Finding America

Me and Tarah

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As any British expatriate will tell you (myself included), it is almost impossible to adapt to life in the United States without occasionally indulging in the odd British chocolate bar, savory item or drink. Indeed, following my transition to the United States in 2008, I spent the first couple of years bemoaning (as Brits are wont to do) the very absence of these things.

Little did I know, of course, that the Midwest is actually replete with British food outlets, such is the relatively high level of Anglophilia in the region. A couple of weekends ago, I paid a visit to what would prove to be the best of them so far: Wise Choice British Foods, Gifts and Candles.

Located in Dayton, Ohio, the store is owned by Welsh expatriate Harry Caswell, who arrived in the United States on August 19, 1969; almost one month to the day after Neil Armstrong - an Ohio native - set foot on the moon.

Harry opened the store in 1997, using an acronym for the store's title; Wise being a clever shortening of Wales, Ireland, Scotland, England.

Now don't be deceived by the worn facade of the shop, whose lettering has been damaged over the years by overzealous birds (in Harry's words, "even the birds come for a little something at our store"). Inside the store, however, the products are fresh and numerous - even those on the discount table, where you can buy perfectly delicious food items for a knocked-down price.

Additionally, the store has every kind of tea, Cadbury's bar, biscuit and condiment you can imagine, as well as various household items you may once have taken for granted.

Moreover, the store carries a plethora of wonderful London paraphernalia; British-themed mugs and teapots; Union Jack flags, tea towels and key chains; and, most importantly of all, some exciting Doctor Who stuff.

Additionally, adorning the shop's walls are framed paintings of the Queen, Princess Diana and Winston Churchill, as well as many clippings and photographs of Harry and colleagues.

For the British expatriate or avid Anglophile, a walk around Wise Choice is a mesmerizing experience - not least because Harry himself is so welcoming to his visitors. But in case you don't live anywhere in the vicinity of Ohio, purchases can be made through the store's online catalog, which even ships internationally.

American life is great. But it's even better with a little British thrown in occasionally.

Laurence is a British expat living in Indianapolis, Indiana. He is a contributor for BBC America and writes a weekly column for Anglotopia. Having graduated from Lancaster University with a degree in English Language and Creative Writing, Laurence runs this blog, Lost In The Pond, charting the endless cultural and linguistic differences between Britain and The United States. Please follow Laurence on this journey by clicking on any of the icons below.


  1. That shop sounds so quaint and cute. I have been here since 2000 so I think my tastebuds have adapted so I don't miss what I can't have ie British bacon. The only thing I miss is the tea I drink 2 teabags of Tetley British Blend in a cup but it still tastes like dishwater. Ho hum!

  2. You really need to visit Newfoundland, Canada, the oldest British overseas colony. We only joined Canada in 1949. Our dialect and accents is a mix of English, Irish and Welsh, and in spots Shakespeare's English can be common here. Our expressions are more British than American (Thank God). My mom makes spotted dick, Yorkshire pudding, bubble and squeak, and we love our tea, as many Newfoundlanders do! Coffee was unknown in our house and I still hate it. And she makes trifle, too. The British swear words you mention, like bollocks and bugger and bloody, are all well known to us too! And we're the only people in Canada who celebrate Guy Fawkes.

  3. If you want good old British tea, try looking on eBay. We bought 480 PG Tips tea bags, and 480 Sainsbury's Red Label tea bags, all for about $62, including shipping from the UK. Proper British tea!!! Now if I could only find some crumpets ....

  4. Real British crumpets are available in Publix and Trader Joes. Publix also does a British section with Tea, Branston, Pickled onions, Ribena, choccie digestives, heinz beans, spotted dick, sticky toffee pudding etc etc etc. Bit pricey but cheaper than a lot of the British shops here and an airline ticket :) Amazon too sells some Brit foods in bulk. Been here 20 years and never failed to have a true fully traditional Brit Christmas with crackers and all the usual .. Just a heads up.. BJs has Tom Smith crackers for $9.99, big jars of Quality Street for $13.00, and huge tims of walkers shortbread for $18.00.


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