Things that are surprisingly hard to find

When you’re traveling to new places and new cultures, it’s rather obvious you’re going to miss some things. Items that are popular in Australia may not be popular or even known elsewhere. When in Mexico, one isn’t surprised they can’t find Thai food. However, some things you just innocently think should be common only to find out they’re actually rather hard to find.

Hard to find things

Food and Flavors

So it may not be very difficult to imagine that Lucky Charms cereal is not all that common outside of the US. However, places like Central and South America and Southeast Asia surprise you and leave you thinking you won’t have to sacrifice much after all.

Then you get to Europe and discover sugary cereal is just not something the more health-minded Europeans have grown an appreciation for. I wasn’t too surprised when we could find very few cereals we recognized in Romania, but I thought for sure Vienna, a large, metropolitan city, would have our backs. Nope! They had a few familiar cereals but not much more than Romania.


This is just one of those flavors that screams “the holidays” for me. I love making peppermint chocolate brownies as well as putting it in my hot chocolate. Tigger has spent many a holiday season enjoying his warm beverage loaded with mini marshmallows and either crushed peppermint or having a candy cane dissolved into his mug. One of my guilty holiday pleasures is peppermint schnapps in my hot chocolate.

Well, you won’t find it in a good portion of Europe apparently. I’ve been quite surprised by this. I mean who doesn’t like peppermint?

“Why would you want to drink something that tastes like you just brushed your teeth with it?” was the response of my Austrian friend.

Okay, I can’t say I can really argue with her logic, but, well, it’s peppermint! How can you have Christmas without peppermint? It just boggles my North American mind.

I can find a bazillion different flavors for candy canes, but not one of them is peppermint.

Although Vienna did turn me onto putting amaretto in my hot chocolate, so she’s partially forgiven.

Hard to find candies

Licorice and jelly beans

I love my Red Vines and almost any other form of licorice, but man it’s a huge challenge to find it in any form here. I also like jelly beans. Jelly Belly is my favorite candy (chocolate is a food group so doesn’t count as candy), but I also enjoy jelly beans.

Yeah, good luck finding those, too.

Peanut butter

I never realized just how American this food really is until I started traveling more. If you’re able to find it, it’s usually 2-3 times the cost of a jar of the stuff back home. And sometimes you just simply can’t find it. Mention the term around many other English-speaking travelers, and they’ll usually just roll their eyes and say, “You Americans and your peanut butter.”

Yeah, well you can’t stick your nose up at me when you’ve been bitching about the lack of “proper tea” or vegemite or marmite. (And at least peanut butter actually tastes good.)

The lack of peanut butter also means no Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for poor, deprived Tigger.

Chocolate chips

Another item I’m at a loss to explain as to why it can’t be found. How you not like chocolate chips? This one is a big mystery to me for sure.


Oh my beloved bagels. Why oh why have more countries not caught onto your extreme yumminess? Not like you’re expensive to make or anything, and a bagel sandwich is one of the most delicious things around. You can find nasty Starbucks coffee in almost every corner of the planet but not bagels. So very sad.


Let’s be real here. Nescafé is NOT coffee. Neither is Starbucks. I’m talking good coffee. And why is it even harder to find good, real coffee in places that are known throughout the world for producing some of the best stuff? I get you make more money exporting it, but couldn’t you at least save some of the good stuff for your own people and visitors?


Explain this one to me, please. I can find every part imaginable of almost any animal in the stores. Feet, ears, necks, heads, intestines, you name it.

But no turkey.

What do you have against these birds? And when you do carry their meat, it’s usually either the wings or breast. Is this a Freudian thing?

If you aren’t going to let me buy the whole thing, at least carry the legs, too!

Turkey can be hard to find


OK, I get why it’s a bit tough to find you in Morocco and Malaysia. But in Europe, why are there 25 types of bacon, but none of them are “streaky” bacon? Have your taste buds truly not been introduced to the joys of the crispy stuff?

Kitchen stuff

Why could I not find an ice cube tray in Brasov, Cluj, or Timisoara? I realize that we Americans have what some would consider an unusual fascination with having ice in our beverages, but don’t you use ice at all?

And for as much cheese as you eat in Europe, why in the hell do I have to search high and low to find a lowly cheese slicer? Sure, when I’m drinking wine, having a cheese plate with some fruit, etc., I want those nice, fat chunks of cheese, but surely you have discovered the deliciousness of a grilled cheese sandwich. You want thinner slices on those things, trust me. Why must I resort to either paper thin slices or having to substitute with a section of dental floss to get a decent cut?

You think peppermint-flavored drinks and candy taste bad? Try adding mint flavoring to your cheese. I’ve had to stop buying the flavored dental floss because you won’t have one stinking cheese slicer in your store for me to buy, or you want to charge me $36 USD for it.

Oh you and your sense of humor, Europe!


What items surprise you when they are hard to find while traveling?

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  1. Hi Talon, I remember living in Italy in college and missing peanut butter something rotten. Also, soft towels, because we used to air dry our towels! I remember my aunt coming for a visit and bringing those two things – it was heaven. I don’t know if I’d miss peanut butter so much now.

