One of the common misnomers Americans make when you tell them you’re moving to England is that they assume you’ll be living in London. But just like the USA is so much more than just New York and LA, there is life beyond London here.
In fact, the population of England is 53 million people. And just over 8 million people reside in London. Many of us find ourselves living in small villages. These can vary in population from 15,000 (the largest) to 40 or so (smallest). My village, Collyweston, has 400 people.
So what defines village life? Naturally, they’re each a bit different, but there are some typical commonalities.
- A village shop. Sometimes called a corner shop. Again, they vary in size (often corresponding to the size of the village, naturally). They carry typical grocery items, like milk, bread and snacks. Some offer freshly prepared foods like sandwiches or ready-made meals. Sometimes there is a post office window (very handy for shipping letters and packages back to the US!) My kids love that our shop has a nice variety of sweets to choose from, and taking a walk to the shop for a treat is something we do at least once a week.
- A pub. This, along with the shop, are often the hub of socialization in a village. Many serve food, and often they have rooms you can rent for the evening. (In other words, a combination of bar, restaurant, and bed & breakfast.)
- A village hall. Sometimes it’s the village’s church or some other type of public meeting space. Some village halls are more active than others. At the hall, you might find exercise classes, craft clubs or other group meetings.
Other things you’ll find in my village? A small cemetery. A playground and playing fields. A church. We even have our own monthly newsletter so you’re always up to speed on what’s going on.
Villages often spring up as you’re driving through the countryside. One moment you’re cruising along at 60 mph and then suddenly you see signs cautioning you to slow to 30 or 40 mph. The landscape abruptly changes from wheat fields or sheep pastures to homes stacked neatly against each other for a kilometer or two. And just as soon as you came upon it, you’re through it and back to cruising speed again.
I feared village life would seem isolating and lonely. Despite being a Midwestern girl, I’ve never lived out in the country before, always in towns of at least 20,000 people or so. Instead, I find it to be very social. Neighbors are interested in meeting their neighbors. The people who work in the shop are always quick with a greeting and the sharing of local news. The bartender in our pub knew us after just a couple of visits.
And within just a few weeks, our little English village sure felt like home. If you’re planning a trip to the UK, be sure to incorporate some time in your itinerary to explore a few villages. It’ll give you a sense of what life is like for Brits living outside the city limits.