H Mart: A Place For Everyone

Are you on the hunt for octopus, seaweed, or dumplings? Look no further: H Mart is the answer. H Mart is a large Asian market, with a few locations in Massachusetts. Since Dana Hall often offers weekend shuttles to H Mart, I decided to visit the market myself.

Hello Kitty croppedWhen I first walked through the entrance, I was overwhelmed. H Mart is so much larger than the Stop and Shops I am used to. The aisles seemed to stretch on into eternity. I quickly noticed that H Mart is not only a food market, as I had thought. There were restaurants as well as small stores, selling giant teddy bears, Hello Kitty backpacks, and purses that looked like cartoon owls. There were so many areas to shop and so many aisles that it was hard for me as a first-timer at H Mart to navigate my way. I decided to venture out and explore.

Luckily for me, there were signs above each aisle to help me navigate my way. I first stumbled upon the candy aisle. Apart from some mini Oreos, I did not recognize a single candy. There were green tea cookies, strawberry-covered biscuits, and chocolates galore. As I turned into the next aisle, there were some peanut candies and different fruit-flavored cakes. The majority of the boxes were not labeled in English and had cartoons all over the front.

I turned into the freezer aisle. Instead of freezers filled with ice cream or frozen pizza like an American supermarket, I found frozen crab dumplings and shrimp potstickers.

what the heck is this? croppedThe freezers led me to an aisle of packaged seafood, where I found octopus tentacles and fish heads lying in coolers. Next to the aisle was a large open market where seafood was being sold. There were tanks with fish and lobsters. This market was much longer than a typical deli meat market, with fish on display across the whole counter. I had never seen so much seafood at once, and I had no clue what anything was.

As I wandered on, I found treats that are not sold in typical American markets. I found red bean paste mochi, lychee, and choco pies. It was so interesting to see the different variety of food that H Mart has compared to stores like Stop and Shop or Trader Joe’s. Some things I had never seen before, and some I couldn’t tell what it was. I felt as though I was shopping in another country.

As a white student from Massachusetts, I was in over my head. I couldn’t read most of the signs, or the food labels. I was completely out of my element but was enjoying the adventure. However, for international students, H Mart feels like home.

PockyEffie Li ’17, who is from China, says, “I really like the trip to H Mart because I can get a lot of Asian food and snacks, which I cannot find in Wellesley. Also, there are some restaurants in the supermarket, and I enjoy eating ramen there.” Christy Lee ’17, who is from Korea, says, “I love to go to H-mart because I can buy a variety of food from Asian countries, such as Chinese food, Vietnamese food, Thai food, and Korean food. Also, they have restaurants where you can try Asian food on spot.”

H Mart is not just for international students. Ms. Nancy Rich, Academic Dean, told me, “When I was a lower school principal, a parent introduced me to citrus tea when I wasn’t feeling well. That was 25 years ago. Whenever I feel that I’m getting a cold, I drink citrus tea, and it cures me every time. I get it at H Mart.”

Dana Hall runs a weekend trip to H Mart about once a month. Ms. Marcie Bruder, Student Activities Coordinator, says H Mart gives students “a chance to explore a different kind of grocery store. … We use H-Mart because of its international variety that you wouldn’t get at the local stores. I really think everyone should check this place out and not be afraid to explore something different than what they are used to.” She encourages everyone, whether an international student or not, to venture out to H Mart. After my adventures there, I concur!

Image source for top photograph: H Mart website. Other photographs taken by Rachel Lawrence.

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