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Living in England: The good, the bad and the the fugly

Posted on July 15, 2009 by yankeebean

yankeebeanWe recently had an SNFY comment that got me thinking.  One of our readers is planning to move to England when she graduates from high school and has some really good, specific questions that I think are worth answering – so here goes!

What is the best thing about living/moving to England?

A lot of things come to mind with this one, but I think the #1 corker has got to be how walkable everything is.  Driving or public transport is still important, but walking is a built in part of the culture and I LOVE it.

Oh, and free health care is freakin’ cool…

What is the worst?

Distance from family – hands down.  This is an obvious one, but being far away from family is pretty tough sometimes.  The thing about homesickness is that I never get any warning – it doesn’t creep in slowly so I can ready myself.  It’s more like getting hit by a car (not that I’d know exactly).  One minute you’re fine, on your way to Tesco, then BAM! HOMESICK… ugh.

What was the hardest thing about moving?

Emotionally – the goodbyes.  A seemingly endless list of goodbyes – and BIG goodbyes, y’know?  For me they started about 3-months before I moved and just kept coming… and then my dog died the DAY BEFORE I moved.  Worst… worst ever.  But I did it and it didn’t kill me, so I guess it made me stronger – that’s how it’s supposed to work, right?

Physically – carrying my life in suitcases through airports, train stations and car journeys with arms built like tooth picks.

Besides family, what do you miss most about America?

I could be weak and predictable and say Chipotle, but I think we all know that the most ‘miss-able’ thing is American Enthusiasm.  I capitalise this to emphasise its importance :)

Americans have the wonderful and precious gift of enthusiasm – it’s built in – right off the shelf.  It’s not like everyone in the States is chirpy and happy and smiley and ‘can do’, but they’ve got a clear advantage.  It something that permeates the whole of the country in a way that’s just not present here.  I miss it SO MUCH… I wish I could order it online…

How long was it before you started using the word “home” again?

Somewhere between years 3 and 4 – but I still call America home, too.

What is the least pleasant difference between England and the U.S.?

Hmmm… I’m not sure.  It would probably have to be something related to my difficulty making english-women-friends.  I just can’t seem to get English women to warm to me (for the most part), hence the blog about being treated like an alien from outer space.

The most pleasant difference?

Man, so many things come to mind.  You’re so close to Europe, English men are awesome (well, mine is anyway! :) ), the humour is second-to-none…

If you were to Google British culture, how many of the results would you say are true/realistic?

I don’t know about Google, but if you want a good idea of what you’re in for, read Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour.  I’ve read quite a few books about being in England or visiting England, but this one really explained a lot.  And it’s funny, too… I especially found the chapter on the English art of The Understatement incredibly enlightening.

What are some of your reasons for moving to England?

Just the one – my English dude…

On a scale of 1-10, how happy would you say you are in England?

I’d say 9.0 – I’d move it up to 10.0 if I could realise my dream of living in the US for 3 months out of every year…

Is living in England what you thought it would be?

I wrote a journal entry about what I thought living in England would be like before I’d actually moved here.  I can honestly say that I didn’t have a SINGLE CLUE what I was in for.  But that doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying what I’ve found :D

Do you plan on moving back to the U.S.?

100% yes and 100% no.  I would love to live half-and-half, but I know that I’ve somewhat sealed my fate.  If I moved back to the States I would miss England so much, and vice versa…

Me and my Mom can’t even talk about the idea without bawling because I think we both hate the idea of never living in the same country again.  Visiting will never be the same and that’s just something you have to live with.

And finally, would you say England is worth all the drama and pain and tears that it takes to get there?

Yup.  Absolutely.  I wouldn’t take back a single day – if someone hit rewind, I’d just do it all again.

Thanks for getting in touch, Taylor!  Keep us posted about your possible move!

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What Others Are Saying

  1. ST February 13, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    I am an American who might be moving to England later this year and am a bit terrified of it. I would be moving with my boyfriend who is originally from York, but we would be living in the south England area, possibly near London, Oxford, or York.

