Prices and Availability

Some things are easier and/or less expensive in Newcastle than in the DC area; some things are just not available here, or they cost much more.

Foods

  • Duke’s Mayonnaise: Not available here. A friend posted a link to my Facebook timeline showing a place where I could order it on line, but IIRC it was something like $10 a jar and I can’t find it any more anyhow. So I will bring some back with me every time I go to the States, assuming that includes the DC area and points south. (I did find one place that will ship to the UK, but at $8.88 a quart plus $10 shipping it’s awfully steep.) This gem of a product can be ordered online from dukesmayo.com, but they ship only to US addresses. I’ve told all my US friends that if they visit me, a quart of Duke’s is what I want them to bring me as a hostess gift.
  • Popcorn: Difficult to find in plain form (i.e., not microwave packs). I finally found it for 17p/100g (about $1.20/lb, if my algebra is correct) at a bulk nuts/grains/dried-fruit stall in Grainger Market. (And yes, I mean algebra and not arithmetic.)
  • Maple syrup: Incredibly expensive in supermarkets, and costs twice as much on amazon.co.uk as on amazon.com. Restaurants even charge £1 extra for having it on pancakes or “eggy bread” (French toast). That’s probably because it’s not made here, although Newcastle does seem to have a lot of sugar maple trees. I’m guessing we don’t have the right climate here to make the sap run in the autumn.
  • Cottage and ricotta cheeses: I’ve found them only in 4oz. containers here, and the owner of a local Italian bistro tells me that ricotta can’t be had in larger sizes. In DC you can get either type in 16oz containers and in at least two levels of fat content.
  • Milk: Much cheaper here. I buy a half-gallon (that’s half a UK gallon, or .625 US gallon, 25% more than a US half-gallon) of semi-skimmed (1-2%, I think) milk at Morrisons for £1 (about $1.55).
  • Fruits and vegetables: On the whole, somewhat cheaper here. Maybe slightly cheaper in supermarkets but (usually) substantially cheaper in Grainger Market. For example, I buy smallish Granny Smith apples for 60p (just under $1) a pound at my favorite stall there.
  • Cantaloupe: Really hard to find! Mostly they have Galia melons, which look similar on the outside but are honeydew-like on the inside, and I don’t care for them because they are too sweet.
  • Loose green beans: Can’t be had without going to a super-supermarket that’s not convenient to where I live. Mostly they sell 200g packages, all wrapped up and with the ends cut off, and costing £1.20 (about $2, which works out to about $9 a pound). Phooey on that; I just use frozen ones.
  • Vanilla ice cream: All of the supermarket ones I’ve tried have a funny undertaste. Some of the premium ones at ice-cream specialty shops are good (incuding, unsurprisingly, Baskin-Robbins :-).
  • Artificial sweetener: Packets are nowhere to be found. It comes in large containers (which I use at home) or tablets, but the problem with tablets is that there’s no dose control. I want packets because I can use part of one.

Household items

  • Sponges: Most so-called “sponges” in the UK are not even cellulose sponges but are that soft foam nonsense that doesn’t absorb much of anything. I did manage to find a cellulose one in the supermarket, but cellulose ones with scrub pads attached seem to be available only from Amazon.
  • Flat bedsheets: People in the UK tend to sleep under a duvet (similar to what in the US is called a comforter) with no top sheet under it; and a bedding set consists of a fitted sheet, a duvet cover, and two pillowcases. So, flat sheets are few and far between. I’ve got three, but I ordered them individually from Amazon. I bought an additional one from TJ Hughes (along with a fitted sheet and pillowcases) when the weather got warm enough that I no longer needed flannel, and when I went to the US in March I stopped by my house and picked up one of my old double sheet sets from my storage room. Fortunately, double beds are virtually the same size in the US and the UK (which I knew before I brought the sheets back).

Health products

  • Naproxen sodium (e.g., Aleve brand, although I use the CareOne brand from Giant Foods): Called just “naproxen” here, it requires a prescription. I knew this before I came, and I brought some with me. When I get close to my next trip to the US, I’ll check with my doctor to see what the prescription situation is. If it’s convenient I’ll just get a prescription; otherwise, I’ll bring back another supply. I prefer to have it before I need it.
  • Codeine: Astoundingly, this is sold over the counter here, although you have to ask a pharmacist for it. It comes in tablets with either ibuprofen or acetaminophen as a base, plus 12mg of some form of codeine. This is weaker than Tylenol 3, which has 30mg of codeine, and they recommend a much lower dose, but you can buy it just by asking a pharmacist. Weird.
  • Rubbing alcohol: Not available in shops, it seems. They have “surgical spirit”, which is ethyl alcohol plus a denaturing agent, but no isopropyl at all. I guess it works just the same, but it doesn’t smell right. Fortunately, I have learned that I can get rubbing alcohol from amazon.co.uk at roughly the same price as surgical spirit costs in the pharmacy. When and if I run out of surgical spirit…
  • Cortisone/hydrocortisone ointment: I originally wrote that this is not available in shops, but a British friend pointed me to the product description at Boots the Chemist and I’m going to ask about it the next time I go in. I suspect you have to get it from a pharmacist behind the counter.
  • Antibiotic ointment: Not available in shops. They have antiseptic creams, but no real ointments (made from petroleum jelly), and it’s airtight property of ointments that helps the healing. I can get Polysporin from amazon.co.uk, probably because it’s imported from the US — but nothing that includes pain relief. And it costs a bloody fortune!
    Update: A British friend tells me that it’s not available here without prescription and that it’s probably iillegal to import it from the US. I’ll have to bring some back with me next time I go to the US. (It’s not illegal if I bring it for my own use, but don’t anybody start thinking you can bring me some. I’d rather you bring me a quart of Duke’s mayo, anyhow.)

Services

  • Haircuts: Slightly cheaper here, as far as I can tell.
  • Restaurants: Restaurant food tends to be higher here, but tipping is much lower. 10% is considered the maximum tip, but what most people tell me is that it’s meant for good service and isn’t expected.
  • Pedicures: Some are a lot more expensive, some are about the same. They don’t have what I’m used to — nail salons full of Vietnamese women and massaging pedicure chairs, places where you just walk in and one of them does your feet (and/or hands) right away. They do have nail salons, but the ones I’ve seen and used tend to require appointments.
  • Public transportation and taxis: See my observations on transportation.
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