You just can’t get orange cheese…

An American friend was chatting to one of his countrymen, who said that they liked living in Geneva, but ‘You just can’t get orange cheese!’

Cheese capital of the world Switzerland does not sell orange cheese in a spray can.


For expats this is one of the biggest gripes – that some favourite food stuffs are just not available in the host country. Which is why the American/British food stores thrive in Switzerland and elsewhere in Europe. It is the taste of home, the comfort food that we crave, no matter how good the food here is.

I have been an expat for 18 years – it was my expat Anniversary on 3rd September.  When I first moved to Germany I would spend time, money and effort sourcing British food. I was delighted when Marks & Spencer opened stores in Cologne and later in Frankfurt. We would drive to Frankfurt several times a year and stock up on baked beans, tea bags, Chicken Korma with Naan bread, “real” bread and all the goodies that we could not buy in Germany.

When M&S pulled out of Germany a couple of years later, I was devastated and resorted to filling every nook and cranny of the car when we went to Scotland on holiday. I recall having tins of beans around the spare wheel.

Slowly but surely though, I began to find decent alternatives. Heinz Baked Beans were available in the German supermarkets – expensive compared to UK but not worth weighing the car down with them. I could live without white loaves and bacon, and was happy to wait until we visited Scotland, eat all the food that we miss here but not want to import it.

I found that by using German or French recipes that it is much easier to source the ingredients, and that I do not crave the food from home so much. Aside from Tunnock Caramel Wafers, of course.

When we moved to Geneva, I found that I could buy Self-Raising Flour in France (Farine de Gateaux, if you are looking for it) and baking powder that actually makes cakes rise. The Dr Oetker baking powder sold in Germany and Switzerland is a one-rise baking agent. The British baking powder is similar to American baking powder and is a two-rise baking agent. This is why the German and Swiss cakes are denser than the British. It is all but impossible to make a decent Victoria Sponge without the right baking powder.

Being able to bake  meant that I could make the specialty breads and cakes that are not available here, such as Soda Bread, Scones, Hot Cross Buns. With the French Levure Chimique. my scones rise in the oven, cakes are light and fluffy and all is well in the world. Nothing like good cake to make one feel better when homesickness strikes.

I do understand the wailing of the Americans not able to buy orange cheese in a spray can. Being the inquisitive person I am, I asked my husband to bring me back a can when was in America this summer.

And how did it taste? Not as bad as I thought it would. It does contain real cheese, after all. It was a bit bland (perhaps we should have tried the Sharp Cheddar) and not particularly cheesey. The fact that refrigeration is not required did put me off a bit, as it shows how processed and full of preservatives the cheese must be.

Would I miss it if I could not buy it? Absolutely not, in fact it is languishing in the fridge right now.

Can I understand why Americans miss it? Yes, I can. Americans would probably shake their heads in bemusement a the Scots abroad with their Irn Bru and Sliced Sausage, not to mention Haggis and White Pudding. A taste of home is cheaper than a flight home and staves off the homesickness for a little while.

PS. Any Americans in Geneva area who would like a can of Orange Cheese?


  • MelanieH73

    As an ex-pat of much shorter duration (2 & 1/2 years so far) I completely uunderstand what you mean. My cupboards are stocked with suet, proper tea, baking powder, marmite etc. The only difference is that we make more frequent trips to the UK, so my fridge has the good cheddar in it too. Not that we don't love the local cheese (we live very near Camembert), but all sorts of dishes that we regularly cook (Macaroni cheese for example) just aren't the same without English cheddar. And our French friends love it when I bake scones, muffins, bakewell tart…

  • Leen

    I bring back proper food from Belgium to the UK. But we don't get to visit often so my mum sends stuff over (at ridiculous postage).

    My friend said she buys certain soap when she goes home as it smells of Sweden. That made me sad for some reason.

    My husband already says he would stock up on gravy, Cadbury's, tea and malt vinegar when we move to Belgium (hopefully next summer).

  • Very Bored in Catalunya

    After 8 years in Spain I crave less and less British foods, although we do have a friend driving over next month so I may be getting a Sainsbury’s delivery sent to her before she comes out.

    That Cheese in a can looks disgusting.

    • Lynn

      We went to see the film The Best Exotic Hotel Marigold last night, and I did so laugh at the woman who took a bag full of pickles to India. Not to mention her hobnobs.

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