I dearly love the UK and I feel more and more English with every passing year. But there are a few things about living in England that still rub me the wrong way.
1 – Parking
I walk and ride my bike as much as I possibly can, but sometimes you have to go grocery shopping, or pick up something bulky from Argos, or go to the Bristol Cider Shop ( I just got back from there and parking was a bit of an adventure – and so this post is born).
Every time I get in my car, before I even start the engine, I’m worried about parking. Will there be any? If there IS, will it be full? If it ISN’T, will the spaces actually be big enough for me to fit my car in? If they ARE, will I have to pay to park? If I DO, do I have any change to pay with? If I DON’T, will I be able to pay with my phone/debit card? If I CAN’T, them I’m scuppered and I should just bloody stay home.
By this point in my thought process, I’m always tempted to either check bus schedules, or order whatever I was going to pick up online.
Part of me longs for the days when I could just get in the car and drive to Target. A) They have EVERYTHING there and B) you could land a plane in the average Target parking lot – and they wouldn’t even charge you for it.
2 – Customer Service (or lack of)
Sometimes I need help when I’m in a shop. Sometimes I’d like to ask about a product or service. Sometimes I need help finding something. Sometimes I’d just like a second opinion.
But I NEVER-TIMES want a shop assistant to act like I’m asking them to climb Everest in their undies when all I’m asking them to do is THEIR JOB. I don’t want to be ignored. I don’t want to wait while they finish writing a text message. I don’t want them to cop an attitude if I ask a simple question.
Iota, a fellow Expat blogger that I’ve followed for a long-arse time, puts it perfectly in her post called Further Woes of a Returning Brit. Check it out and know that you’re not alone when you despair about English customer service.
3 – Negativity (or as the Brits call it ‘Realism’)
To give you an example, let’s pretend a team of Americans and a team of English people were both asked to build a really tall tower out of straws and scotch tape / sello tape.
The Americans would approach the project with excitement. They would intrinsically believe that they are super-capable, that they’re ready for this challenge, and probably (absolutely) that they’re going to win.
The Brits would start off by discussing why it’s impossible to build a really tall tower out of only straws and sello tape. There aren’t enough straws, the straws are the wrong size, the sello tape is old and fragile, there’s not enough time, they also need toothpicks and Blu-tak but they haven’t got any, etc. But after the we-can’t-possibly-and-this-is-pointless-let’s-just-go-to-pub barrage of negativity / realism – they would knuckle down and do it. And they’d do it well.
The thing that REALLY bugs me about the instant negative / realist English reaction is that NOW I DO IT, TOO. DESPAIR! I want my built-in, sometimes foolish optimism back!
4 – No free refills
I can’t think of a single time in England when I’ve bought a drink that comes with free refills. I always get my Hope on if I go to an American-diner-style café in the UK. In the back of mind I’m thinking, “Maybe they’ve done more than embrace 1950′s greasy spoon interior decor. Maybe they’ve embraced the beverage ethos of my nation.”
I’ve yet to see it happen, but I remain hopeful. It seems like more Americans are showing up in the UK every day – here’s hoping we’re wearing ‘em down.
5 – Roundabouts with traffic lights in them
I love roundabouts and I think they work like a freakin’ charm. Once I figured out how to not-die while using one, I was instantly on board.
But some roundabouts are so huge, that there are traffic lights IN THEM – embedded in as you’re driving AROUND them. I rarely end up in the right lane on these massive road-swines. I shake my fist!
6 – ‘Proper coffee’ means ‘instant coffee’
Just as many Americans can’t make a good cuppa tea, many many (dear God, TOO MANY) English people refer to instant coffee as ‘proper coffee’. I’ve also heard it said, “I’d like a strong coffee – 3 scoops”. *shudder*
Every time someone says it out loud, I inwardly vom a little and somewhere, in a land far far away, a fair trade, single-estate, organic coffee farmer dies.
7 – ‘OH! The Windy City…’
My accent hasn’t deserted me – YAY! I don’t sound completely English (although I don’t always sound American either) so I always get asked that famous question, “Where abouts are you from, then?”. I say, “Chicago” to which, 98% of the time they reply, “OH! The Windy City!”
I know I know, they’re being nice – they mean well. It’s just something that I’ve heard so many times it’s like the spoken equivalent of a scratchy bra that’s rubbing your side-boob raw.
8 – Talking about football
I don’t want to talk about it.
9 – The cost of going out to dinner
I freaking love going out to dinner and it doesn’t have to be fancy. Give me my local pizza place and a pint of my favourite beer any day. But it seems like going out to dinner in the States can be done for a LOT less and a LOT more easily. There are plenty of cheap, one-off, local restaurants in the States that serve awesome food for teeny tiny (or at least reasonable) prices.
There are some outstanding restaurants here, but it always feels expensive compared to my Native Land.
10 – ‘Mexican food’
I put ‘Mexican’ in quotes because what most Brits call Mexican food would cause Mex-enthusiasts to weep uncontrollably into their guacamole. I have been to many a UK Mexican restaurant in hopes of finding a tasty burrito, but I’m always met with tasteless beans, from-a-tin-and-processed avocado and lack-lustre salsa. I PINE for good Mexican food – but I have to make it myself.
Having said that – anyone that lives in or near York should check out Fiesta Mehicana because it’s the only place I’ve been that even comes close.
In summary, I love love love living in the UK and there are many things about this cracking country that I wouldn’t trade for a fist-full of Benjamins. But I guess there’s always going to be things about it that rub me the wrong way and get me itching for my American days.
Come on, expats – have I forgotten anything?
Especially the parking. MY GOD, THE PARKING.