Deliciously Exotic? Immigrant Grocery Shops and Their Non-Migrant Clientele

Open access


This paper examines native consumption practices in immigrant grocery stores. Drawing on qualitative research on immigrant food retail in Vienna, we reveal how native Austrians use immigrant grocery shops, how they purchase products and which meanings they attribute to the act of shopping. We identified two different modes of shopping: While consuming for convenience is driven by aspects of practicability, consuming for exceptionality is related to the attraction of ‘the foreign’. This typology corresponds with two special types of consumers: The ‘Because’-consumers use immigrant shops mainly because of the ethnicity associated with the shops, the owners and their staff. The ‘Nevertheless’-consumers use these shops in spite of the entrepreneurs’ (imagined) ethnic origin and their migrant background. While ‘Because’-consumers run the risk of reproducing ethnic stereotypes, the ‘Nevertheless’- consumers may tend to retain or even strengthen their xenophobic resentments. These results partly challenge previous findings which argue that natives’ shopping routines in immigrant stores have become increasingly ordinary. We conclude by suggesting further research to examine the conditions under which an everyday engagement with foreign culture is promoted – without falling into the trap of reproducing symbolic boundaries between the majority and the minority.

Alraouf, A. A. (2010) ‘Regenerating urban traditions in Bahrain. Learning from Bab-Al-Bahrain: the authentic fake’. Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change, 8(1-2): 50–68.

Aytar, V. and Rath, J. (2012) (eds.) Selling Ethnic Neighborhoods. The Rise of Neighborhoods as Places of Leisure and Consumption. New York: Routledge.

Bonacich, E. (1973) ‘A Theory of Middleman Minorities’. American Sociological Review, 38(4): 583–594.

Campbell, C. (1995) ‚Sociology of Consumption‘. In Miller, D. (ed.) Acknowledging Consumption: A Review of New Studies, pp. 96-126. London: Routledge.

Charmaz, K. (2014) Constructing Grounded Theory. A Practical Guide Through Qualitative Analysis. London: Sage.

Dhingra, P. (2012) Life behind the Lobby: Indian American Motel Owners and the American Dream. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Engelen, E. (2001) ‘“Breaking in“ and „breaking out“: a Weberian approach to entrepreneurial opportunities‘. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 27: 203–223.

Everts, J. (2008) Konsum und Multikulturalität im Stadtteil. Eine sozialgeografische Analyse migrantengeführter Lebensmittelgeschäfte. Bielefeld: transcript.

Glick Schiller, N. and Çağlar, A. (2013) ‘Locating migrant pathways of economic emplacement: Thinking beyond the ethnic lens’. Ethnicities, 13: 494–514.

Halter, M. (2000) Shopping for Identity. The Marketing of Ethnicity. New York: Schocken Books.

Hiebert, D., Rath, J. and Vertovec, S. (2015) ‘Urban markets and diversity: towards a research agenda’. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 38(1): 5–21.

Jamal, A. (1996) ‘Acculturation: the symbolism of ethnic eating among contemporary British consumers’. British Food Journal, 98(10): 12–26.

Jenkins, R. (1994) ‘Rethinking Ethnicity: Identity, Categorization and Power’. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 17: 197–223.

Kaltmeier, O. (2011) (ed.) Selling EthniCity: Urban Cultural Politics in the Americas. Farnham and Burlington: Ashgate.

Kasinitz, P., Zukin, S. and Chen, X. (2016)‚ Local Shops, Global Streets‘. In Zukin, S., Kasinitz, P. and Chen, X. (eds.) Global Cities, Local Streets. Everyday Diversity from New York to Shanghai, pp. 195–206. New York and London: Routledge.

Kraieski de Assunção, V. (2012) ‘Circulating Food and Relationships: the Movement of Food (and Other Things) Between Brazilians in Boston and Brazil‘. International Review of Social Research, 2: 65–76.

Kusenbach, M. (2003) ‘Street Phenomenology: The Go-Along as Ethnographic Research Tool‘. Ethnography, 4: 455–485.

Leicht, R. and Langhauser, M. (2014): Ökonomische Bedeutung und Leistungspotenziale von Migrantenunternehmen in Deutschland. Studie im Auftrag der Abteilung Wirtschafts- und Sozialpolitik, Arbeitskreis Mittelstand und Gesprächskreis Migration und Integration der Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Bonn.

