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Sudanese-American Cultural Differences -- Food in America is WEIRD!

alkapal Apr 6, 2011 08:21 AM

I found this amusing and a little sad, too. The segments dealing with food might make you think a different way when you eat something so familiar to you...but maybe not to others in the world.


I hope that these young men are finding life less difficult these days.

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  1. roxlet RE: alkapal Apr 6, 2011 12:47 PM

    Well, they certainly liked potato chips! That was really kind of heartbreaking, though.

    1. l
      Lizard RE: alkapal Apr 6, 2011 12:57 PM

      This looks to be a clip from a longer running piece-- is there any chance for more information and attribution?

      16 Replies
      1. re: Lizard
        alkapal RE: Lizard Apr 6, 2011 01:49 PM

        I think here is a treasure trove of information about the Lost Boys: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/sea...

        They are from the Dinka homelands in Sudan, and escaped getting killed to get to a refugee camp in Ethiopia.... that''s where it starts for their journey. They were fleeing for their lives from religious persecution. """Then, 7,000 miles (11,000 kilometers) away, a United States church volunteered to sponsor several Sudanese refugees. A few weeks later, Dau, who had never seen electric lights or flush toilets, landed at the Syracuse, New York, airport. "On my first trip to the supermarket I couldn't believe there was an entire aisle of food for cats and dogs. At home, even people have no food.""" http://www.nationalgeographic.com/fie...

        Lizard, I'm glad that you asked that question! Thank you. I intend to read about their journey and where they are today! (And see if they ever liked the sprinkles. ;-).

        1. re: alkapal
          Ruth Lafler RE: alkapal Apr 6, 2011 04:41 PM

          That reminds me of an article I read about the wife of one of the first basketball players to come from the Soviet Union to play in the NBA. One of the other players' wives was showing her the ropes and took her to the supermarket, where the newcomer starts loading all the meat she can in to her cart. The NBA player's wife asks her what she's doing, and she explains that you have to buy meat when you see it in the store, because it might not be there tomorrow. She had to be convinced that it was okay, there would be plenty of meat in the store the next day, and the next ....

          As Americans we take for granted a level of material abundance that people in many parts of the world can never imagine.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler
            alkapal RE: Ruth Lafler Apr 6, 2011 04:44 PM

            that is very true, ruth.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler
              chowser RE: Ruth Lafler Apr 6, 2011 07:02 PM

              Even my friends from England were amazed at the variety of cereals we have--one asked how we possibly decide which to buy. Sadly, I told her there wasn't one that I cared for that much, even with the variety.

              1. re: chowser
                Lizard RE: chowser Apr 7, 2011 01:01 AM

                @Chowser: Variety of cereals, possibly, but consider the variety of creams that the UK typically has on offer-- a range that outstrips the US. The same with crisps. And, France will kick both the US and UK in terms of varieties of yoghurt. Just saying.

                1. re: Lizard
                  Ruth Lafler RE: Lizard Apr 7, 2011 10:08 AM

                  Sometimes it depends on how you define "variety" -- I find that in Europe there tend to be fewer brands, but often more varieties within each brand.

                2. re: chowser
                  mariacarmen RE: chowser Apr 7, 2011 07:36 AM

                  I lived in Europe for 9 months in 2005 (France, Italy, traveled thru parts of Eastern Europe, 2 months in Croatia) and was always struck by how little variety of anything they had, in most every country we grocery shopped in. for example, I'd look for a bag of chips and there'd be maybe 3 kinds - rather than 50 kinds like here. And that was EUROPE! Not even a country in Africa. I do agree with Ruth.

                  1. re: mariacarmen
                    Lizard RE: mariacarmen Apr 7, 2011 09:00 AM


                    1. re: mariacarmen
                      Jetgirly RE: mariacarmen Apr 7, 2011 06:09 PM

                      I think the variety is often just in different areas. I am always amazed by how many different pre-packaged breakfast pastries you can buy in Europe. I always found that overwhelming when I lived in Italy, and I noticed a similar trend in Eastern Europe this summer. On the flip side, if you go to a grocery store in Mexico you'll be blown away by the variety of canned beans. I've always found that Canada's variety of dried soups is tiny compared to just about everywhere else I've visited.

                      1. re: mariacarmen
                        linguafood RE: mariacarmen Apr 9, 2011 09:20 AM

                        and did ya notice that the bags are about half or a third of the size than their american counterparts?