    I am surprised about the bagel thing though – the bread is SO delicious in Europe (I can’t speak for SE Asia asI haven’t been) – I would not think about bagels at all….. 🙂 That’s just me.

    When I was in Ireland, I missed chips and salsa the most. Sigh. I think I’d rather be missing stuff now!!! That would mean I was traveling. 🙂

    Take care

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    • Yes, soft fluffy towels are something I miss as well. We only get them if we stay at a hotel since everyone else air dries them.

      I have missed salsa as well, and I haven’t been able to make any because I like it to be quite spicy, and European taste buds are wimpy when it comes to heat. lol

      The bread is good, but it’s hard to beat a bagel with schmear!

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  2. I once broke down into tears when my local Danish supermarket stopped carrying peanut butter when I was a student there. lol! I think you will still be able to get peppermint mochas at Starbucks if you can find one 🙂

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  3. For the sake of the Lord why don’t you lot just come to the UK!

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  4. Ok the Red Vines reference had me laughing. I’m Canadian and that particular brand of licorice isn’t the easiest to find up here sometimes(at least in my area) – particularly about a decade ago. So, when my parents took as kids to Disneyland my dad stalked up on it big time! Every spare bit of room in our suitcases were filled to the brim with red vines lol.

    Every time I’ve been in the UK I have never been able to find a nice ice cold bottle of water – every drink that back home would have been cold was room temperature in Britain, haha. However, European orange Fanta tastes different and way better than the stuff we get over here so I find myself sincerely missing it when I’m back home 😉

    I try to embrace the differences wherever I go but sometimes – especially if I get a little homesick – I just really really miss Kraft Dinner & Tim Hortons 😉

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    • Now that’s taking Red Vines seriously! I was so excited today because in Olomouc, Czech, I found a store that had something VERY close to York Peppermint Patties. FINALLY my peppermint and chocolate combo!

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  5. Oh gosh I don’t understand why streaky bacon isn’t a thing everywhere haha. Wow there are so many things I didn’t even think about when I was traveling in Europe, but now that I think about it I never did see any chocolate chips in Austria..I find that utterly strange and very confusing.

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  6. What a timely reminder that globalisation hasn’t taken over completely and that local tastes and cultures can occasionally win the day. Here in Australia my daughter’s generation may prefer Oreos over the Aussie Delta Cream (which tastes much better IMHO) courtesy of American TV, but we are also the country that closed down most of its Starbucks – cos we just didn’t like the coffee! Vive la difference!

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  7. Hi Talon,

    LOL on the peanut butter! I hear you….after traveling through SE Asia, India, Nepal, Peru, Costa Rica and a few more countries over the past 3 years, PB is hard to come by.

    One item I RARELY find is lettuce. I never saw a head in Costa Rica, not even a crappy one 😉 Rarely saw it in Nepal, or India, or most places in SE Asia. Only the specialty stores or western themed supermarkets carried it…..I always have myself a nice big grilled chicken salad with real lettuce when I return to the States for a bit.

    Fun share!

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  8. I crave sour candies when we travel and they are impossible to find. Anything with sour on the label is just sweet pretending to be sour and is always a disappointment. Travis on the other hand craves Pepsi and Hawkins Cheezies (a wonderfully Canadian junk food!). Seriously why do so few European countries carry Pepsi products?

    The Reykjavik airport in Iceland has the most incredible bagels with this mindblowingly creamy melt-in-your-mouth cream cheese – seriously the best bagel experience of my life. Does flying anywhere just for a bagel seem a bit crazy? I didn’t think so.

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    • You are so right about the sour candies! Tigger is a huge fan and usually very disappointed by things labeled sour that just don’t cut the mustard.

      I don’t know what it is about the Coca-Cola domination in Europe. Maybe because Pepsi tastes sweeter to many people, and they don’t like really sweet stuff? IDK.

      I think Iceland just moved up some more notches.

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  9. Being American growing up on Skippy peanut butter…. Still a winner. Vegemite or marmite just can not developed a tast for. Bagels like a good one yet many countries do have great bakeries which helps. Chocolate. Do need that fix ….. Happy traveling

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  10. Next time stay on the tour bus, lamer.

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  11. Talon, I could agree with all the items you’ve listed. I am Canadian, living in Croatia now. Don’t even talk about bagels. Would walk back to Montreal right now for a good bagel. Kitchen items? It took me five years to find a baster with rubber sucker. And I am still searching for a good spreader. 🙂

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    • I love good bagels as well, and here I agree they are super hard to find. Recently when I was in Armenia someone recommended me a bagel place. I was like, yes, I’m sure it is good, didn’t even intended on checking out this place! But then I was kind of pushed to go and wow, they had some amazing bagels! 🙂

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  12. Talon, thanks for sharing your hard to find things from home. I am Australian so when I travel the main thing I usually miss is Vegemite so I usually bring my own.

    That said I fondly recall when we lived in Kenya for three years as expats when I was a child. We were definitely feeling Vegemite deprived but one day we were in a tiny street market in the middle of nowhere and we came across not just Vegemite, but a massive 1kg tin of Vegemite!! We promptly purchased the tin and I recall it lasted us for quite a long time (especially as you only use a small amount at a time)!

