A piece of Lituanica in the multicultural pot of London

Lituanica, Lithuanian store in London. Photo by Julius Bailey-Augalistas

The impression of London gleaned from that text is of a London that long since disappeared into the mists of time. The truth is that London has become a multicultural melting-pot, an adopted home for many who seek a better quality of life. It’s a weird place, a vast, sprawling metropolis, an unfriendly no-mans-land that lacks any sense of identity. It’s a place that has many people yet feels so lonely.

Whilst I’m sure multiculturalism brings some enrichment, I often wonder what happened to the Londoners from London? Where did they go? It seems they pissed off elsewhere in search the same thing people seek to come here for – a better quality of life. Ironic that, innit? Funny how the grass seems greener on the other side.

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The foreignness of London is perhaps most apparent in its supermarkets, the ethnic diversity of the staff often strangely disproportionate to the local area or the rest of the city. It’s something people feel afraid to comment on for fear of being labelled racist or xenophobic. I am neither, and I am not ashamed to admit feeling uncomfortable going into Asda hearing staff speaking in languages I don’t understand. It’s like being in India or Bangladesh. The staff many of the capital’s supermarkets are almost exclusively of Asian or Eastern origin. In one branch I counted 31 staff members of whom 24 were Asian, 5 Eastern, one black and one white! How can this be?

The worst thing about London also happens to be the best thing about it. It may not have much in the way of a distinct identity but all communities are represented there (just not in the retail sector!) It has a diversity that is like nowhere else and of course there are little patches dotted around, each of them like a mini Lithuania! One of them is the Lituanica supermarket in Beckton.

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I was thrilled to discover this place. It is just SO authentic it’s hard to believe it’s in London! Lituanica has 9 stores in the UK, Beckton, the flagship, being the largest. With thousands of products including several kinds of varškė, it also has a restaurant serving tasty meals, a bookshop, hair & beauty salon and flower stall, making it more of a “prekybos centriukas” or mini-mall than a supermarket.

Manager Bida explains, “We have been established for over 10 years now. Our customers are mainly from Lithuania and Russia, and we cater very well for their needs. We want to give them an authentic experience and access to the products they like.”

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That’s not to say you won’t find a jar of Polish gherkins or some chocolate from Latvia. Lituanica stocks speciality foods from many Eastern European countries whilst keeping a special focus on Lithuania.

You could easily spend the whole day there, do some shopping, get your hair done, browse the bookshop and have a meal in the restaurant. The ambiance is better than any Eastern European food shop in London. It’s truly an experience not to be missed.

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