                    2. re: Ruth Lafler
                      small h RE: Ruth Lafler Apr 6, 2011 07:12 PM

                      I am reminded of a Christo exhibit I saw years ago at the National Gallery. Christo, who's from Bulgaria, wrote that when he first saw the variety of products available in stores here, and all the elaborate packaging, he was inspired to create works that were just layers and layers of wrapping, encasing nothing. You can kind of see a through-line from this to his more current projects.

                      1. re: small h
                        hill food RE: small h Apr 7, 2011 01:24 AM

                        small h: I'd never heard that one, but as an art-school grad and someone who sorta likes Christo (and wife to be fair) that makes a LOT of sense.

                      2. re: Ruth Lafler
                        Bob W RE: Ruth Lafler Apr 7, 2011 10:16 AM

                        So true. I happen to live in an area (northern Virginia) where there is both tremendous affluence and a huge number of immigrants from all over the globe. A few years ago I walked into a new supermarket (maybe a Harris-Teeter, a nice but typical American supermarket) and thought, "What a beautiful store -- I wonder what people think when seeing such a place for the first time?"

                        1. re: Bob W
                          Ruth Lafler RE: Bob W Apr 7, 2011 10:48 AM

                          I'm guessing: overload. I grew up with American supermarkets and I still have been known to go into sensory overload in the cereal aisle. I won't shop in my local Safeway, because the aisles are narrow and the shelves are really high -- it's like they're trying to cram as much stuff as possible into the space and it's just TOO MUCH.

                          ETA: and despite the fact that they have so much stuff, when I do go in because I need something specific, they often don't have what I went in there for!

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler
                            pine time RE: Ruth Lafler Apr 7, 2011 12:22 PM

                            My mother-in-law was visiting from India for the first time. I had a raging headache, and we stopped at a grocery store so I could buy aspirin, a quick in-and-out kinda thing. Well, they were having some cheapo dollar sale on knickknacks, and she had to carefullly examine each and every one. We were there over 3 hours, and I think she bought $3 of junk. I took my aspirin while we were in the store!

                        2. re: Ruth Lafler
                          BobB RE: Ruth Lafler Apr 7, 2011 11:51 AM

                          That's like my wife, who emigrated from the Soviet Union to the US in 1976. Her first experiences with Western stores were quite shocking to her, not just for the variety of products but the variety of packaging. In the USSR everything came in just a few standard sized jars which were typically reused, and most dry goods were just wrapped in newspaper.

                          On the plus side, because of this there was very little trash there.

                    3. chowser RE: alkapal Apr 6, 2011 01:04 PM

                      That was interesting, eye opening. Thanks for posting it. As the eating goes, it goes to show that while Americans get a bad rap for being picky eaters, most cultures are picky and like what they grew up with, potato chips aside. They never showed whether they liked donuts or not. But how funny it must be for them to see such bright, fake colors in food like sprinkles.

                      16 Replies
                      1. re: chowser
                        alkapal RE: chowser Apr 6, 2011 01:39 PM

                        i know the sprinkles really had to get them! but the donut lady was really friendly, as were some others -- so everyone wasn't indifferent or unfriendly.

                        edit: on the "wimp" link videos, they provide the original link below the screen. so i copied that link, and it appears to be a national geographic link (and that link indicates it is national geographic's home page, and these men were called "The Lost Boys": http://video.nationalgeographic.com/v...

                        1. re: alkapal
                          Lizard RE: alkapal Apr 6, 2011 01:54 PM

                          Thanks, alkapal. I was fairly sure that this was a documentary about the Lost Boys (with whom I am very much familiar but appreciate the link to the treasure trove nonetheless) but wanted to know the specific documentary. I didn't see Katie Couric or a bug in the clip, so its CBS provenance was not obvious to me. I was also hoping to get a date on it, since Lost Boys were a story of some years ago-- although that doesn't mean not still of interest or importance, of course.

                          1. re: Lizard
                            alkapal RE: Lizard Apr 6, 2011 02:05 PM

                            the second link i provide i believe is more up to date; here's the one i mean: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/fie...

                            apparently, their "journey" began in 1987. I'm not sure of the date of the documentary. and i'm pretty sure (!) that i saw katie couric at the end, chatting with some dark haired friendly guy, in chairs, and then the CBS production info. or MAYBE i'm confusing it with another video i saw earlier today. i guess i just gotta watch it again! ;-).