Legard, R., Keegan, J. and Ward, K. (2003): ‘In-depth Interviews‘. In Ritchie, J. and Lewis, J. (eds.) Qualitative research practice: a guide for social science students and researchers, pp. 138–169. London et al.: Sage.

Lu, S. and Fine, G. A. (1995) ‘The Presentation of Ethnic Authenticity: Chinese Food as a Social Accomplishment‘. The Sociological Quarterly, 36: 535–553.

MA23 Abteilung Wirtschaft, Arbeit und Statistik (2015a): Wien in Zahlen. Available at: (accessed 29.02.2016).

MA23 Abteilung Wirtschaft, Arbeit und Statistik (2015b): Wiener Bevölkerung 2014 nach Herkunft. Available at: (accessed 29.02.2016).

Michaelsen, A. (2003) ‘Asian Food Porn. Fremdheit, Geschlecht und Visualität in Metaphern der Einverleibung zeitgenössischer Populärkultur.‘ In Zentrum für transdisziplinäre Geschlechterstudien der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (ZtG) Bulletin Texte 32: 240–259. Available at: (accessed 02.12.2015).

Min, P. G. (1996) Caught in the Middle: Korean Communities in New York and Los Angeles. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Neckel, S. and Sutterlüty, F. (2008) ‘Negative Klassifikationen und die symbolische Ordnung sozialer Ungleichheit‘. In Neckel, S. and Soeffner, H.-G. (eds.) Mittendrin im Abseits. Ethnische Gruppenbeziehungen im lokalen Kontext, pp. 15–25. Wiesbaden: Verlag für Sozialwissenschaft.

Pang. C. L. (2002) ’Business Opportunity of Food Pornography? Chinese Restaurant Ventures in Antwerp’. International Journal of Entreprenurial Behaviour & Research, 8(1/2): 148–161.

Parzer, M. and Czingon, C. (2013) ’Break-out im türkischen Lebensmittelhandel. Neue Perspektiven auf die soziale Einbettung migrantischer Ökonomien‘. Österreichische Zeitschrift für Soziologie, 38(1): 55–75.

Parzer, M. and Huber, F.J. (2015) ‚Migrant Businesses and the Symbolic Transformation of Urban Neighborhoods‘. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 39: 1270-1278.

Peters, K. and de Haan, H. (2011) ‘Everyday spaces of inter-ethnic interaction: the meaning of urban public spaces in the Netherlands’. Leisure/Loisir, 35(2): 169–190.

Ram, M. (1997) ‘Ethnic minority enterprise: an overview and research agenda’. International Jounal of Entreprenurial Behaviour & Research, 3: 149–156.

Rath, J., Eurofound (2011) Promoting ethnic entrepreneurship in European cities. Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.

Rusinovic, K. (2008) ’Moving between markets? Immigrant entrepreneurs in different markets‘. International Jounal of Entreprenurial Behaviour & Research, 14: 440–454.

Stock, M. (2013) Der Geschmack der Gentrifizierung. Arabische Imbisse in Berlin. Bielefeld: transkript.

Strauss, A. and Corbin, J. (1998) Basics of qualitative research: techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Schmatz, S. and Wetzel, P. (2014) Migrantische Ökonomien in Wien. Wien: AK Wien.

Shaw, S. J. (2011) ‘Marketing ethnoscapes as spaces of consumption: “Banglatown–London’s Curry Capital”’. Journal of Town & City Management, 1(4): 381–395.

Waldinger, R., Aldrich, H. and Ward, R. (1990) Ethnic entrepreneurs. Immigrant business in industrial societies. Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage.

Wang, L. and Lo, L. (2007) ‘Immigrant grocery-shopping behaviour: ethnic identity versus accessibility‘. Environment and Planning, 39: 684–699.

Warde, A. (2005) ‘Consumption and the theory of practice‘. Journal of Consumer Culture, 5: 131–154.

Wimmer, A. (2013) Ethnic Boundary Making. Institutions, Power, Networks. Oxford et al: Oxford University Press.

Yildiz, E. (2013) Die weltoffene Stadt. Bielefeld: transkript.

Zhou, M. (2007) ‘Non-Economic Effects of Ethnic Entrepreneurship’ In Dana L.-P. (ed.) Handbook of Research on Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship: A Co-Evolutionary View on Resource Management, pp. 279-288. Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, USA: Edward Elgar.

Zukin, S. (2008) ‘Consuming Authenticity. From outposts of difference to means of exclusion’. Cultural Studies, 22: 724–748.

Journal Information


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 206 206 15
PDF Downloads 99 99 11