Friday, 6 January 2012

Crisps - Interculturally

In France and Germany crisps are called "chips". But let's not worry about that at the moment. There are enough intercultural conundrums surrounding crisps, crisp eating and the attitudes towards them. You wouldn't think so, would you?

In Britain eating crisps is the most humdrum, every-day activity imaginable. Go to a Boots, and they're part of the "Meal-Deal". Go to a newsagent, and they're there, nicely stacked in a rack. In the supermarket, they come in huge sack-like multi-packs. Crisps are essentials.

A very different "crisp-scenario" presents itself in Germany. There, crisps are stashed away in the "snacks"area of the supermarket. The bags look uniform, and come in only one size- quite a large size, approx. 4 servings of a Walkers packet. And - especially signifcantly - they overwhelmingly come in ONE flavour: "Paprika", sometimes called "Hungarian". Which explains why Germans often call crisps generically "Paprika-Chips".

In Britain, there's prawn cocktail flavour, grilled steak, Marmite, salt and vinegar (one of the most popular of course), cheese and onion, ketchup... you name it. And in fact Walkers did just that with its Social Media campaign "Do Us A Flavour".( In Germany this exercise would have probably resulted in another paprika flavour! (That said, very recently, German producers have actually created some whacky flavours themselves, amongst them "Currywurst", Wasabi, or pumpkin oil flavour.) The French stick firmly to their No.1 flavour "salé" (ready salted.) Oh, and in Ireland life is really difficult if you're not a Cheese&Onion fan.

But the most surprising thing is, that Germans would not ever dream of eating crisps during the day. "Chips" are strictly for evenings. Offered to friends in a bowl, put on the table as a "TV snack", an ideal accompaniment to beer and football on the telly. (Not surprising you need those big bags!)

I find it fascinating that even such an ubiquitous thing as crisps has an unbuilt intercultural factor. Same thing, so many different habits, flavours, associations connected to it!