    I been to many other European countries such as Spain, France, Italy, and Denmark and had great experiences there. I would gladly move there. However England was one of my worst travel experiences I ever had. I was in Yorkshire area and everyone was so anti-american. All I got was negative comments about how Im a spoiled brat for being american, as well as racist comments about me being asian. I fell on a cobblestone road, hurt my leg, and yelled for help, and no one helped me. Instead, 2 men laughed and pointed at me calling me American filth. Almost every pub or restaurant I went to, they always pointed out something about me being American, sometimes negative. It got to the point where I never spoke in public for fear that they will find out Im American.

    My boyfriend really wants me to give England a second chance. I am too scared to ever go back. I been treated better in 3rd world countries where women are second class citizens.

    It would be nice to hear from other Americans who moved there how their experience has been b/c there is no way I can live in a place where I have to deal with that kind of hatred towards me everyday.

    • ST February 13, 2013 at 5:45 pm

      Sorry, meant to say I might move to London, Oxford, or Bristol.

  2. Lindsey October 31, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    I know this was posted ages ago, but I just read it now and cannot begin to tell you how much it spoke to me. I am an American dating a Brit, who will be living in the States until August 2014, and then we don’t really know what will happen. If things go well, it will most likely mean me moving to England, for good. It’s a little exciting, but mostly terrifying, and I appreciate being able to see a Yank’s take on making the leap across the pond, especially since admittedly you do it for your guy.

    Can you tell me how stressful that was on the two of you? My Brit is worried (justifiably) that if I move for him, there would be immense pressure on him to make sure I’m happy. I know that’s my responsibility, but I can’t make him not feel like it would be his too.

    • yankeebean October 31, 2012 at 10:26 pm

      Thanks for commenting, Lindsey!

      To be 100% honest, yeah, it was pretty stressful on us and our relationship. I don’t think it was any more stressful than having a long-distance relationship, though. I feel like any couple that can survive long-distance can survive almost anything else.

      When I moved to the UK, me and my guy both knew it was for him and that it was a big sacrifice (I never would’ve hopped the pond for any other reason). But we also both knew that he couldn’t owe me for it or EVER repay me for it.

      Over the course of about 10 months we bumbled along and figured it out. We laughed, we fought. I home-sicked, he listened patiently EVERY time (if he hadn’t, I might’ve gotten on a plane home around the 9 month mark). We adjusted to being close-distance instead of long-distance. It was an always-honest-with-each-other-making-it-up-as-we-go-along experience.

      Was it hard? Yes – but the most awesome things usually are at some point.

      Was it worth it? YES – we’ve been together for 12 years now and I can’t imagine anything different.

      I hope it goes well! Keep in touch and let us know how you’re getting on. And if you need some expat therapy once you get here, start a blog, get your bitch-on and OWN that sucker :D

  3. yankeebean May 5, 2011 at 10:53 am

    HAhahaha!! Stevey, I thought I’d see disagreements about all kinds of things on this blog. But hot and cold taps is beyond all my expectations… thanks for the chuckle this morning!

    • peacefulyorkshire May 5, 2011 at 12:05 pm

      Absolutely, Stevey’s quote had me in hysterics, too. I can’t tell you how many times I have bought those cheapo Argos plastic fittings that ‘mixes’ the taps so one can have a proper bath temperature without the risk of scalding.

  4. Stevey baby May 4, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    Re. Michelle on taps:

    I’d just like to point out that mixer taps are a step backwards- seperate hot and cold water taps are installed because they’re much more practical- how else can you fill the kettle and the sink at the same time? Clearly opinions may differ, so using that as an example of cultural pessimism is pretty silly. I find mixer taps damned inconvenient and they’re relatively rare in England for that reason. But maybe I just have higher expectations from my home fittings…

  5. joss November 22, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    “women cant be friends with men” is rubbish

    I am an english man and this is not true, half my close friends are women and the other half are men.

    Furthermore i dont know any group of lads who dont have any friends who are women. Its very strange you seeing that?

    maybe your meeting the wrong kind of men???

    Cheere

  6. Blipsterfarian Logic August 5, 2010 at 7:21 am

    This post pointed out so many things it took me years to learn. Love your blog.

