23 May, 2016

Buying confusion

We aren't avid news watchers/readers. Not in Japan or in Australia. In fact most news we see these days comes via Facebook or email or blog threads (for example I get an email with news headlines from Brisbane's main newspaper but don't often close CAJ on them).

So I admit we're not necessarily up to date with what's going on. Frequently we look on as distant observers in confusion or amusement or with lack of interest. After all most has no daily relevance to us. 
I did "buy Australian" today, at least one of my grocery items. Rare Australian
seedless grapes. Usually the only affordable grapes we can buy are small
Delaware grapes, not the big juice seedless ones that are staple for many
months in Australia.

I have to admit that our experience with the media during Japan's triple disaster five years ago only added to my cynicism about the factuality of the news we see. And with the advent of so much news on the internet, many news sites have resorted to the tactic of exaggerating or pretty much lying about the content of the piece, just to get people to click on the link to the article.

One particular theme of news gives me mixed feelings, that is "what should responsible shoppers buy"?

The Australian press tells us many things (some of which change over time):

  • buy certain brands
  • buy Australian
  • don't buy clothes made in Bangladesh/Vietnam etc.
  • buy preservative-free
  • buy local
  • buy gluten-free
  • buy artificial-colour-free
  • don't buy MSG
  • don't buy chemicals (this one gets my goat)
  • only buy stuff that "remembers" where it came from
  • don't buy food from Vietnam/China/Thailand etc.
  • buy low-fat, don't buy low-fat
  • buy margarine not butter, buy butter not margarine
  • buy Fair Trade
  • buy Halal/don't buy Halal
  • buy low-sodium, don't...

The list goes on and on and it is thoroughly confusing. Even more so for someone who doesn't even live in the country. 

In Japan the labels are nowhere near as clear (even if I could read Japanese well). Labelling standards aren't so strict. Additionally choices for me are more limited, especially if I'm buying Western-style ingredients. Stores tend to be smaller (at least the ones where I shop are) than the giant grocery stores in Australia and other Western nations, so, for example, there are only two types of margarine in my regular shop. Buying butter has become unaffordable, so I generally don't except for special baking.

As for "buying Australian", well that's pretty difficult here, understandably. In fact Japanese are similarly urged to buy Japanese. I have particularly mixed feelings when I see "don't buy certain brands because they come from such and such a place where there's poor standards". I don't really know where most of my food comes from. 

When it comes down to it I buy what I can find for a reasonable price. As for health, our family is pretty healthy. We have no allergies or food sensitivities. So I don't pay much attention to the current trends in "what good or not good" food-wise because what we've been doing up till now seems to work. All of us are within good limits for weight etc. All the food fads in Australia just don't hit here at the same time, or never hit here, so I don't bother entertaining them.

As for the current discussion about "don't buy Coles or Woolworths cheap milk" debate. That's understandably an issue that seems a long way away from us. What shocks me, though, is that once again it seems as though we've been told a lie. This ABC documentary tells us that it doesn't matter which milk we buy, the dairy farmers get the same price? And once again, the news stories we've seen are incorrect, a whole lot of hype that's raised the issue of what our farmers are paid but not enabled consumers to do much about it.

The whole thing is difficult. What does a conscientious person do? A conscientious person who lives on a somewhat-tight budget?

I want quality food and clothes. But I also don't want to blow my budget paying for them. The way things stand, it doesn't seem clear that even if I pay more for my good and clothing that it goes to the right place. So what do I do?

This has been a bit of a rant and a rave. Can you see how being overseas  gives us a different slant on the news?

Frequently we also don't know what will be important to know or not to know when we get back to Australia. 

Will it be important to pay attention to the news on politics? I don't know, I tend not to, it is not in my face. I will not be voting (we've excused ourselves off the electoral role because we live overseas and it's harder to be up-to-date on what's the right local choice).

Even if there's important news that will impact our lives when we get back to Australia, we frequently don't pick up on that until later. Like the changeover of Brisbane trains from tickets to Go Cards. It wasn't till we got back that we realised it had happened and was important to figure out how and where to buy the cards, how to recharge them, then how to use them.

Ah, not a super cohesive post, but I hope it is somewhat understandable.


Sarah said...

I'm confused, too!

Wendy said...

Thanks Sarah! That's comforting.