One of my Czech friends is currently staying with us in England. It is fascinating to see my homeland through her eyes. Amongst other things it highlights the differences between our two countries.
On Wednesday we went to our local Morrison's supermarket, she wanted to buy some English foodstuffs to take home. She was awestruck by the variety on display there. "You have five different types of pear!" she exclaimed. The sheer variety and quality of fruit and vegetable were cause for comment. My experience of buying vegetables in Krumlov Tesco's is that you need to look hard at what you are buying - at least one potato in the pack will be going off.
Then we came to the fresh fish counter, this was a revelation for her. Of course the Czechs do not have access to fresh sea fish, being so far from any sea, and so most of the fish on the counter were new to her. We bought a bag of live mussels, which she had never tried before.
Then there was the aisle dedicated to tea and coffee - of course being British there were loads and the sheer size of many of the packs of tea (i.e. 240 teabags) caused comment. She added two packs to the trolley to pack in her suitcase - having realised that English tea is unlike (stronger and better) that sold in the Czech Republic, even those teas pretending to be 'English' tea. And so it went on... aisle after aisle packed with a much wider variety of goods than in the Czech supermarkets.
She came to the conclusion (as indeed had I) that English food is often cheaper than in the Czech Republic, especially food essentials, with the exception of alcohol and cigarettes. I then explained that in Britain food is not taxed, nor are books, children's clothes and medicines, but that the duty on alcohol and cigarettes is very high indeed and constantly rising. This was considered by my Czech friend to be very just and sensible. I am sure all those avid Czech beer drinkers would not agree with her, but I think I do. In fact I feel strongly that the British system of not taxing foodstuffs and discounting basic foods is very fair and I feel for all those Czechs struggling on much lower wages and facing above British prices.