If there’s one thing I love about traveling, it’s being able to eat foods from around the world. Many cultures put authentic food at the top of their priority list. Since traveling to the U.K., I’ve had no problem finding incredible meals and snacks to eat on a daily basis. On my hunt for authentic dishes, I’ve come across a few differences regarding British food, advertising and labeling that stick out in my mind.
The first thing I’ve noticed is how the portions in the United Kingdom are much smaller than that of the United States. I initially recognized this when at McDonald’s in London. In America, you can order a large coke (about 30 oz) for $1. In the U.K., there isn’t an option to order that much of the sugar filled cola. The U.K.’s largest size available is equivalent to an American medium-sized, and their small size drink is equivalent to the American kid’s size. I found that so interesting, but even more alarming. I always knew that America had the “larger than life” reputation, but I never really thought about how restaurants set us up to over eat. I even noticed a size difference when I bought a pack of peanut M&M’s from a vending machine on campus. The pack I bought was 5 grams smaller than what a normal bag of the candy would be at home. Just the little adjustments in portion sizes make a difference for the country’s overall health and wellbeing. I wonder if America would seriously benefit from evaluating their portion sizes.
Another thing that was brought to my attention regarding portion sizes is that in America, many dinners that you order come with your main dish, a side or two, and a soup or salad. Not to mention the usual bread and butter that’s offered for free upon arrival. In the United Kingdom, all sides are separate. This has really helped me cut down on my calorie intake and to not over eat. If it comes with it you’re way more apt to eating it rather than if you have to pay extra for it. I am glad I was exposed to these differences. I always mindlessly eat much more than necessary when dining out in America, and I’m glad this was brought to my attention.
Most of the fast-food restaurants in the United Kingdom weren’t open passed 11 p.m. and this was incredibly eye-opening for me! I am originally from a small town in Metro Detroit, and both of the McDonald’s in my small town are open for business 24/7. How could it be that some of these European major cities close their doors before midnight? With a little bit of research, I came to the consensus that people wake up earlier in the big city and get to dinner well before it gets dark out here. Also, this might have to do with the fact that going out for drinks in the United Kingdom is much more of a social interaction than is going out for dinner. So at a bar, they may stop serving food at 9, but continue to serve drinks into the night. This made me question how much of an emphasis Americans and our media put on eating. And a lot of it.
Along with the smaller plate portions for meals in the U.K., I’ve also noticed a lot less overweight or obese people here in comparison to at home. I noticed this almost immediately, and wondered if it had to do with the amount of walking people do to and from work and school compared to the United States. That indeed did have a significant impact on the amount of average burnt calories per day. But it also relied heavily on the fact that Brit’s don’t consume nearly as many calories per day as Americans do.
One of the most astonishing differences that I’ve noticed is also the connotation the two different culture’s have toward body image, more specifically toward weight. I saw this brochure in the cafeteria at Regent’s University that was for promoting weight loss for the students. As a Michigan State University student, I’ve seen plenty of fliers on campus promoting healthy lifestyles, however I don’t think there would be an advertisement for weight loss for teens and young adults. Many times at Michigan State, I’ve been given fliers or brochures stating the statistics of how many people are happy with what shape they’re in physically. I feel that in the states, they focus more on accepting the body you have, embracing your curves, and being happy in your own skin. It was very interesting for me to read those words “weight loss help” at Regent’s University just because I know advertising for healthy living would be done very differently back at home.
While walking around downtown Glasgow, Scotland, some friends and I stopped at a juice bar that was set up in the middle of the street. Their slogan was “Healthy is the new sexy.” This is another one of the many ways that British companies are marketing to promote healthy lifestyles. The tent was covered in bright, attractive colors. The business also included their hashtag, #HealthyIsTheNewSexy, to get people involved with their social media accounts. They encouraged people to tweet or instagram pictures of their healthy juices and foods to spread the word on the new healthy snack bar in downtown Glasgow! When marketing to younger generations, including a hashtag with your brand is an easy and cheap way to spread awareness for your brand, product or service. I know that when I see a hashtag for a product I always search it on the web to see what it’s all about and see what kind of experiences others have shared about the product before I indulge.
Lastly, the one thing I truly hope America jumps on the bandwagon for is the labeling of genetically modified organisms in food. The European Union has made it a law that the food industry must label all items involving GMOs. They believe that people have the right to know where the food they’re eating is coming from, and I agree. I hope America is soon in a position where things such as food labeling become priority.
Of the many difference in the culture and society from all over the United Kingdom, the differences in emphasis on food and healthy lifestyles must by far be one of the biggest I’ve noticed. Don’t get me wrong, I have had some of the greatest meals I’ve ever had over the past four weeks. I have fallen in love with Belgium street waffles, and have had more pulled pork sandwiches in the past month than I have in the last 19 years of my life. I’ve just learned that all of the extra sides, late night meals and lack of walking are the many factors that are making our country unhealthy and overweight. When I get back to the states, I will have a new outlook on calorie intake, portion sizes and healthier lifestyle choices.