I was a teenager when I first started to travel out of England, where I grew up. I didn’t care about traditional souvenirs; one of the coolest things for me was to come home with a tube of toothpaste of an unfamiliar brand that said it was “dentifrice” or a bar of soap that called itself “sapone.” The ultimate in cool was using foreign, and therefore exotic, products.
Now the same stores and the same products are everywhere, and I find it very disappointing. It’s not that anyone makes me shop at Tesco in Prague or eat at McDo (God forbid!) in Paris or buy Colgate toothpaste in Venice; it’s that I don’t want it to be even a possibility.
Sales were going on while my friends and I were in Lille (carefully avoiding Euralille for fear of finding a WalMart), and I’m happy to say that the exotic kicked in for me because the window displays were far more creative and daring than anything you’d be likely to see in the United States. This one was my favorite: At Gatsby’s “chaque homme est unique.”