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Between Amazon, eBay, and any number of online marketplaces, it feels like there’s very little that’s off-limits thanks to the internet. But there are some things, whether it’s through logistics or legality, that are still extremely hard to get for people living in the United States. And while, sure, nothing is really impossible if you know where to look or try some workarounds, for the average consumer who doesn’t know a guy who knows a guy, these things are still very hard to get in the States.
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Tokyo bananas, a spongey yellow cake filled with banana-flavored cream, are often compared to Twinkie’s because of their similar color and shape. These treats are typically sold at train stations, airport gift shops, and convenience stores in Japan, the idea being you return from a trip and then gift them to your friends and family. But since Tokyo bananas are made fresh and without the preservatives that make Twinkies synonymous with post-apocalyptic survival, it means that they’re not ideal candidates for international shipping.
WHERE: South and Central America
Granadilla is part of the passionfruit family and is native to the Andean regions of South America. It has a yellow-orange shell and the inside is full of seeds surrounded by a clear pulp. Part of the challenge that comes with trying to track down fresh granadilla at a grocery market in the U.S. is that not only are there several different (more popular) passionfruits, but the granadilla also goes by several different names and are sometimes called “sweet passion fruits” or “maracuya.”
Compass Distillers Aquavit
WHERE: Compass Distillers Aquavit
Compass Distillers’ Aquavit is an award-winning take on the Nordic alcohol. But if you’re hoping to sample it for yourself, you won’t be able to have it shipped to you in the United States. This aquavit is only sold in Canada. But, if you’re looking to really immerse yourself, Compass Distillers even has their own Airbnb in Halifax.
WHERE: France and Italy
If you’ve seen the seasonal offerings at Trader Joe’s in the fall, you’d think that truffles were the most abundant ingredients in the world. But getting your hands on an honest-to-goodness fresh truffle is a trickier (and pricier) endeavor. Multiple kinds of truffles can be found in a few different places, but it’s the white and black truffles that are the most prized. Though they’ve been cultivated outside their region of origin, black truffles are typically only found in Southern Europe and white truffles are typically found in Northern Italy during a limited window (September through December).
Clotted cream is as essential to a classic English tea as, well, the tea itself. It’s buttery and creamy and perfect, and technically it can’t be sold or produced in the United States. Clotted cream’s inimitable texture comes from a key ingredient: unpasteurized milk. While each state has its own laws about the legality of raw milk, most states don’t allow it. Further complicating matters is that the federal law states that unpasteurized milk can’t be distributed at the interstate level.
WHERE: West Africa and Jamaica
When this fruit ripens, it opens to unveil a yellow flesh that acts as one half of Jamaica’s national dish—ackee with saltfish. But if you’re hoping to try it out in your own kitchen in the U.S., you’re going to be out of luck. The ackee fruit has actually been banned in the U.S. because, if improperly prepared, it can be poisonous to the point of coma or death. The fruit can be poisonous if it’s eaten before it’s ripe and open. And the yellow flesh surrounds large, black seeds that are always toxic.
Because American culture is so centered around the automobile, you’d think there’d be little trouble procuring just about any vehicle no matter its origin. But one country that’s almost entirely absent from the American market is France. Though you might see the odd, vintage Citroen now and then, you’ll be hard-pressed to find vehicles made by French automakers stateside. Renault cars are popular in Europe and you don’t have to cross the pond to hop in a Clio or Captur as they’re also popular in Central and South America. Though Francophilic car enthusiasts do have reason to be excited, as Peugeot recently announced that it plans to reenter the U.S. market in 2026 but could be returning even sooner.