Milo and other unexpected familiarities when travelling abroad

I expect to find plenty of unusual and different things when I travel abroad. I don’t expect to find familiar things in completely unfamiliar surroundings. But it sure is fun when it happens.

On this trip to Penang, for example, the familiar thing was Milo. You know, Milo the drink. I know Milo very well from my Australian childhood – my most memorable Milo moments were probably being allowed to make our own hot Milo to drink during our Theatre Arts classes in the last two years of high school, since that seemed like such a grown up thing to do.

My first drink of Milo in Penang. The first of many …

And, I confess, I’ve always been a fan of secretly making it with way too much powder so that it wouldn’t all dissolve. But get this: the Malaysians (and the Singaporeans who it seems came up with it first) have turned this decadence of pouring on way too much Milo powder into a saleable product! I found Milo virtually everywhere in Penang but the best places had this even better version – the Milo Dinosaur! Genius.

My Milo discoveries prompted me to reflect on other familiar things that I found in unexpected places. Snoopy on my bankcard in Japan was one of them. I still find it hilarious that the often-so-serious Japanese can put cartoon characters like Snoopy onto your important bank passbook and keycard. But I admit that I loved having my Snoopy card and was very sad when that bank was taken over by UFJ and I got a really plain and boring maroon card.

And having just had the New Year season pass us by, there’s another oddly familiar thing – British comedy – found in an unexpected place – Germany. Every New Year’s Eve, German television famously screens “Dinner For One”, a 1963 short film made of a British skit about the 90th birthday of Miss Sophie, who celebrates with a bunch of imaginary friends (as all her real ones have already passed away). It’s actually virtually unknown in Britain but it’s very much British comedy and when I first discovered that basically every German watches this on New Year’s Eve I was pretty surprised – the German sense of humour is usually a long way from the British style! (You can have a look below, if you want … but be warned that it is a little odd!)

So, that’s just three quick examples of finding the familiar in an unexpected place on my travels, and I’m sure there are many more. I do love how our funny globalised world spreads these cultural quirks across the globe. And how every culture takes these ideas and makes them their own – whether to sell an amazing drink or to plaster your bank cards with cartoon characters from another country or whatever.


  1. I have to admit that Feuerzangenbowle made watching Dinner for One more palatable. 😉

  2. I don’t think I ever had a drink of Milo with ice cubes, it’s always been Hot Milo. Will have to try that one.

  3. I am not sure I have even heard of Milo before, I have certainly never drunk it!

    • Hmm, I don’t know an equivalent … it’s kind of a malty drink I suppose. You will have to visit Australia (or Malaysia!) and try it!

    • Anonymous says

      Is it maybe like Ovaltine? I’ve never heard of Milo before either. I’m from Canada and have never been to Australia or Malaysia. Amanda, I found your blog by Googling “what is it like to see snow for the first time as an adult.” We are having a very very cold (many days – 25 C or below) and extremely snowy winter here in Southwestern Ontario and today my co-workers and I wondered what it must be like to have never seen snow. Hence the googling. I’m enjoying wandering through your blog! Cheers, Sabina

    • That’s hilarious Sabina, and yes there are lots of us who don’t get to see snow until we’re all grown up – hard there to imagine I guess!! And yes Milo is similar to Ovaltine, I haven’t had Ovaltine for years so can’t really describe the difference but you’re on the right track 😉

  4. Dinner For One.
    Guess I´m not German after all.
    Ghaaa 😉

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