Top 5 Pros and Cons to Being an Expat in the U.K.
When my husband and I had the opportunity to move overseas to the U.K. we jumped at the idea! We had just gotten married and thought what better way to start our life together than having this once in a lifetime adventure?! We thought of all the places we would go, all the things we would see, and all the things we would learn. Sure, we knew that there would be challenges. Moving to a new place is always hard, let alone when it's a 9-hour flight from anyone you know. We sold our first home that we owned for merely a year before getting the news of this opportunity. I told myself "It's just things, you can replace them." We sold much of our furniture which we had just bought to fill this house and the rest we have stored. I was prepared to miss some of the conveniences of living in a place that was familiar but was more than ready for this new adventure.
We have been over in the U.K. now for just over 6 months. We have already visited 4 different countries in the time that we have been here and have made some incredible memories. Neither my husband and I have any regrets about the decision we made and still feel grateful for the experience. Having said that it does not mean that every day has been a cake walk and that there haven't been moments of complete frustration in trying to acclimate to a new country and culture. I thought I would share what I feel have been the best things about living here and the most frustrating. So here we go-
The produce here in the U.K. is truly incredible! For the first month, I was eating like 6 servings of fruit a day because it was all so delicious! Probably taking in more sugar than I needed to but I was obsessed. When we left MN we were buying organic as much as possible we were planning on continuing with that as we moved overseas. We had a much harder time finding organic produce here in the U.K. but after more research found that buying organic is less important here as they have much more strict laws on how crops are treated. The first thing we noticed is that all the produce is very small in comparison to U.S. produce. Likely due to lack of GMOs and other pesticides. Below is a great info graph that will break down some of the big ones.
2. Travel Opportunities
One of the things we looked forward to most to moving to the U.K was the ability to travel to countries throughout the EU with ease. Ireland is a 30 minute plane ride away! It's crazy how much cheaper it is to travel from country to country here in EU vs how much it costs to fly city to city in the US. I mean an hour flight from Minneapolis to Chicago easily costs your $300. Here we can fly from Birmingham to Paris for $75. It really makes me wonder what the heck these American airlines are doing..
There is just so much history over here in the U.K. We have sat in pubs that are older than the U.S! Castles, ruins, historical homes are just a stone’s throw away just about anywhere you go. We have 2 of the top 10 historical sites within 30 minutes of our house. We initially were so concerned about going to other countries that we forgot about everything in our area. We have recently been trying to see more around here.
So, most people may be surprised to see this on my list. Driving on the other side of the road?! Round-a-bouts?! WHAT?! Initially it is a bit overwhelming to acclimate but it's best to just jump on in. The longer you wait, the more you build it up in your head. Driving here is more fast paced and aggressive, the roads are crazy narrow, and people park on whichever side of the road they want. Again this may confuse some of you.. It might be more difficult to drive here initially. There drivers test is much more intensive- you first need to get a provisional license to even begin practicing driving. You then have to take a written theory test. After passing that you take an hour long driving test. From my understanding, few pass the first time.
Drivers here are much less distracted because it's more fast paced you can't be multi-tasking or you are guaranteed to get into an accident. I have come to find that aggressive driving doesn't translate to bad driving as long as you are not distracted. The interstate here is great because you can only pass someone on the right. It is actually ILLEGAL to pass someone on the left. So you never get stuck in a situation where you are stuck behind 3 drivers going under the speed limit. The right lane is for passing, the middle is par on course, and the left is for slow and exits. It's AMAZING! I am not a road rager but driving back in the States after driving here I found extremely frustrated! The Brit's know how to drive.
5. Temperate Weather (in comparison to MN)
Ok so another shocker I know.. This is more of a personal preference. I only like very hot weather when I am near a body of water. Since that doesn't happen often in the UK I am happy with the 70 degree summer days and the 40 degree winter days. The winters are drizzly here but they are still warmer than Minnesota winters so I am happy to throw on a waterproof parka and still walk around outside most of the day than only being able to be outside for 5 minutes between running from the car to the store. I am also a sweaty person by nature so not having to worry about constantly pitting out is a bonus! Not to mention having the windows open in the summer and getting that fresh air :)
1. Weather App is worthless
Although overall, I prefer the more temperate weather here in the UK dressing for the day is near impossible most of the time. Because the U.K. is an island the weather changes in a matter of minutes and the Weather App never seems to keep up. So, you must always carry a rain jacket, umbrella, and sunglasses. It will say 0% chance of rain and sure enough in the afternoon you get a drizzle for 20 minutes.
2. Lack of Healthy Food Options For Going Out
As a healthy living enthusiast, I do my best to eat healthy as much as possible. I do my best to cook most meals during week but sometimes you just want to be able to grab something quick. Our first 3 months here we struggled to find even a decent salad at restaurants. Everything here is just so heavy. Fish and chips, Indian curry’s, pub food. All good when it's a Saturday night and you are hanging in the pub but sometimes you need a good salad or some grilled veggies to get you through the week.
3. Bad Customer Service
So I am not saying that I have never received good service while being here but it has certainly been in the minority. This is something even the Brit's acknowledge. Many say customer service in the States makes them feel like kings in comparison. You get bare bones here and sometimes not even that... Tipping is not really a thing here in Europe and I believe that has a direct correlation with service. There is no incentive to be attentive to customers. You may sit for 10 minutes before a server comes to get your order and then at the end of the meal you have to hunt down the server to get your check. We have learned to manage our expectations when we go out now. Never go in a hurry!
4. Drafty in the Winter
Because places are so old they often are not well insulated. During the winter, you may not want to remove your coat the entire evening. The damp climate does not help the situation either. Layer up!
5. No clothing dryers
O man this is a real pain to me. We must hang dry all of our clothes. ALL OF THEM. Underwear, towels, etc.. 4 days a week our living room looks a panty raid. We have to do so many loads because the washer is tiny. Not to mention the crunchiness. What I wouldn't give for a fluffy towel... There is not enough fabric softener in the world to create a fluffy towel without a dryer. It also makes doing laundry last minute a thing of the past. If you want an outfit for Saturday night, it better be washed up on Thursday. Goodbye to the days of being too lazy to iron and throwing your shirt back in the dryer for 10 minutes.