  7. Cassie April 11, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    I was just re-reading this post and realized now Chipotle will be here soon! I saw a sign that one is opening in Leicester Square in London. Good news for Americans over here. :)

  8. Damien March 30, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    Hey, I enjoyed reading all these great comments about America and England. Well, i am planning on moving to England on my own (im 20) and my parents think that bad things might happen… so i was wondering if anyone in here could tell me how the culture and people are towards others. I was also wondering will i be able to stay there longer than 6 months.. i really wana just live there…

    Thank you in advance.

  9. Michelle March 29, 2010 at 6:13 am

    I lived in the UK for 11 years and was called at work an “honourary Brit,” a proud moment for me. I work in the cross-cultural field. I lived in 4 different UK counties, in a provincial village, a medium-size cathedral city, a zone 6 suburban city, in a handful of totally different neighbourhoods in zones 1 and 2 (east, west, south, and north). I believe that I can factually say that British people are on average more pessimistic than Americans are. They are honestly more negative, give up easier, have lower expectations, expect most things not to work 100%, always have the impression that projects are going to be over-budget and take longer than promised (look at Wembley Stadium), and so on. I’ve got dozens of examples of this from UK media that I use for my cross-cultural training sessions. It’s a common UK joke that British people don’t want to win sports competitions, necessarily, that it’s more the done thing to come in third, or somewhere in the honourable middle. To be seen to try too hard is worse than to be seen to not try hard enough. British expectations of many aspects of life are lower than they are in the US. [That's why I find it so relaxing to live in the UK! :-) ] [[Else how does anyone explain deliberately installing separate hot and cold taps, in brand new houses, in a modern civilization? I have German people ask me that all the time about the British, and I cannot give them a reason - it's just insane, ha ha ha, bless them. But I digress....]]

    So it’s not accurate to say that the above posts were not true and were an unfair assessment of the UK culture. Maybe the people who took umbrage don’t know the US culture very well, and therefore can’t make an educated comparison between the two countries.

    —–
    I completely agree with the poster who talked about how British men and women break into separate groups when socializing, so you are either stuck with the women or raise the ire of all the women when you try to chat with the men. Because I did quite a masculine master’s degree programme in the UK and have worked with mainly men for most of my career, I can find myself, without thinking, chatting away in the male social group area of an event or a pub or a dinner party, because I have more in common with the guys, and because they are friendlier to single American women than the British women are, and because I don’t have children.

  10. simhedges February 20, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Taylor wrote: “Americans have the wonderful and precious gift of enthusiasm – it’s built in – right off the shelf. It’s not like everyone in the States is chirpy and happy and smiley and ‘can do’, but they’ve got a clear advantage. It something that permeates the whole of the country in a way that’s just not present here. I miss it SO MUCH… I wish I could order it online…”

    Quite. I’m a Brit, and you are right that there is a definite difference in attitude. To stereotype: Brits are a Winnie-the-Pooh kind of a race (I do hope we’re not quite in the Eeyore category!), and Americans are a race of Tiggers. Sometimes Winnie the Pooh is restful and sweet, and sometimes he is a bit too laid back and depressing; sometimes Tigger is refreshing and fun, and sometimes he can just be too bouncy. I can quite see why you sometimes find a world that lacks Tiggers hard to deal with. It’s like the questions on the weather: I wouldn’t want to live with permanent sunshine, but some sunshine is lovely and I can understand people born in desert cities missing it in the UK.

    But enough with the metaphores already!

  11. MM October 11, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    Wow Millymolly, what nasty vitriol. This is an honest post about someone’s experiences. She is allowed to miss America and she is allowed to notice what she prefers about both countries. How rude of you.

  12. Yorkshireyank September 27, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    It’s nice to hear that someone else has noticed that there is more of a “woman can’t be friends with men” vibe in the UK. I wasn’t sure if it was just my imagination.

    I’ve also had male friends throughout my life, although I’ve also had some very close female friends, too.

    One thing that I’ve found very strange since being in the UK is that I never see mixed male/female groups socialising. If I walk into the city centre in the evening, I will see either male/female couples, large groups of men or large groups of women. Does anyone else find this odd?

