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Saturday, 26 November 2011


So another differences entry.

I had planned to do one entry which was all about food and shopping, however, that would be an enormous entry. In fact I think when it comes to food that is going to have to be split in two as well!

So one of the marked differences between the UK and the USA when it comes to shopping is how the shops are laid out. Generally in the UK there are streets which are pedestrianised (no cars allowed, just buses) with some malls within the city or town centre. Even in each separate neighbourhood there is this kind of layout.

In the USA whilst in the downtown of a city there is this kind of format and in the inner city non suburban area you also find them there are mainly strip malls with parking right outside each store in other areas. There are also malls with their own parking completely separate. Yes, there are some of this format in the UK examples being The Trafford Centre in Manchester and also Lakeside and Bluewater but they are not everywhere like in the USA.

Generally any mall whether in the town/city centre or not are under cover. The only mall I can think of which is not undercover is Gunwharf Quays.

In the USA, especially around California there is a mixture of outdoor and undercover. For example Mission Valley, Horton Plaza, Carlsbad Premium Outlets and Las Americas Premium Outlets are outdoor malls whilst Plaza Bonita, North County and Plaza Camino Real are indoor malls.

With the strip malls in the USA you generally have the shops around in one line with the big restaurants or ones with drive-ins separately on the other side of the car parking. A lot of people tend to drive from one store to another than walking around this kind of mall. These strip malls contain small stores, supermarkets, services (dentists, nail places, coffee shops, smaller restaurants and coffee shops) some department stores and other big stores.

Examples of the big stores which you find in these strip malls are Home Depot, Marshalls, Sears, Target, Walmart, ToysRus, Best Buy, Fry's ElectronicsIKEA and Bed, Bath and Beyond.

In the strip malls and malls in the USA parking is FREE unless it is in the downtown area. In the areas where there are town centre layouts where the shops are all in a line you often have parking metres but if you go a few streets back you can often get free parking.

In the UK whilst the retail parks are free car parking you find most town/city centres and malls charge (a lot of) money to park. Again parking a few streets away you can find some free parking but it is usually limited to a couple of hours.

In the UK the department stores are mostly in the malls with the exception of a few which would instead be found in a retail park which is in a different part of a town. Some of the stores you would find in a typical retail park in the UK include Argos, Homebase, B&Q, Brantano, Halfords, Dreams, Dixons, Comet, PC World and of course IKEA and ToysRus.

The supermarkets in the UK are usually in the street with the other shops when it is a town/city centre though some are in the malls or completely separate and set on their own (not in a retail park). Here the majority of the Supermarkets are in the strip malls unless they are in the downtown or neighbourhoods within the city.

The supermarket chains in the UK are Waitrose, Morrisons, Co-op, Sainsbury's, Tesco, Asda and Iceland. Though Marks and Spencer also sell their own branded food.

Here in the USA there are so many supermarket chains. Ones that I can think of offhand are Ralph's, Albertsons, Vons, Stater Bros, Sprouts, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods and Fresh and Easy. Fresh and Easy is owned by Tesco (who are in the UK) but they rebranded for the US market. It actually does feel a little like being in a Tesco when you go in there though the colour scheme is green rather than blue. The receipt is in the same format as in the UK! Whilst Target and Walmart do sell food they are not primarily supermarkets. For those who are not aware, Asda in the United Kingdom is owned by Walmart and the Asda stores mainly sell food with some other items.

In the supermarkets in the UK there are often membership cards, Sainsbury's has a nectar card while Tesco has a clubcard. Here in the USA most of the supermarkets have their own card. Here they are not just for collecting points, often there are items where you require the card in order to make a saving on the purchases.

In the UK supermarkets you often get deals such as Buy one Get one Free or two of a specific item for say £6 (yes I have found out a way to get a £ sign on this laptop- ALT156!) Here, although I have seen many buy two or more for a specific amount I havent really seen any buy one get one frees. Another offer I have seen which is mainly in Vons is 10 items for 10$ and is across a large amount of items.

