Top Four Aspects (so far) of Life in Britain

I took one of those fake “Life in the UK” tests online a few months ago and duly forwarded the link to my British husband. Both of us failed it, but we can’t actually remember the percentages. I got more history questions right but he did better with the sport/political questions. Anyhow I am still a proud American Southerner (bring on the grits) after four and a half years over here, but I have been reflecting lately on aspects of British life that I’m actually getting on with quite well…in no particular order.

  • All the old stuff

There is a medieval Cistercian abbey ruin about 10 minutes walk from our flat. In the US, we get excited about buildings from the 1800s, so medieval structures blow our minds just a little! We are quick to acknowledge we cannot compete for history with the old continent, which is one reason why so many Americans like to visit Europe. It was the history of this country that initially attracted me and once I visited in 2007, I fell in love with the place. Obviously by now I have seen the less historic side of the country but I still get that awestruck feeling as you experience living history in everyday life.

  • Digital scales

I finally relented and bought a digital scale after years of converting measurements from grams to cups to who knows what, and, let me tell you, it is now a cherished possession. Mainly because the cookbooks I have are British and so everything is in metric anyway. My digital scale measures in grams and milli-liters and pounds too I think. It has made my life so much simpler both because I don’t have to hurriedly convert measurements online as much (how many grams is a stick of butter??) but also it seems to save dirty dishes since you can just measure everything into one bowl.

  • Hanging up clothes to air dry

This was initially born out of necessity because I didn’t have a tumble dryer. They are still not a common appliance in many British homes. Personally I think this is a surprising display of British a-rationalism, since it being a damp country a lot of homes have mould problems and surely drying clothes indoors (because of course it’s raining outside) just compounds this problem! Anyway, we now do have a tumble dryer (and not one of those suspicious “all-in-one washer/dryers” that just make your clothes REALLY wrinkled). But I don’t use it that often, I think mainly because I have been converted to the energy-saving aspects of air drying and just got into the habit. However I have not nor ever will be converted to the idea that no dishwasher is alright because hand washing all your dishes is really nice and eco-friendly…

  • Pedestrian life

There are very few places in the US that you can live without a car just because of the sheer distances involved between points A and B and lack of public transport unless you live in the Northeast or a mega-city. Over here though it is very common to be car-less, because 1) public transport is very good, 2) the driving test is extremely difficult to pass, and 3) the price of fuel (“petrol” not “gas”) is very high. We don’t have a car and while is it certainly inconvenient at times, I love the fact that exercise and fresh air is already built into my daily routine.

Have you lived/travelled abroad? What aspects have you imported back home?


4 thoughts on “Top Four Aspects (so far) of Life in Britain

  1. I have real trouble with American recipes precisely because of “sticks” of butter! I have no idea what a stick of butter is. Is it not common to have a set of scales in the US? I suppose with cups you don’t really need scales.

    I lived in Spain for a year but I don’t think I brought any lifestyle changes back with me. What I wish I could have brought back home was the really useful cupboard over the sink which was actually a draining rack:

  2. I’m really enjoyed reading this!

    Emily, that cupboard sounds like a genius idea. Speaking of the kitchen sink, I’m from Germany originally and when my mum visits me here (in Birmingham), she never gets why we have a washing up bowl in the sink. “Can’t you just use the sink? That’s what it’s there for.” I guess I’ve become used to it…

    The one thing I will never manage is to think in yards, ounces, pounds – basically anything non-metric.

  3. Emily, thanks for your comment. Most Americans just use measuring cups/bowls, which my British female friends of a certain age are horrified by! And yes, butter comes in sticks rather than 250g blocks. The sticks are helpfully marked out on the packaging in tablespoons so it’s easy to measure a “half stick of butter” etc.! That draining rack is nifty, in the US, people might have a slotted rack where you store the plates, but don’t know if you’d use it for draining! Everyone has a dishwasher :p

    Laura, I’m glad you’re enjoying it! I have come to understand the washing up bucket concept but we still don’t have one! I am getting on ok with metric and *just* getting used to Celsius!

  4. Pingback: Dorothy in Oz – Expat life part 1 | notes and marks

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