other places rather than back home in NYC. A friend of mine put it well when she said that we travel types tend to be permanent malcontents! These days I’ve decided to accept it rather than fight it… Good luck with your readjustment!

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