Dispatches from England: A Few British Things I’ll Miss When I Move Back to America

Collyweston horse field

In some ways it is hard to believe it’s been over six months since my family moved to England. We’ve adjusted fairly well. My sons are both settled into school and nursery. Our house is really comfortable for us, and driving no longer makes me a nervous wreck. We’ve gotten to know a few people, and overall, it feels more like home than it did our first few weeks.

I know that our three years here will go by quickly. I’ve already been thinking about what I’ll miss from the experience that can’t be replicated back in the U.S. Here are a few:

Our village.

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about living in a small village. I thought it would be isolating. But we really do love it here (I wrote more about village life here, and shared lots of pictures of our charming village here). There’s really nothing to compare it to in the U.S. Living out in the country in America often means you’re miles away from a store, or a restaurant, or even any neighbors. For some, this remoteness is probably exactly what they desire. But I know I’d feel lonely. But here, I can walk to our shop, the pub, and a park. If I look out the window on one side of my house, I can see nothing but rolling fields for miles. Out the other window, I can practically shake hands with my neighbor. It’s such a lovely combination of peace and tranquility, but without losing a sense of community.

The food.

Sure, there is a lot of food from the U.S. that I crave. But for each American product I miss, there’s easily a British food that I’ve fallen in love with. I plan to devote an entire post to this soon, but let’s just say I’ve had to scale back some of my indulgences after putting on a few pounds when we moved here.

They’re not workaholics.

Perhaps this is true all over Europe, and not just in Great Britain. But I find people here take their time away from work seriously. They plan fun holidays. They attend festivals. They have hobbies, like cycling or hiking or knitting. I know this is true in the U.S. too, but I often felt like I heard Americans boasting about not taking all of their vacation time and working all weekend. As if that was better than putting the laptop away for a couple of days and spending quality time with family or friends. People here value their personal time more, and I really like that about the culture.

Politeness.

Overall, people here are quite polite. Even if you barely brush shoulders with someone on the street, they’ll apologize. Cashiers at the store probably thank me at least 3 or 4 times when I make a purchase. When I first moved here, I had a very frustrating experience getting our phone and internet set up at our house. Each day for several weeks, I was on the phone with a representative from the company (which I shall not name for fear they’ll cut me off from the outside world!). I wanted desperately to yell at them and complain. Yet they were so polite even while delivering bad news that I felt I couldn’t be mean about my unhappiness. I like the sense of being respectful that exists here instead of the sometimes more harsh approach in the U.S.

Public transit.

I should preface this by saying it’s probably not as prolific as you might think. Many Americans think you don’t need a car to live anywhere in Europe. That’s certainly true in some places in Great Britain, but I definitely need a car to live in my village, which only offers a weekly bus ride to the nearby town one day a week. But, to travel to London is only a 45 minute train ride away for me. And if you book ahead, it’s usually only $15-25. Considering you’d easily spend that much on gas, not to mention the cost of parking in London, that’s a real bargain and a time saver (the city is at least 2 hours away by car). Plus I love getting to enjoy the city without having to drive through it! I can easily get to a nearby major airport and several other cities via the train as well. I’ll miss that type of ease of travel.

Just a few things that will make the transition back to the U.S. difficult. Luckily I still have 2 1/2 more years to enjoy them!

Next week I’ll share what I miss most from America as we approach the Christmas holiday season.


Comments

  1. avatar says

    You certainly named some great things. I am a Brit in America and do miss most of those things too. I totally agree about the time off. I find people’s attitude to taking time off in the US bizarre. My family still likes to travel lots and I think some people think we’re crazy!!

    • avatar says

      Yeah, we get strange remarks telling people we’re traveling for the next month. They don’t understand how it’s possible or why you’d want to do it, especially with kids. Anything is possible if you want it enough. Somehow Americans are convinced their only purpose in life is to work.

      • avatarYouLiveYouLearn says

        Not all of us are workaholics, though.
        For a lot of us, it’s more that a) we get only a couple weeks’ worth of paid vacation time each year – if our employer even offers it at all, b) many of us can’t afford to miss even a part of a paycheck, much less 2 or more whole ones, so traveling for a month is completely out of the question (unless we’ve worked for a company so long that we get that much paid time off), c) even if they did pay for it, few employers would authorize that much time off of work in one go, d) because we get so little time off and everything is so expensive, we’re used to cramming a lot of stuff into our vacations – the concept of just *going somewhere* for a month or more is so strange because we don’t understand how you could possibly fill up all that time and e) to travel pretty much anywhere outside of North America is often HUGELY expensive – more so than it is for others to come here.
        Example: My fiance, up until very recently, lived just outside of Manchester (we’re now both a bit outside of Chicago), and on average it was about 20-33% cheaper for him to fly here than it was for me to fly there, even though it’s the exact same airports, dates, airlines, number of connections, etc.

  2. avatarMonika says

    It is definitely culture shock upon arriving back into the US! We lived there for 3 years as well. We want to get back ASAP! Miss all the festivals and village life!

  3. avatarEnid Hansen says

    I’ve traveled to Britain several times and just loved it. In fact, IF (and I don’t believe it) I had a previous life, I HAD to be British!!) Had you traveled there prior to your current stay?

    • avatar says

      Hi Enid! I visited London once while in college during a larger European trip. And I came over to look at houses about 5 months prior to moving here for a few days. Otherwise, this is my first experience spending a great deal of time here. I have no doubt we’ll visit often after we move back.

  4. avatarNora Lanier-Kohl says

    I love Britian. I went there in 2005 and swore I felt like I was home again! Perhaps I lived there in a past life. Certainly feels like it. I even love cloudy overcast days and rainy days. Thanks for sharing and I’ll keep reading!

  5. avatarMary says

    I missed asking on your home comparison posts, but do you prefer the open layout plans of American homes, or the rooms with closed door layout plans of British homes? I think they would both have their pros and cons.

    • avatar says

      I love the layout of our home. Granted, we have a fairly modern home, although it is not an open floor plan like you often find in the U.S. I appreciated the open floor plan style when my children were really small (babies and toddlers) because I could keep an eye on them no matter where I was. But now that they’re getting a bit older (2 and 4) that’s not as big of an issue. I agree with you–both styles have pros and cons.

  6. avatarPatty says

    I’m a Phila. girl living in Surrey for the last 13 years. Love it here and couldn’t move back now. There is so much diversity, good food, good beer, good attitude and wicked sense of humour.

    • avatarYouLiveYouLearn says

      I always wonder: How on earth did England get such a reputation for bad or boring food?! Even the candy and soda taste better, IMO.

  7. avatarMJ says

    I’m here to tell you— you WILL indeed miss it. I lived there for five years and need to get back for my “fix.” We recently stayed in the lovely Cotswolds village of Paxford to experience exactly the life you are living now. And oh do we miss the cozy little pubs!

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