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I'm sure it's quite a common thing for expats - you spend a few weeks, maybe even a few months in a new country, enjoying the new cuisine and learning all about it. However, at some point, possibly when feeling a little low or a little homesick, you'll have a yearning for the taste of something from your home country. Maybe something you used to eat often, maybe something you tended to just eat as a child, maybe a special drink, but chances are there'll be something!

If you're lucky, it'll be something popular enough in your new country that you'll be able to find it in a large supermarket, and your cravings for the taste of home can be sated.

If you're unlucky though, and the bigger shops round you don't stock it, what then? What strategies can you use to get hold of some of whatever "foreign" food it is you're after?

  • See this meta question on this kind of question – Gagravarr Mar 17 '14 at 17:01
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    Some general hunting could be okay, but don't let this question serve as a duplicate for more food / regionally specific ones. – Tim Post Mar 17 '14 at 17:22
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    It's extremely broad because it depends on hundred of factors. Depending on concretisation, it could be a questions for Seasoned Advice as well. – user41 Mar 17 '14 at 17:27
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    If you're in the US and from the UK, Amazon sells everything. (Ribena, marmite, bisto, Heinz baked beans, etc). – Jeremy Miles Mar 17 '14 at 18:28
  • Ask your family/friends/loved ones to mail you packaged foods (NOT raw meat or liquids!)? – dearN Mar 18 '14 at 21:46
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As you mentioned, some supermarkets will just stock it - a lot of foods are common across countries.

Sometimes there is an international food section in the supermarket as well that features items for expats.

Failing that, google you 'South African foods' or whatever country you're after, and your city you're now in, and see what appears. Lots of shops exist for this purpose - eg The Savannah for South African food in London.

Then there's the expat magazines. TNT Magazine in London often features adverts for stores, suppliers and more for foods and comforts from home.

Finally, ask other expats. Join a meetup, find a group and ask them - the experienced ones will know, if there's a way.

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You can usually find some international food shop of about any country. Even if they don't stock the food item you want, they still might be able to place a one off order using their importer.

The more you order the more they will be willing help you out, so you should try to place a bulk order with friends if the good has a short shelf life.

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Regardless of where you come from, there is usually, at least, one more country that also has whichever product that you want or crave, so knowing that will help you widen your horizon of possibilities.

Another important element about more than one country having the same product that your country, is that it may happen that the other country has more immigrants than yours in the place you are looking for the food, so they may have specialized stores on the city or even ethnic neighbourhoods, if you go to those stores or neighbourhoods it's easier to find what you are looking for or to get the best advice as how to replace it.

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You are going to have to learn to find suitable substitutes at least some of the time. Certain products, even if you are able to find them at specialty stores are normally going to be quite expensive.

My advice is to get to know the local products and to especially be willing to experiment with modifications to the recipes you are trying to prepare.

As an example, here in Germany I can't find graham crackers anywhere, but I wanted to make a New York Cheesecake. The closest thing I have found that works is Spekulatius. They are a bit different, but it worked just fine.

You should also try to look in ethnic specialty stores which might seem unrelated to what you are trying to find. As an example, I was looking for fresh cilantro (coriander leaves) and black beans. I was surprised to find them both at an asian market.

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