    In Australia there is an online shop where you can purchase American products – is there a similar option in Europe that you could use to periodically satisfy your cravings?

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    • There is probably something like that, but between not staying in a place long enough for a shipment to make it there (since you never know how long it will take) and the outrageous fees, it just isn’t practical.

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  13. I had no idea about peanut butter, but I do know how mucg I miss Vegitmite, Milo and Tim Tams.. anyone reading this from Australia… send me some will ya!

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    • It’s REALLY hard to find. Except for big cities in Thailand and Malaysia where there is a large Tesco. They have enough expats visiting their stores to make it worthwhile I guess, although there are times when even in those places it can be hard to find.

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  14. If you think it’s hard finding coffee, try finding ICED coffee. Oh it is so hard to do this in Europe.

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  15. Yeah, peanut butter is my big thing I miss when traveling. I remember when I was walking on the Camino in Spain, I finally found it in Ponferrada and I promptly paid the exorbitant price, got a big loaf of bread and some jelly and went back to the albergue where I gorged myself on PB & J sandwiches. If I remember correctly, I was also made fun of by some Aussies or Brits…and it was worth it!

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  16. Very true, all of it. But, you forgot Kraft Mac and Cheese. My folks brought the kids some to Thailand over the holidays this year, and they were sooo excited. LOL!

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    • We don’t eat Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese so don’t pine after it. I make ours from scratch, and so far we’ve been able to make it everywhere so that’s been a good thing from Tigger’s perspective. LOL

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  17. True story! We miss a lot of the same things… once had my kids hopping around like grasshoppers with excitement when I produced peanut butter in Africa! 🙂

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  18. This is a pretty spot-on list, where to start? I find it harder to find healthier cereals here in Bali that are not super duper expensive, like $12 a box for granola, so I would love those European brands. I just asked friends from NY to transport red Twizzlers for a friend here in Bali. We can get Skippy here, which is one of the reasons why we figured we could settle. There is a bakery that makes good fresh white bread, so peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a weekly lunch for us. And, despite being in Indonesia, we have great streaky bacon. Yum! We also have a great coffee place here that brews up fantastic Indonesian single origin coffee, but I remember Guatemala, which produces fantastic coffee beans, served some of the worst coffee ever! And, my beloved bagels. Having grown up in New Jersey, they were once a staple of my diet. I had one in London a few months ago, but the fact that it was an event to remember tells you, no good bagels in Bali! Thanks for this list Talon.

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    • Indonesia was definitely one of the coffee exceptions. They grow good coffee, and they serve it and sell it in the country, too. I was definitely pleased about that!

      Yes! Coffee in Guatemala was awful! I kept thinking “But. . . you grow the good stuff here!”

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  19. I sympathize with your pain Talon. Having spent the last 2 years in Oceania there are a lot of things I miss from back home. Peanut butter is a killer, there are only a few brands out here that are 99% peanuts and 1% salt, the others are filled with thickeners, stabilizers and questionable ingredients that I can’t pronounce.

    I had a favorite balsamic at home too, I would cover all manner of foods in it and sob sob sob I’ve not seen it for almost 3 years. First world traveler problems hey!

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    • The peanut butter down there is really quite tragic. I definitely agree. But Auckland had Carl’s Jr so we forgave NZ for the peanut butter problem. And they had Red Vines and bagels!

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  20. I can really only say one thing: Holland.
    Really, I would advice against visiting Holland under most circumstances, but that is exactly what you need right now 🙂

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      • Yep. Except maybe bagels, and you might have to visit a good supermarket for jelly beans and Turkey. But once you know your way around…
        And I want to say I even think the peanut butter and cheese slicers are better than what you’re used to ;-). And the licorice definitely is!

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  21. So now in my suitcase, I’ll be packing 8 ice cube trays, because I can’t stand water without ice, coffee for the hubby, and my small collection of “must have” kitchen items. Maybe the kids can carry the Twizzlers that will likely be consumed in flight before we even hit the ground.
    I had a hard time finding pure baking cocoa in Costa Rica. Everything was mixed with TONS of sugar and other spices that don’t “go” with chocolate, IMO. I’ve heard that any kind of chocolate chip is impossible to find in Europe…or used to be. Not sure how my baking fanatic will handle that!

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    • You reminded me about chocolate chips! Yes! Absolutely impossible to find any! Apparently, chocolate chip cookies aren’t that popular here? I don’t know, but I was pretty stunned about that in Romania and have had the same problem here in Vienna.

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  22. We miss ALL of that in Spain too. 🙂 That said, we have had some very expensive care packages sent to us as well as visitors bringing peanut butter and red vines! We even had Alan’s mom bring fresh NY bagels on her last visit. Those didn’t last long.

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  23. We had our 6 year old friend in Italy try peanut butter. After much coercion, she was mortified by the taste and feeling in her mouth. I don’t think she will be trying it again. Not to mention, when you do find peanut butter in the stores, the quality is awful.

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    • Sounds similar to the reaction of some Ecuadorians when we gave them root beer to try. LOL And yeah the quality is pretty bad unless you can find some imported stuff.

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