                            1. re: alkapal
                              Lizard RE: alkapal Apr 7, 2011 01:17 AM

                              Thanks, again. Unfortunately. this link only leads to more information about John Bul Dau and his foundation. I am happy this is available as clearly there seem to be many hounds not aware of this history so you've done a good deed. There is reference to one documentary (God Grew Tired of Us) but the absence of a link makes me wonder if this is the one-- there were quite a few made. Sorry to go on, but I do think about issues of attribution-- especially as we can see how someone's hard work is passed around with no acknowledgement, recognition, or perhaps even permissions. One might argue against the need for "issue" films, but I can assure you that these filmmakers can be committed to their advocacy whilst still needing to know what happens to their work.

                              1. re: Lizard
                                alkapal RE: Lizard Apr 7, 2011 09:45 AM

                                would you find out who the filmmakers are? i'd be happy to hear from them!

                                1. re: alkapal
                                  Lizard RE: alkapal Apr 7, 2011 03:22 PM

                                  Sorry Alkapal but I'm simply too busy to take on another project. However, I do promise that if I provide a link in the future, I'll do my best to assure attribution!

                                  1. re: Lizard
                                    adido RE: Lizard Apr 8, 2011 12:01 PM

                                    Totally off chow topics but "God Grew Tired of Us" is available on netflix. Also "What is the What" by David Eggers is about the lost boys and has a similar chapter where they finally get to the US and they have loads of trouble with food - finding things they like, food storage problem, hoarding etc.

                                    1. re: adido
                                      alkapal RE: adido Apr 8, 2011 12:47 PM

                                      i thought that it was funny in the clip i linked in the OP, where the guy tells the young men that they shouldn't throw their food out the window, but instead use the garbage can.

                                      1. re: adido
                                        Lizard RE: adido Apr 9, 2011 01:47 AM


                                    2. re: alkapal
                                      GraydonCarter RE: alkapal Apr 9, 2011 12:18 AM

                                      > filmmakers


                            2. re: chowser
                              alkapal RE: chowser Apr 6, 2011 02:10 PM

                              i loved it when they were eating the butter straight from the foil packets on the plane. "is it meat? is it milk? it tastes like soap! "

                              1. re: alkapal
                                zooxanthellae RE: alkapal Apr 6, 2011 05:52 PM

                                That actually makes some sense - isn't soap traditionally made with a lot of fat and something basic? So it might be a close analogue for something as blandly fatty as butter.

                                1. re: zooxanthellae
                                  alkapal RE: zooxanthellae Apr 6, 2011 05:56 PM

                                  yes, beef fat is made into tallow, right? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tallow

                                  1. re: alkapal
                                    hill food RE: alkapal Apr 7, 2011 01:27 AM

                                    tallow or suet yes, mixed with ashes and it's lye soap (careful stirring that! it'll sting your eyes if not blind you).

                                2. re: alkapal
                                  GraydonCarter RE: alkapal Apr 6, 2011 08:41 PM

                                  At one point he says, is it soap or is it bitter? I think he meant butter but that is a new word for them so he may have gotten confused and said bitter instead.

                                  1. re: GraydonCarter
                                    alkapal RE: GraydonCarter Apr 6, 2011 08:49 PM

                                    good point. i think you're right.

                              2. girleatseverything RE: alkapal Apr 8, 2011 11:40 AM

                                I just watched this documentry streaming on Netflix. It's from God Grew Tired of Us.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: girleatseverything
                                  Lizard RE: girleatseverything Apr 9, 2011 01:49 AM

                                  Thanks for the confirmation. There are a number of documentaries and representations on the subject of the Lost Boys, so it's important to give attribution/shoutouts, etc.

                                  1. re: Lizard
                                    wcundill RE: Lizard Apr 9, 2011 03:44 AM

                                    if this sort of thing interests you, try watching "Meet the natives" about a cargo tribe from the south pacific doing a reverse anthropology of sorts/reality show in Britain and then season two in the US

                                  2. re: girleatseverything
                                    onceadaylily RE: girleatseverything Apr 9, 2011 08:53 AM

                                    I saw this documentary a few years ago, and am still haunted by it. We actually tried to eat the dinner we'd ordered in while we watched it. Meals aren't often allowed to grow cold around this home, but that one did.

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