Who doesn’t take a quick glance to see what your fellow shopper has in their basket?
It’s a normal human curiosity to see what other people are eating, buying, and where they are going. From fruit and veg to soft drinks, we look beyond our shores to see how Irish abroad have adapted and what is in their baskets.
Just this week, the Irish Examiner reported that one-third of Europeans eat no fruit or veg a day, while the Irish are among the best healthy eaters. Does living abroad change this?
If someone returns from a holiday, it’s not just the weather we inquire about but the price of a pint too, or indeed the cost of a meal out. But since the pandemic things have changed on that front too, with more and more people dining and drinking at home.
In Ireland, an average household spends about €228 per month on groceries, with those in their 50s spending the most at around €367.
When it comes to alcohol things have changed dramatically in the last 22 months. Studies from Drinkaware found that 25% of Irish adults are drinking more than they did before the pandemic, and another survey showed we were drinking even more than that.
More than 50% of Irish people who took part in the Global Drugs Survey said their drinking had increased since the introduction of restrictions.
The Central Statistics Office found a huge jump in our spending on alcohol. In 2019, we spent €2.2bn on alcohol that we consumed at home, and in 2020, that increased by €500m to €2.7bn.
So how do our citizens abroad shop, dine, and drink? What does their weekly grocery list cost them and are they drinking at home or dining out?
Limerick man Gerald Flynn lives in Ontario, Canada, with his wife Meggan and their 10-month-old girl Clara.
For the last eight years, he has been getting to grips with the thriving food scene in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), where food and, in particular, coffee is a huge part of life.
“There is a great diverse culture here so things like Sushi are huge as well as other cultures like Indian and Lebanese.
“Coffee is big here. You have two places, Starbucks or Tim Hortons – the Canadian Starbucks – and they are on every corner,” says the Limerick man.
And alcohol? Much like Ireland, there is currently a craft beer boom out west.
“Drink is big here also, especially craft beer which everyone and their mother seems to be producing right now,” says Gerald.
And, again like Ireland, consuming alcohol at home is the done thing, with the pub not really being a key tenet of life in Canada.
“Mainly people drink at home. Pubs are not really a thing, it’s more sports bars or restaurants, so not the same social scene you’d get in Ireland at all,” says Gerald.
“It’s far less talking really, more eating frozen food that’s been reheated,” he adds.
In Stockholm, things are a little bit different.
Cork woman Eileen Littorin lives in the Swedish capital with her husband and two children. The country is well-known as being one of the more expensive in Europe and this is particularly born out in the cost of a weekly grocery shop, Eileen says.
“Here is where Sweden isn’t as rosy. Our weekly shop as a family of four is about €175. That’s just on food.
“Before the pandemic, we used to eat out a bit. It’s very popular here, particularly lunches, and the city is filled with places targeting working clientele,” says Eileen.
With regards to alcohol, the sale of it comes under State control, and you have to be 20, not 18, to be able to buy it.
“In Sweden, you can only buy alcohol at the government-controlled off-license. It’s a very popular shop.
“You have to be 20 to buy from there, but you can drink in pubs from 18,” she says.
And what is the price of a pint?
It’s not cheap, says the Cork woman.
“Eating and drinking out is very expensive, €10 for a beer or glass of wine is a bargain outside of happy hour where it might set you back €5, so people tend to start at home and then go out,” says Eileen.
“I’d say it’s most common to drink at home in general,” she adds.
The prices in Sweden contrast sharply with Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, and home to Dingle native Siun Creedon Prochazka, where she lives with her husband and children.
In Prague, the weekly grocery shop is very cheap, and eating out is very popular. With regards to alcohol, that’s consumed both at home and in the pub setting, says Siun.
“The cost of the weekly groceries shop is between €40 and €50 a week.
“Eating out is normal here and restaurants are often full at lunch and in the evenings, particularly as you get closer to the centre,” says the Kerry woman.
Alcohol is not only cheap but very popular, with morning beer being part of the culture. While alcohol consumption in the Czech Republic has declined slightly in recent years, consumption per capita remains among the highest in the world, according to the World Health Organisation.
“People drink at home and in the pub. Alcohol is cheap and beer is a favourite amongst the Czechs. It’s not unusual to see men in suits drinking a beer at 8am before work,” says Siun.
But it’s consumed for its taste not for its mood- or mind-altering effects, though alcoholism is an issue in the Czech Republic.
“Beer is loved for its taste and not necessarily as a means to get drunk,” says Siun.
Caitríona Rush lives in The Hague in The Netherlands with her husband and two children aged 10 and seven.
Like Ireland, Aldi and Lidl are popular supermarkets in The Netherlands, with a weekly grocery shop for a family of four costing over €100 per week.
When it comes to alcohol it’s slightly different, with the pub not being such a mainstay of social life for the Dutch.
“The average weekly shopping depends on where you buy, and what you like to eat. We’d buy a fair bit in Aldi or Lidl and then other shops for extra things.
“We probably spend about €130 per week for a family of four,” says Caitríona.
And as for the pub, there is no sentiment of rounding up the troops for a beverage in The Netherlands.
“The Dutch would drink more at home and less in the pub than the Irish. There isn’t the same ‘let’s go to the pub” attitude here though you probably don’t find it anywhere else in the world as much as in Ireland.
“But that is changing in Ireland as well I think,” says Caitríona.
Ailbhe Storan, originally from Limerick city, lives in Dubai with her husband.
Of the six countries our citizens abroad live in, Dubai came in as the most expensive place for a weekly grocery shop, and that’s including the fact that dining out is a weekly event too. A bottle of wine in a restaurant would set you back €80, even though it would only cost you €10 in a corner shop at home.
“Our average weekly shop costs around €150,” says Ailbhe.
“We dine out most weekends and the Deliveroo (food delivery service) options are plentiful with delivery only taking 20 minutes usually,” she adds.
Dining out is very popular though with dry and hot weather coupled with lots of choice.
“Eating out is popular and we are spoiled for choice with every cuisine you could think of and many flagship outlets,” says the Limerick woman.
However, alcohol is extremely costly, even though people drink in pubs and in restaurants, where happy hours are popular.
“People drink in pubs and restaurants mostly, but alcohol is notoriously expensive. Happy hours and brunches are the way to go.
“The cheapest bottle of wine a la carte is usually about €80 and the same bottle would cost about €10 in your local Spar shop at home,” says Ailbhe.
Sonya Coogan, originally from Co. Monaghan, now lives in Lisbon, Portugal, with her husband and two step-children.
The city is becoming increasingly popular for Irish abroad and the nightlife and social life is a key part of that. Nightlife really starts around 9pm daily, with dan