    Also, when you go to party, the men all go off to one area and the women go off to another. In fact, whenever I’m in a situation where uncoupled men and women have to sit in a group together,men always sit next to men and women sit next to women, so you end up with a group of only women on one side and a group of only men on the other.

    This is very different from my experience in the US, where I’ve always been part of mixed male/female social groups, and observed many other mixed groups of men and women socialising,and where boy-girl-boy-girl seating has been encouraged since nursery school.

    Could this be part of why some British women have an attitude toward American women – because we are more used to socialising with men and feel more relaxed and comfortable around men?

  13. Steve Shawcross July 29, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    Hi there,

    A superb blog you’ve got here, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

    I think Americans can often have a misconception about our “pessimism”.

    To me pessimism is an endless sadness about life: I don’t think the British have that; after all it’s a country renowned for its sense of humour, the bulldog spirit and “always look on the bright side of life”. Part of the British humour is to be lugbrious, comic cynicism– confer Les Dawson!

    However the British are realistic, and practical; if something is rubbish or clearly not going to work, they’ll say so and have no illusions about it.

    They take a cautious view: If it goes wrong they’re not disappointed, if it goes right, then they are pleasantly ‘surprised’. A win-win situation then! As Harold Wilson said: “I’m an optimist– but one who wears a raincoat”

    The Americans’ persistently upbeat attitude is refreshing, but I think you have to be realistic as well. Otherwise it could be pride before a fall. The allegory of Icarus is a good example of unrestrained optimism.

    I believe the British do have a can-do attitude– they got the Olympic Games for 2012! Also consider the countless number of inventions, concepts and sports created in Britain. Being British, they just like to get on with things they just don’t like to advertise that they are doing so!

    Keep up the good work,

    SS

  14. Taylor Park July 23, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    Oh wow. All very interesting! I am excited and scared, but sure. I also ordered a copy of Watching the English- It’s shipping. Yeah!

  15. Savannah July 23, 2009 at 3:12 am

    Smitten’s own blog (of which I am a great fan) is full of anglophilia and enthusiasm for British culture, so her recourse to this weird and unsubstantiated old cliché is surprising and puzzling.

    A nanosecond’s reflection will result in the conclusion that the world that we see today–and particularly North America–is very much the result of British ‘can do’.

    Simply because the Brits tend to be self-unassuming about their effect, be it for good or ill, does not mean that their culture and their influence should be ignored by those too prejudiced by stereotypes.

  16. Michelloui July 21, 2009 at 9:55 am

    Oh I think its so amazing how sometimes a comment can be taken so wildy in another direction from that which was intended! I am sure Smitten didnt mean to sound offensive. Americans generally are more optimistic about possibilities, but Im not sure that the Brits are pessimistic. Nevermind.

    I agree with your post–all very interesting and accurate! But I also agree with Olivia–I havent had any real issues with making friends with British women. I have had a harder time with men because I think there is more of a ‘women cant be friends with men’ thing in my experience in the UK (caveat ‘in my experience’!) but Im ok with that.

    Interesting that you say youve had probs making friends with women generally. Could it just be a stage of life thing for you? For me, I think as a mum of an 11 yo has made it much much easier to have girlfriends–lots of other school mums for a start!

  17. yankeebean July 19, 2009 at 8:36 am

    Peter – thanks for stopping by! I always really enjoy hearing about other people’s transitions – especially the peaceful ones :)

    I turned a kind of corner about a year ago when I finally realised that moving to the UK wasn’t going to be a temporary thing – in fact I might live here for the rest of my life.

    The day I realised that was the day I started to really feel at peace living here. Like you said, comparisons can’t really be drawn between two cultures because no one is right, no one is wrong. Everyone just IS and being open and accepting of that is key to making somewhere your home.

    One of the weird off-shoots of being an ameri-brit is that I forget everyone else doesn’t know that this is my home now.

    I’m always making little diggs at America and England, all in the name of humour – but if I make a dig about England I forget that I can really offend people.

    It’s the same as feeling like I can make jokes about musicians being rubbish at organising things or being on time. I know it’s not always true, but I’m a musician so I joke about it and no one seems to mind.

