I came across this old post on a British expat blog called “The 10 Best Things About the UK” and it made me think about my top 10. There are many downsides to moving countries, but one of the positives is that everything is new and fresh to you. When we first arrived in Toronto, and then again here, we did all kinds of things the locals took for granted. I hope it will be the same for us going back to England after 25 years away.
So besides the obvious friends and family, these are the things I’m most looking forward to about going back:
The English Countryside
It’s not just the rolling hills or pretty villages or the amazing shades of green in spring and summer – it’s also the light. Until we went back last year, I had forgotten the way the clouds race across the sky, lighting patches of the countryside below them in constantly changing patterns, and how when it happens in the middle of an otherwise cloudy day, it’s like a little present.
That doesn’t happen here – if it’s sunny, it’s completely sunny and if it’s grey, it generally is just grey. We get a lot more sun (and that’s a good thing!) but we don’t get those little gifts of quickly passing sunlight on a green field.
Photo by tejvanphotos
Fish and Chips
Finally, a couple of years ago, we found a real British chippy in Manhattan. Run by former chip shop owners from Lancashire, it’s the real deal. But because it’s in Soho, it’s not a place you can pop when you realize you just don’t feel like cooking. And there’s no chance of getting a waft of that amazing smell just walking down the street of other towns. When Americans do fish and chips, its nice, but it bears no resemblance to the real thing. Probably a good thing or I’d be even bigger than I am.
Seaside Towns & Beaches
Brits take their seaside towns for granted – especially the fact that wherever you live in the UK, a beach is easily accessible. Unlike most of the US, we do have a coastline here, but there is not a stretch of beach that doesn’t either belong to a town (with non-residents denied access during summer), to a private house, or to the state and designated as a ‘state beach.’ The few state beaches we have are open to anyone, but because everything else is private, they’re packed. So the only time Phil and I get to see the sea is during winter, when we can get in to the town beaches. Bring your woollies!
Sadly lots of pubs have closed down over the last few years partly due to lifestyle changes and partly due to the cost of drinks. But there are still plenty of them to keep us going. I’m looking forward to walking to the local pub in the evening and especially to Sunday lunches, maybe with mum and Ian, or with friends.
This is definitely one of those things that you don’t appreciate unless you’ve ever been without it. the constant nagging worry that you might lose your health care coverage is a real mental drain – and that’s nothing to what happens to those poor souls who do lose it. Many Americans are terrified by the idea of ‘socialized medicine.’ They should all watch Michael Moore’s movie ‘Sicko’ and then take to the streets! In this clip Michael interviews a British doctor:
History is everywhere in England. Phil and I were married in the Norman church just across from mum and dad’s house. We lived 15 miles from York. Every time we drove to my gran’s house when I was a kid, we passed the ruins of Kirkstall Abbey. I barely even noticed them but I won’t make that mistake when we’re back.
Here, being vegetarian is very much an anomoly and is almost always about health. Therefore, if restaurants even bother with a veggie dish at all, it tends to be something uber-healthy (and completely tasteless). But in the UK, most vegetarians do it because they don’t want to be responsible for killing animals. This means veggie food doesn’t have to be limited to “a platter of vegetables” (Oooh yum!) but can actually contain tasty ingredients. Most pubs and restaurants have several vegetarian options and for Phil, who doesn’t even eat fish as I do, this presents him with a cornucopia of options. He’s going to have to get used to choosing from the menu rather than taking whatever he’s given.
If you’re British and you’re reading this, you’ll think I am insane. After all, you know how much sun we get here. Why would I miss your crappy, rainy, never-that-hot weather? Because for 3 months of the year it’s too cold to do anything here, and for another four months it’s too hot to do anything. People who are from here don’t think it’s too hot of course. They pull on shorts and a t-shirt and make the most of it. But I wasn’t made for this, so I feel sticky and sluggish and desperate for winter to arrive. And then of course when it does, I feel cold and miserable and desperate for summer to come back. I’m looking forward to the day when 65 degrees is considered balmy. (Of course, I’ll have to learn to call it 18 degrees instead)
There are many wonderful things about America, but the ability to make great chocolate is not among them. Someone told me it’s because American business are not mandated to use as much cocoa as they are in England. Which makes sense. Usually in this country if you have to ask yourself why something is the way it is, the answer is usually “because someone somewhere is making more money this way.” I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing that I’ll be able to get English chocolate again, but there’s no disputing the fact that it tastes wonderful.
I started by writing “the BBC,” but actually there’s lots of stuff I love on Channel 4 too. Where else but England could you have a reality TV show where the contestants are budding modern artists who have to show their work to a panel of art critics in order to get through to the final? Oh I know you have lots of naff TV shows just like we do, but you also have The Office (the real one), The Trip, Phoenix Nights, The Royle Family, Ideal … the list goes on. And you have amazing documentaries, and really good history programs. We pretty much only watch British TV shows now, but it’s a palaver to get them. It will be nice to just turn on the tele and there they are!
If you’re English reading this, you’re probably thinking “well that’s all well and good, but what about … (insert 500 things you don’t like about England).” I know you’re right and I will be sure to do another post on the 10 Worst Things About England just to make you happy. But for now, we’re being positive. It’ll make a nice change for those of you who read the Daily Mail 🙂