Dispatches from England: A Few Things I Miss From America While Living in the UK

Yorkshire camping view j and j

Last week I shared just a few of the many things I’ll miss about living in the UK when we move back to America. But as Dorothy said, “there’s no place like home.” So what do I miss about the U.S.?

Family and friends

Pretty obvious. But it’s definitely the most difficult part of moving so far away from home. Luckily there are many ways to keep in touch, like Facetime, texting, email, and more. But nothing beats a hug from your mom, lunch out with your sister, or watching your kids play with their cousins. This is the first time I’ve lived more than an hour from my immediate family, and it’s definitely been my biggest adjustment. Fortunately, we’ve already had a lot of visitors, with a few more scheduled in the months to come.

Good Mexican food

There are a lot of American food products I miss, but at least some of it can be shipped over to us or brought back in a suitcase from time to time. But what I wouldn’t give for a quality Mexican restaurant nearby. We used to eat Mexican out almost weekly when we lived in the States. We have made do by cooking it at home, or eating at the American-based chain Chipotle every time we go into London. But as far as food goes, it’s what I miss the most.

Wide streets

I feel like I’ve learned to drive over here pretty well and fairly quickly. I started driving the very first day we lived here, and just forced myself to learn. We’re in the process of getting our UK driver’s licenses now. But even though my comfort level with the roads here is growing, I still miss wide streets instead of the narrow, twisty roads I usually find myself on. Sure, they’re charming. But it requires intense concentration and I always fear I’m going to take out my side mirror. And I’d love a few extra meters to work with when merging onto a large motorway.

Our pediatrician

Let me be clear, I have no issues whatsoever with the NHS. I think it’s very admirable that the UK provides universal healthcare to all its residents. The U.S. could learn a lot from it. I also don’t doubt the quality of the medical care here at all. But it is structured differently than what I’m accustomed to in the U.S. And so when my kids were really sick for two straight weeks, I found myself longing to see a pediatrician, a doctor who only treats children, instead of a general practitioner. But it was my only option. The doctor we were assigned didn’t have a good bedside manner with young kids and didn’t seem to enjoy treating them, either. (I also think that when your kids are sick, as a parent you’re really vulnerable emotionally. I’m sure I missed the familiarity of home at that moment for many reasons beyond the doctor we saw.)

So that’s the perspective of just one American who sometimes misses home. Just for fun, I thought I’d widen the circle and ask my husband and son what they miss, too.

Basketball

My husband played in a weekly basketball league. He really misses playing the game that he grew up with and the exercise. My sons and I miss going to watch him. We’ve been surprised by how easy it is to keep up with sports we love from the U.S. (although often the games are on in the middle of the night!) But he misses opportunities to play himself. He’ll just have to learn rugby or cricket!

String cheese

This was from my 4-year-old, after he rattled off every member of our family, a handful of friends, and his preschool teacher. Once I told him I was curious what he missed besides people, this was all he could come up with. Such a shame, as the cheese here is so good. But he finds it too strong. His 2-year-old brother, on the other hand, can’t get enough of it!

If you’re planning a similar move across the pond (or dreaming about one!), you might appreciate reading some of the tips I shared for surviving your first six months as an expat.

Comments

  1. avatarjohn b says

    Its interesting to read this as I find myself almost constantly pining to be back in the UK, gave me pause to think.. Thanks

  2. avatarRita Robles says

    Rather have no bedside manner…than a bad Doctor. And String Cheese is processed rubbish anyway. Poisen to our children. All the others I understand…since I’m British and now stuck in the States~~~Smiles!

    • avatar says

      Poison is a strong word, Rita! Personally, I love the cheese here and I think he’s nuts for not enjoying it. However, I have to say I’m really proud of him. He has tried so many new foods here and loves a lot of them. So I don’t fault him for having a few things from home he misses… he’s only 4 after all. He has his whole life to develop a palette for good cheese. Hopefully he’ll come around.

    • avatarJohn Evans says

      Nicole: You can actually get String Cheese in Waitrose supermarkets. It’s produced in Ireland, so is probably not so full of rubbish, as Irish dairy produce is pretty good. But, there are other, less processed, cheeses available that don’t taste strong and might appeal to your boys.

      Try: Double Gloucester – smooth and buttery tasting; Wensleydale (Wallace and Gromit’s favourite) – smooth and creamy; Red Leicester – mild and slightly nutty tasting.

      There are also the Dutch cheeses widely available in the UK, which are beautifully sweet tasting and have the texture of string cheese. Edam is the most common, but I think Gouda is better, and Maasdam (available in Waitrose) is deliciously sweet and nutty.

      Hope that helps.

