After living here for the past 15 months, I’m ready to present my initial findings. I’ve decided to start at the beginning. With the basics. Remember in elementary school when you had to make a presentation about another country? Or maybe, like me, you are a former Girl Scout with World Thinking Day experience? Following in those traditions, I will share today about the food, weather and language. And throw in a few fun facts for color.
First, my three favorite things about living in England:
Spotting Weeping Angels
You might have thought my favorite thing about living here would have been being with my new husband. And that’s pretty nice, but honestly, no mosquitos is life changing. It means you can leave the windows open- with no screens! And outdoor activities and everyday leisure is unbelievably pleasant without those blood suckers. Here I am in the summer hiking near water with no bug bites in sight!
The second delightfully surprising thing about life in England is the abundance of magpies. Which let’s be honest, I thought were a nursery rhyme make-believe creature. But they are real. And all over the place. And I still smile every time I spot one.
Speaking of spotting, I said my third favorite thing about England is spotting Weeping Angels. That might have been a little too specific. I just mean, it is cool to be out and about and see things like weeping angels, crooked spires, remnants of castles, watermills that look like hobbit houses, and all kinds of interesting landscapes and beautiful architecture. Take a look at the gallery below, and see if you can spot the weeping angel I photographed from my car… (tap on the photos to scroll through)
Back to the report.
So in every world culture day I’ve ever seen, there is always food. And if I’m honest, I never really understood how we were learning about someone’s culture by tasting their food. But now I get it. Because I’ve learned a lot about our American culture by experiencing (and thinking about) the differences in food here. I’m not sure what the taste of food tells you, but I can certainly now see how asking questions about the preparation and ingredients could teach one about culture. And what I’ve learned so far, is that in America, we value convenience and time. Sometimes to an absurd result. For example, shortly after moving here, the kids requested chicken nuggets for dinner. My English husband said he would make some. I asked how? He said he’d cut up chicken, coat the pieces in bread crumbs… and I was like, “but we don’t have any breadcrumbs.” And he said, “but we have bread.” And I said, “I don’t get it.” Truthfully until that day, it never occurred to me how Progresso made their breadcrumbs. Or how anyone would make some at home. 20 seconds later, my eyes were opened. And it’s not just bread crumbs (literally I now know to be ONLY the crumbs of bread easily whipped up) we needlessly sell in America, Kraft has no market here either. After looking for processed pre-grated cheese for days, my kids finally gave in and tried the freshly grated parmesan cheese. Again, I’m not sure now what is so time consuming about grating the cheese, that Americans sacrifice taste to have it pre-grated for us? But that’s a philosophical discussion for another day…
So the food here in England is pretty similar to America in many respects. Meat and potato countries that we are. The peas here might be mushy, and the bacon might be thick, but the biggest difference I’ve found is the way food is bought, kept, and prepared. Which is all to favor freshness. My fridge here is a 4th of the size of the one I had in America. Here we just shop frequently at stores within walking distance. And we make our bread crumbs from scratch.
No report about England would be complete without throwing in a nod to the weather. It is rainy as advertised, but not in an oppressive way. The rain is usually light and passes quickly. Comes back quickly too, but then it goes again. And it never brings tornadoes. At least not that I know of… hail on the other hand, that does happen. But in general, it is calm and rainy and then mild and sunny. All without mosquitos. I like the non-extrerme weather here. I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts.
It pained me a little to type color and favorite earlier in this blog post instead of colour and favourite. Because the language and the spelling here are seeping into my core bit by bit. Recently I said something about the way the sat nav took me home, and my husband commented on how I was “going native.” I said, “what do you mean?” “Well you wouldn’t say sat nav.” I had to be reminded what I would have said. GPS.
There are some differences I still can’t take- football to me is the Steelers or OSU. I cannot call soccer football. During the World Cup and our office pool, my co-worker (or colleague for my English friends) said she was going to burn off a fingertip every time I said soccer instead of football. Not sure why she couldn’t just start with pinching… anyway. You can read some more vocabulary differences in my previous blog post. Or just wait for them to start bleeding through into my writing.
One of the hardest things to get used to was the greeting people use around here (which might be a Manchester thing for all I know) of “you okay?” Several times I was quite indignant with my yes, why would you ask that? Because for me, you only ask if someone is okay if you think they might not be. But here, it is a greeting like, “how are you?” and the answer should be as perfunctory as “I’m fine, thanks.” I’m still working on my response.
Another difference I’m struggling with is that it is somehow rude to address or refer to people who are in the room by pronouns instead of their name. This I learned at work. After several times being asked “who’s she, the cat’s mother?” I’m still shaking my head at that one. But mostly I’m glad that on most days, I am understood and I understand. Even if I would prefer my English mates to be a bit more direct. All except for my colleague who enforces the use of the word football, she’s plenty direct. And she has a name. Which I use when she’s in the room.
As I hope you can see, there are many things I do love about my new homeland. But since I started this piece with my favourite things, I thought I’d end with some things I miss about life in America. Not counting people or specific places. Which I miss terribly. If you know me in real life, and we used to hang out, work, play, worship, or study together somewhere, I likely miss you and that place a great deal. But setting all that aside, what do I miss generically about life in America? Well truthfully after giving it a great deal of thought, here are the three things I miss most about life in America.
Stop Signs (or rather 4 way stops as opposed to roundabouts. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stuck on one. Think Chevy Chase, “look kids big ben” That phrase is like a code for us. Just yesterday when I successfully navigated myself to the third exit of a large roundabout on one try, my teenager said with sincerity, “Great job mom, we didn’t even see Big Ben!” I’m learning. And I’m okay.)