Here in the USA you get a lot of coupons in the mail each week delivered directly to your mailbox. It's not often you get them in the UK, if ever and never through the mail unless you have signed up on a website to get them.

In the UK if you want to buy a car you generally buy privately, through Auto Trader or go to a dealership. The dealerships are dotted all over the place.

Here in the USA there are generally Autopark areas where there are all of the different garages all in the same place so you may find Ford, Mercedes and Mini all lined up. People do also buy privately or through Autotrader. Another option which is really popular in the USA (but I think very rarely used if ever in the UK) is Leasing.

The pharmacies in the UK sell medications, cosmetics, toiletries and often have an opticians and photo processing department. Some also sell some electrical items and lunch options. In the USA together with all of these items you can also find a selection of toys, books, magazines, ice cream, chocolate, cigarettes, alcohol and all manner of other items. The first time you walk into the pharmacy and see the alcohol and cigarettes it does take you by surprise.

There are mainly chains of Pharmacies here (CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid) there is also some none chains in the downtown and inner city non suburban areas. Also there are often pharmacy counters within the supermarkets.

In the UK there are chain pharmacies (Boots and Superdrug) plus little pharmacies all over the place and in the supermarkets. I think there is a limit to how many you can have within a certain area though.

In the UK there are many butchers, Fishmongers and bakeries. There also used to be a lot of greengrocers (where you can buy fruit and vegetables) but they seem to be on the decline. Here I have so far only seen one butchers, no greengrocers or fishmongers. I think there is a fish market in the Seaport Village (am I correct?). I have seen a few bakeries though!

Something I have seen here (which I wish they had in the UK) is drive in cash machines/ATM machines. Seriously useful!

In the UK the price you see on the shelf is the price you pay for the item at the checkout/cashier, the sales tax of 20% is already added. Here in the USA the tax is added when you ring the items up. The sales tax varies from state to state. The sales tax for California is 7.25%.

Lastly (as this is SO long already) one thing which is different here in the USA is that there is often someone at the end of the checkout/cash desk packing your bags. They also seem to only put a couple of items in each bag. In the UK you pack your own bags and you have to ask for carrier bags as they want you to take your own bags in as often as possible.

I am sure I got some stuff wrong, this is just how I have perceived things. If there is anything I have got wrong feel free to correct me. Also if anyone has any questions over something I have not covered please ask.


  1. When I was in the USA with my family, we HATED having someone else pack our bags. As you say, they only put a couple of things in each bag. We tried to tell them we wanted to pack it ourselves but they wouldn't let us. So, we waited until they finished, then stood there and repacked it all, putting it all in about half the amount of bags! What's the point in us reusing bags if they folk in the USA don't care less?

    Drive through ATMs? I don't really see how that's usefu :-/

    Shellie (Muffin Princess)

  2. I dont like having lots of bags, so we tend to take our own now and pack them :)
    The drive through ATMS is useful when it is raining or you are in a hurry so you dont need to park and walk.

  3. Some pointers on what you've said... the 10 items for $10 can either mean you have to buy all 10 items to get the discount, but also may mean that the item is on sale for $1 and the supermarket is trying to trick you into buying 10. lol Best to read the fine print.

    There are a couple of supermarkets who make you bag your own groceries, mainly big discount places... Food4Less and ALDI, but they're not as big nationally (I'm sure there are others).

    As for alcohol, there are a lot of weird laws state to state of where and when businesses can sell it. Not all states allow selling in pharmacies. Some don't even allow sales at supermarkets.

  4. I have seen a couple of Food4Less stores but not been in one :)
    I completely forgot how some states are different with alcohol. I seem to remember where I was in Wisconsin 10 years ago being a place where they only sold in bottle shops, which is just like in Australia!
    I found a whole wiki on alcohol laws: