We’ve been living in England for a little over two weeks now and sometimes it’s easy to forget that we’re in a foreign country. Everyone looks like us, speaks the same language, and we’re surrounded by a large American population. However, a few things have stood out and continue to remind us that we’re no longer back in the states.
Here are the top five differences we’ve observed so far.
- Everything is smaller.
From roads to houses to appliances, it seems as if everything has been miniaturized. This quickly became apparent during our house search. We previously lived in a 3,200 sq ft house in Texas, which we readily admit was unnecessarily large. Here we ran into the opposite problem. Even though we anticipated smaller houses, it was still tough to visualize how our furniture would fit in most of the homes we viewed. We ended up finding a house that should fit our needs perfectly. It’s listed at 1,625 sq ft, half the size of our previous house.
You can’t have a small house without small appliances. More frequent trips to the grocery store are in our future. There’s no way we’ll be stocking up on groceries anymore. And to think we used to buy 2-3 gallons of milk at a time! Now we’ll be lucky to fit a few liters in the fridge. Same goes with laundry. We’ll be running the washer much more often.
Getting around has been another adventure. These roads are tight! Although we’re becoming fairly comfortable driving around, it’s still a bit scary winding through narrow country roads and having another vehicle speed by in the opposite direction at 50-60 mph. It feels like we can reach out and touch these passing cars. I’ll keep my hands inside the vehicle, thank you.
- We need to reset time and service expectations.
September 30… that’s when our internet service is scheduled to be activated. We called to set up service on August 25!!! Whoa, thank goodness we’re being proactive considering we don’t move into our new place for another week. We expected a delay, but five weeks is a little shocking! A week would’ve been borderline unacceptable in the states.
The best example of resetting expectations happened over the weekend. Check out this message we received on Sunday while attempting to visit a website called Bookoo, a Craigslist-like site here in the UK. At the time, we were somewhat frustrated that we couldn’t do what we wanted/needed to do that day, especially being that Sundays is one of the two “free” days we have to take care of this kind of stuff. On the other hand, it was actually kind of cool and really illustrated a cultural difference between the US and UK.
- There are parks everywhere.
This ties in with the last point above. It seems that around every corner there is a community park, children’s playground, or garden where you can take time away with family to enjoy sunshine (yes, it has actually been sunny here) and life, as mentioned above. The kids have been in heaven climbing on playsets everywhere we go. Interestingly, we saw the same thing when we visited Chile in July. Noticing this in two vastly different countries within a couple months, we feel the US needs to step up their game to encourage outdoor, active lifestyles!
4. Constant mental conversions are the new norm.
No matter what we do, there’s sure to be some type of conversion involved. Which ATM gives us the best exchange rate? How many liters are in a gallon? It’s supposed to be 24°C today, what’s that in degrees Fahrenheit? If an organic, pasture-raised sirloin steak is selling for £28/kg, how much is that in dollars per pound ($/lb) and is it a good deal? You get the point. These conversions are now part of our daily life until we adjust to our new units of measure and currency.
In case you’re wondering, we’ve paid between $1.31 and 1.36 per £1, there are 4.54 liters per gallon, the high temperature will be about 75°F, and the steak is selling for roughly $16.65/lb.
- The amount of history is incredible.
Just walking through some of the nearby towns, and seeing homes and other buildings that have been around for over five hundred years is simply amazing. Aside from a few cities in the United States, you’d be hard-pressed to find many buildings more than a hundred years old. Up to this point, we’ve been accustomed to living in newer, suburban developments where much of the town is probably less than twenty or thirty years old.
This doesn’t even begin to mention all the historical figures who once lived, are currently buried, or events that took place in the area.
I’m sure over time we’ll begin to notice other things as well, but in our short time here these things have really stood out. For those of you who have spent considerable time in both countries, what other differences have you noticed?