Even though it’s something of a cliché there still is a class system here in the UK. There is a (not very big) upper class who are either rolling in old money or stuck with crumbling old mansions they don’t really have the ready cash to pay for. Most of these people can be found in just a few places of the UK, private estates, private members clubs, private schools and Westminster. There is a large middle class which partly consists of people who’ve slipped down a few rungs from the upper class or people who’ve climbed out of the working class.
There is a working class that probably mostly define themselves by what their parents and grandparents did, how they lived and not so much by what they themselves do. You can find some very wealthy people who still consider themselves working class (Wayne Rooney?) and some people who’re not working and whose parents didn’t work, yet still think they’re working class.
There is also a so called under-class in this country. If you read some right-wing papers these people live on the dole, they live in state subsidised housing and use state money to buy expensive TVs and expensive cars. It’s a bit debatable if this is only a very small criminal element within the poorest part of the population or if this is endemic behaviour. Personally I think this work-shy sponger is distorted fantasy dreamed up by some politicians and tabloids.
But enough about the state of the country and the people who live in it. I don’t find the class system that confusing anymore – it just is and it has always been. What I find confusing is how people seem to show their class identity by shopping in certain supermarkets.
So here is the hierarchy of supermarkets (as I see it):
The favourite of upper middle class mums and people who like to spend a lot of money on tiny bags of nuts.
Marks & Spencer
Pretty much the same as Waitrose, also called Marks & Sparks. Supposedly has a very good underwear section (best kept secret in London).
One of the big supermarket chains in the UK. Normal. Most people go here. Unless they live in places like Stokes Croft in Bristol or Stoke Newington in London and protest vigorurosly for several years because they don’t want a big capitalist supermarket chain in their neighbourhood.
Exactly the same as Sainsburys, but for some reason I would say they’re a teeny bit more downmarket. I base this purely on the colouring of their logo.
Another big chain, but slightly more down-market than the above. My main impression of this chain is that they do a lot of cheap white bread.
Also a big chain, but again cheaper.
The first of the really cheap chains. Better not check the ingredients if you’re concerned about the sugar, fat and salt content of your food. I did mention it was cheap though. I happily shopped here when I lived in Manchester and Helsinki.
Same as the above.
Also very cheap. Sells lots of frozen stuff.
And me, where do I shop now? Like most young freelancing Londoners I shop locally, I go to the local fishmonger and butcher and fruit & veg shop. Oh and I also shop at Whole Foods, make of that what you will. I’m sure it will bring with it its own preconceived notions of what kind of person I am.