  3. avatar says

    If you don’t like your doctor, shop around! You’ll still have to have a GP rather than a paediatrician, but you don’t have to settle for a doctor you don’t like. Chiquitos is a great Mexican restaurant, and it’s a chain so there might be one near you.

    • avatar says

      I will have to give Chiquitos a try. The Americans I’ve talked to about Chiquitos don’t seem to care for it but it’s worth a shot. I think we’re spoiled in the U.S. with amazing, affordable Mexican cuisine. And yes, definitely plan to switch to a different surgery. Thanks!

  4. avatarLorena says

    When I lived in England for over nine years, I really missed Mexican food, big time! I have an American mother and a Mexican father (I have 4 Mexican grandparents, 8 Mexican great-grandparents, etc…) so this stuff wasn’t just something I ate from time to time but every single day and I couldn’t find stuff to make it. I remember the day that the local ASDA started selling “Old El Paso” and I nearly cried. It was two-fold: My hometown is called El Paso (it’s in far west Texas) so the home-sickness got me and because I was going to spend money on pre-made taco shells. I did not have a choice in those years but to learn how to cook English food and I am impressed with my culinary skills and my wide repertoire of culturally diverse foods. To be honest, since I’ve been back, I hardly eat Mexican food now and eat it only once or twice a month. It is hard to live without “home comforts” now but you’ll soon make your own with everything that is available to you now. You may really surprise yourself :) Btw, Chiquitos is not very good. You’re better off making your own.

    • avatar says

      Thanks Lorena! All the stores sell Old El Paso now, thankfully! And I’ve been shocked by the number of new foods I’ve made and loved. So I completely relate to what you’re saying. Thanks for the comment.

  5. avatarVicki wood says

    If you go to your local clinic in the UK, there will be several Doctors each specializing in their own field, not just GP. Find a bigger clinic with several GPs in it and ask for the one that specialist in Pediatrics, you just have to shop around its FREE. Once you find one that’s that problem solved.

    String cheese is Rubbish anyway. Take them to a real cheese counter and let them try hundreds of new cheese it’s real and not fake.

    Mexican Food. Go to your local big hospital and ask if you can be put in contact with any Mexican staff working in the hospital. Thousands of Mexican descent people are moving to the UK. All in the hospitals. There you I’ll meet people and eat authentic Mexican foods.

    I live in Odessa Texas, moved there six years ago with my two daughters. I’m from Nottingham England. I’m here in the UK and I love it here. I have the best of both worlds and I love it.

  6. avatar says

    Thanks Vicki. Unfortunately there are only two surgeries in our nearby town and none of the GPs specialize in pediatrics. We are going to switch to a different surgery, though. I have a friend who is from Odessa… small world!

  7. avatar says

    As an American living in Malaysia, I miss a lot of the same things. The closest decent Mexican restaurant is a 4 hour drive away, and the Old El Paso Taco kit at our grocery store is imported from the UK! I laugh at how British the instructions are.

  8. avatarH-bomb says

    So, does a Taco Bell chalupa fall under the mexican food you’re craving? Just curious. (And you get mad brave points for being honest about what you miss.)

  9. avatar says

    Great post! When I lived in PBoro the thing I missed the most was milk.

    And I agree on the cheese….UK cheese is incredible! US cheese, much less so.

    And we used the NHS a few times (ear infections mostly) and never had an issue (and never paid either, though I think we should have). Totally agree, the US could learn something from the UK on healthcare. But having a doctor on-call 24/7 like we do in the US is something to miss.

    Now that I’m back in the US, I miss chai lattes (from AMT), any sandwich from Upper Crust, Indian food (we have no good Indian food in the US), and the cheese :)

  10. avatarNora says

    It’s interesting how we miss local food right after family and friends, isn’t it? I think food is incredibly evocative of time and place, shared meals with family and friends and how where we come from inform who we are.

    Just moving from NYC to San Francisco, the things I miss most after family and friends are real bagels, black & white cookies, Sabrett hotdogs, and good deli cold cuts. So I totally get the food thing.

    Of course, being in California, we have no shortage of awesome Mexican food — wish I could send you some. :~)

  11. avatar says

    10-4 on the Mexican food!!! First thing I eat when I get home from the UK! However…… I would trade all the Tex Mex in the world to live in England.

  12. avatarSylvia Skinner says

    I haven’t lived in the U.K. ( would love to for awhile) but have visited a few times, and the thing I miss the most is iced tea! My English friends fill up their ice trays before we arrive, and the hotels usually have an ice machine now, so I make do. . I do like a ‘cuppa’ also., but love my iced tea.

  13. avatarEllie says

    I may be missing something, but aren’t Cheesestrings string cheese? I certainly lived on the things growing up in London and you can get them in every supermarket.

Leave a Reply