• Alexandra Haret
On the background of markets and products becoming globalized and a progressively growth of immigrant numbers, this study explores the behaviours and meanings attached by expats to their consumption of foodstuffs available to them in a new country: Scotland. The relevance of this qualitative study comes from what the researcher found to be very limited studies on food acculturation of individuals living in Scotland, as most previous research seems to focus on England, and as Scotland is reported to have a strong and separate national identity.

To investigate immigrants’ food consumption, the study has employed a mixed methods approach, with data being collected through netnography, participant observation and qualitative interviews. A panel of thirteen subjects originating from eleven different countries have been consulted in both individual and paired interviews. The participants are aged 23 to 60 and had been living in Scotland for varying lengths of time, from 6 months to 15 years. Respondents were selected using a mix of convenience and purpose sampling methods to meet a large degree of qualitative diversification. This, is argued, affords the generalisation of this study’s findings to similar individuals and can constitute a good starting point in understanding immigrants’ food consumption behaviours in Scotland. By offering a thick description of the context of this research, the study’s findings may also be extended or used as base line for investigating food consumption in similar context and settings.

The major findings of this research are of descriptive and explanatory type. The consumption of home foodstuffs continued to play an important role for immigrants, yet the importance and effort put into keeping old food ways varies across the interviewees. The immigrants use different strategies to obtain or recreate home foods: shipping produce, finding substitutes, researching online, eating out and learning to cook. The home foodstuffs were revealed to play an important role in assessing one’s cultural identity to the diverse others, and have often been used to entertain guests of different nationalities.

Immigrants perceive Scotland as lacking a strong food culture and foodstuffs from other international cuisines are consumed predominantly, as these are reported to be widely available in the participants’ surroundings. This behaviour is motivated by the expats’ curiosity and desire to find “ones’ own way” in terms of cooking and food consumption. Moreover, the Scottish cuisine is regarded as unhealthy, unvaried and misrepresented / mismarketed to the consumers. However, the ‘hidden’ goodness of traditional Scottish dishes is also revealed – albeit difficult to find and experience, suggesting more research may be beneficial to understand if and how the Scottish food identity and healthy eating habits can be enhanced and gain a stronger position in the market. Scotland’s food identity is seen as weak and this doubles as both a trick description to assess the transferability of findings to similar contexts and as an important opportunity for future research and improvements in the marketing and advertising of traditional Scottish foodstuffs. This particular point has implications to be considered by both heath and dietary organisations looking to understand and improve the nation’s consumption of foodstuffs, and for tourist organisations who can help improve Scotland’s food identity both in and outside of the country, through targeted and focused marketing.
Publication date27 May 2015
Number of pages100
ID: 213020665