    I feel partially English now, so I make jokes about England, too. I haven’t gotten to the point where I remember and can stop myself before I offend someone – I’m still in the internal monologue ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe I just said that’ phase. :D

  18. yankeebean July 19, 2009 at 8:15 am

    “with a little help from yankeebean”

    Happy to help Millymollymandy :)

    There’s no pressure to be friends, I’ll pass, too…

  19. Millymollymandy July 19, 2009 at 4:29 am

    Smitten by Britain – sometimes a post annoys so much that it is best to be blunt in reply. Yours was such a post. If you are talking about negativity, you should look in the mirror – you have just been negative about a whole nation. In fact, you, with a little help from yankeebean, have illustrated why so many Britons dislike americans. Just read what you have written – boastful and boosterish about america, disrespectful, negative and full of wild generalisations about your host country, your attitude illustrates precisely why you cant make friends with british people. Frankly, given what you think about us, I wouldn’t want to be friends with you either.

  20. Peter Bond July 18, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    I have lived in the UK, mostly London for thirty years now. As you can imagine I am pretty much over the homesickness! I do sometimes yearn for certain things but I have come to realise it is my childhood I am thinking about with fondness. when I go back I am always struck by just how much as changed – it is so easy to romanticise the past.

    When moving to another country, or indeed to another place within the same country it is best to move on. I have met so many people who like to explain away difficult things happening to them by saying “this wouldn’t have happened in (insert country of origin)” The fact is great and challenging things happen to you wherever you are. I have been fortunate in that England has been kind to me and good for me. I wouldn’t turn back the clock, or go back now. Certainly not to the area I came from.

    Moving from a rural area to a big city made me realise that I am really an urban type of person. There is a lot of diversity in a small space within the UK and it is really worth deciding what you want out of life and what sort of place you want to live in.

    I would always say to anyone if you are open to new experiences of any sort give it ago. Whatever happens it will be a great experience.

  21. Olivia Duval July 16, 2009 at 9:19 am

    I agree wholeheartedly with all of this post (almost as if I wrote it myself!), and with Smitten’s comment–apart from one point: making friends with English women.

    I have seen a handful of posts about this from American expats and I have to say I have never had this problem. Im not sure what the difference is between me and people who have had this issue. It would be interesting for us all to sit and ‘have a cuppa’ together and compare stories to get to the bottom of it! It makes me sad when I hear this, because I know how isolating it can be to not have a good group of friends. I will think on this some more and perhaps do a blog post on it myself!

  22. smitten by britain July 15, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    I would agree that the difference I noticed the most, although it took some time, was a lack of belief in oneself. Briton’s don’t have that pioneering spirit that Americans do, the “can do” spirit as you say. In fact, they tend to beat down anyone who becomes successful. I would say it is an inherit cynicism and negativity about life, whereas Americans tend to focus on all the possibilities of life and we idolize people who are successful.

  23. yankeebean July 19, 2009 at 8:44 am

    Hi Olivia! Sorry I haven’t gotten back to you sooner, just catching up on comments :)

    This week I’ve had a little realisation about this – it’s not English women. I’m just not very good at making friends with women in general. Looking back on my whole life, I’ve always been more likely to have close male friends. I do have lady-friends… AWESOME ones, in fact – but it’s been mostly dudes in the history of yankeebean.

    I kinda wonder why, but I also just don’t really mind. But thank you for stopping by and putting in a good word! I think it’s high-time someone did :) I’d love to catch up on your blog about it – what’s your URL?

  24. yankeebean July 23, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    I respect that the British are responsible for amazing achievements – I hope no one would deny that. It’s just a different vibe… it’s not better or worse in any absolute way. Every person will probably prefer one or the other, even if it’s only slightly.

    It’s easy to forget the ‘I feel that’, or ‘In my experience’ at the beginning of every blog post or blog comment, but I believe it’s always there.

  25. yankeebean July 29, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    Hiya Steve

    Thanks for stopping by! THAT… was an excellent comment, and a fair point, too. It’s not fair to say the English are pessimistic, I think realism is far more fair assessment :)

    I’ve always been ridiculously optimistic (admittedly sometimes to my detriment) so I probably have a slightly skewed view point.

    Thanks again – and I’m PSYCHED for the 2012 games!!