Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Fruit and Mullets

Hiro and I where talking about the difference in rice between Japan and Spain. Basically, the Japaneese students are craving Japaneese rice for it's subtle taste and consistency difference, I can't begin to pretend to understand--but it makes rice balls much better. Hiro mentioned that rice is three times more expensive in Japan than it is here. He said part of the difference can be explained as financing government subsidies to rice farmers to ensure that the demand will be met. I had thought that rice was as ubiquitous as air in Japan, and that maybe some kitchens had cooked rice"on-tap", perhaps drawing from a a faucet on the sink next to the water. The combination of being in a foreign country and marketing class, has really got me thinking about product placements, availability and pricing.

Anyone who has ever been to Barcelona, knows La Boqueria. It's a farmers market frenzie, with fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, excellent tapas bars, and way to many stagnant tourists. When I first got here, Marquetta, a Czech girl told me that she didn't like shopping in La Boqueria because the people at the different stands short change her and give her poor quality items because she doesn't really speak Spanish. I thought she was exaggerating, but have come to see this for myself. Indeed, it was a badge of honor when a woman scorged through dozens of tomatoes to find nice ones for me---which at .89 a kilo, are pretty cheap.

Today I bought a pineapple at the local market across the street from me. It cost 2.02 (which today is close to $813) and is excellent. I think the pineapple here--which comes from Costa Rica-- is of much better quality than what's available in New York, and it's cheaper. It got me wondering, and admittedly perhaps hoping, that the Costa Rican's set aside the best pineapples for the Spanairds and give the lesser ones to Marquetta and the US, at a higher price. Spanish cheese and olives are excellent and cheap, as is chocolate-- a lot of which comes from Switzerland--there's really no way around it, the Swiss do chocolate well. Everything pork related is good and cheap too.

I find myself choosing a lot of private label items in the supermaket and elsewhere. This could be due to the fact that I haven't been marketed at here and so am brand indifferent--or private label stuff is actually of very high quality. That's certainly the case at Decathlon. I love that place--they have anything you could imagine that's sports/outerwear related--brand names and private label and everything is cheap. I almost bought a kayak before realizing that I had gotten a little carried away.

Another product difference is haircuts. When you try to get a haircut, the default setting on the drop-down menu is the mullet. If you asked for nothing you would get a mullet. I had to dig pretty deep into my language arsenal to prevent this from happening--beginning with a gracious request, and ending in a polite yet firm stance. I was about to add that I would rather have died a schoolboy than sport a mullet, when my barber acquiesced and noddingly agreed to cut the back of my hair short.