I heard on the radio this week that January is the most unhappy month. I assume that’s true just about everywhere… the fun of the holiday celebrations are over, the bills from all those gifts are rolling in, the weather is typically not very nice and spring is still quite some time away. In that spirit, I thought I’d channel my inner curmudgeon and share a few of the things that really annoy me since moving here.
Before I get a flood of comments from defenders of the British way of life, please know that I love it here. I adore so much about this experience, this culture, the people, everything. I almost feel guilty complaining about a few things. But naturally, anytime you undergo such a big life change, there are things that drive you a little nuts. And the most important reason I write this column each week is to share some of what I’ve observed that others might not have a chance to themselves.
Complaining about the weather.
I get it. Talking about the weather is part of the culture. And I know it rains a lot. But based on the comments you’ll hear from many people here, you’d be convinced Great Britain has the world’s worst weather. And I just don’t agree with that. I first noticed it this summer when there were complaints about the heat. The weather forecaster on television would say, “it’s going to be another uncomfortable night.” Mind you, it was barely hitting 70 degrees Fahrenheit. I know people say the heat is more significant because air conditioning is uncommon, but I assure you that I was never once tempted to turn on the AC in my house if we had it. And now that it’s winter, I stand outside each afternoon waiting to pick my son up from school, listening to comment after comment about how cold it is. Real cold is being frozen in your house with wind chills far below zero, like they’ve experienced this winter where I’m from. I typically wear a rain jacket and maybe a scarf. I hardly ever need gloves and I’ve only warn my heavy winter jacket twice since moving here. The weather here can at times be a drag. But that’s true just about anywhere other than some tropical beach location. I actually find the weather here far more tolerable than other places I’ve lived.
This will show what a hypocrite I can be based on what I just wrote about complaining about the weather. But many bathrooms here have no heat. Places like fancy restaurants, public restrooms at the mall, even my own house. I’ve started to get used to it, but I have to say my 2-year-old still hates undergoing a diaper change in the cold.
The time it takes to get things done.
Some of the most basic things just take longer to complete here, plain and simple. Everything from dry cleaning some trousers to scheduling a doctor’s appointment. When we needed our internet turned on, it was a 3-week wait. It took 2 1/2 weeks for our car dealership to get a new wheel put on my car. We’ve been waiting well over a month for a new filter for our furnace because the company will only communicate via mail. I just had to schedule a simple house inspection for our lease, and the soonest they could get us in was mid-February. I’ve gotten used to these delays, but they infuriated me our first few months here.
Late opening times.
I’m sure this one drives me crazy mostly because I have young kids, but many attractions don’t open until 11 a.m., and some not until the afternoon. Because my youngest son naps for a couple of hours each afternoon, we like to do touristy things in the morning. We’ve never had a problem doing that in the U.S., where the latest opening time is usually 10 a.m. In the winter, the sun begins to set by 3:30 here, meaning if you don’t arrive somewhere until noon, daylight hours for your visit will be limited. In a land where caffeinated tea and coffee flows like water, I can’t understand why we can’t open the doors by 9 or 10.
This is particularly a jab at the London Underground. I find it incredibly difficult to get around the tube stations with a stroller. But beyond what’s just an inconvenience to me, I’m sad to think about what those with a physical handicap must face in trying to navigate the city. According to Transport of London, only 66 out of 270 stations on the Underground are step-free. I know it can be hard to modernize some stations given their age and historical significance. But many other European cities have found a way to do so, and I hope London will make it a bigger priority in the years to come.
Ok, complaining over. (And really, if the worst I can say about a place is that their loos are a little chilly, things could be much, much worse, right?) Back to enjoying this beautiful country and its way of life. I promise a more uplifting post next week!