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.

        • avatarMary Lou Stilwell says

          Hello all; I am new to this website and when I grow up one day I want to actually live in the UK but for now am stuck in America but I totally agree with you referencing the employer limitations on vacations (‘holidays’). I work in healthcare and absolutely cannot have that kind of time off even if I wanted to (an entire month for vacation???) or had the built-up vacation time. Who would cover my patients? How could I possibly put that much more of a workload on my colleagues than they already carry themselves??? I’m even putting off having hip surgery done because of the imposition it will be on the department. How’s that for American nose-to-the-grindstone??? Really don’t like it and it’s probably why I am getting sick but welcome to healthcare in the US. Love this website and have really enjoyed reading these posts. One more question: given the new immigration scheme that is in place and the prospects of me ever meeting and marrying a British national is less than zero, any suggestions for moving over there?

          • avatarSecretaryintheUK says

            Mary Lou – it’s not just healthcare workers in the US that feel they can’t take off. I’m a Brit and “only” work in admin within the NHS but we are so busy, and don’t have anyone to pick up our workload when we are away, I rarely take more than a few days off at a time (although, I do confess, that I get 33 days holiday a year! :) )

        • avatar says

          Typically when you take a job in the UK you get 2 to 3 weeks paid vacation (holiday) a year, to start. The longer you work at a job the more Holiday you get. It is not at all unusual to get 6 weeks paid Holiday a year. And it doesn’t take all that long to build up, certainly by 20 years you would be at maximum Holiday. And that does not include what you in American call Holidays – July 4th etc. In the UK there are something like 10 paid Holidays, in addition to your vacation days!
          Perhaps all that rest makes Brits a happier people?
          Could that be why they don’t go around shooting each other if they get a Whopper instead of a Double Whopper at Burger King, or someone uses their phone in the movie house, or plays their car radio too loud, or girls won’t go out with them? Something makes 30,000 Americans a year shoot themselves or someone else every year, compared to a little over 100 in the UK! Perhaps it is lots of Vacation time and “Free” Health Care – which means you don’t have to worry about going bankrupt if you do get sick!
          Just saying.

  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!

  8. avatar says

    reading articles from this website really makes me wanting to go back very very soon to the UK. for 2 consecutive years i had been spending christmas holidays in the UK. I stayed in a town called Herne Bay in Kent and it is just lovely. I’ve fell in love with it the first and more the second time and looking forward for the third one. Hopefully next time around i will be able to stay months longer. :)

    • avatar says

      So glad you like Herne Bay – I used to live in Whitstable – next town over and loved it!
      I’m a UK expat living in the US, but miss home soooo much. Lovely to hear/read all the posts. Wish it was cheaper to fly home – haven’t been for 10 years. (We have family in Canada, so the measly two weeks of vacation were usually spent up there), Now retired, have the time, but sadly not the money!

  9. avatar says

    I love reading anything anyone says about their experiences of living in England, especially positive ones, and I loved your post. I am American and married an Englishman 4 months ago and am just awaiting the arrival of my spousal visa so I can make the final permanent move over there. I’ve been a visitor many times before and I agree with what you said about the people and even the village experience. I can’t wait to be living there full time. I’m so sorry you won’t be able to stay longer than 3 years but so glad that you are enjoying your time there :-)

  10. avatar says

    I am origionally from a small town in uk called wisbech.I have lived in new york 42 yrs still miss my homeland especially certain foods going back in august can;t wait lLuv to read all the stories

  11. avatarColin Howell says

    Take a trip up to the Potteries (Stoke on Trent area) and try the Oatcakes you will not be disappointed.

  12. avatarCarmen Todoran says

    I have been living in UK for just three months now and I completely fallen in love with everything that I found here. My family and I are living in a small village, Bramshill, and I do not miss the city life at all. I will certainly miss all the things you mentioned in your article, but, especially, the quiet and peacefull atmosphere that surrounds us. When we will move back to Romania it will be an empty little corner in our hearts, that is where Britain is going to stay forever!

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