To be honest, living abroad is pretty close to what I thought it was going to be – in a good way. The move was more stressful than any other part of it, but moving headaches aren’t particular to international relocations – moving is horrible even if it’s just down the street!
There was a six-week stretch where I was here living in corporate housing while my husband was handling the sale of our condo and the logistics of getting our two dogs here. That was a long stretch but once he arrived in the UK, we haven’t looked back.
So, what’s it actually like to live here?
- Language: Yes, we speak the same language and the majority of the time you almost forget to notice accents (not Scottish, those are always impossible) – BUT, there are more nuances than you’d think:
- Calendar = Diary
- Zucchini = Courgette
- Eggplant = Aubergine
- Aluminum = Aluminium (pronounced ah-lu -MIN-ium)
- Stroller = Pushchair/Pram
- Mom = Mum
- Period = Hard Stop
- How are you? = Are you alright? (this one drives me nuts! It’s people being nice, asking how you are but as an American when you hear that it’s the equivalent of “Are you tired? You look tired” – the worst!)
- Z = Zed
- Spelling – my spellcheck at work is so confused (as am I) with the ou, re, ll, s/z
- Schedule = Schedule, but pronounced like shed-jewel
- Sounds good/that works = Brilliant
- Buddy/pal = Mate
- Everyday Life: These are the little things that you quickly get used to, but when you first move here they absolutely drive you nuts!
- Escalator manners – walk (aka jog) on the left, stand on the right. It doesn’t make sense to me because when driving you pass on the right here, and slow on the left, but my argument doesn’t seem to be getting me anywhere with the Brits!
- Outlets – you have to turn the outlet on, plugging in the adapter and then the appliance isn’t enough
- Dates/times – I am still not used to this. Time is one thing but dates get me so confused! Some programs at work use US dates, some are UK-based – it’s a struggle
- Passengers on the left – driving on the left was not too difficult to get used to (from a pedestrian perspective) but seeing an 8-year old kid in what looks to be the driver’s side seat freaks me out EVERY TIME
- Door buttons – you have to press buttons to exit most buildings, can someone PLEASE explain this to me?
- Tube logistics – you have to tap in and out and give people the HARDEST time if they can’t locate their passes when you are at the exit (come on mate, BE PREPARED)
- NHS – it’s still so hard for me to wrap my head around free heath care (10 minute appointments…really??)
- Towel Warming Racks – every home bathroom has one, the plumbing may be from 1400 but you better believe a warming rack is there!
- Kitchen Sink Drying Racks – I have a love/hate relationship with these. They are so useful but a complete eyesore (IMO)
- UK Culture: The UK is so similar to the US. The biggest surprise for me right now is how involved they are in the US presidential election. I get questions every day at work about Trump – people are fascinated (terrified?) by him and ask so many questions. I have to constantly explain that he is NOT an accurate representation of our country (I hope)! I think being an American it’s easy to forget how much the rest of the world covers our news – there were full rundowns of the Oscars, the Grammys, the Iowa caucuses, you name it and it’s covered here almost as thoroughly as if I was back home. Here are a few examples of how similar life really is:
- Good Morning America/Today Show = Good Morning Britain (how great is Susanna, am I right??)
- Jerry Springer = Jeremy Kyle
- Walgreens + Sephora = Boots (best combination ever)
- Main Street/Town Center = High Street
- Amazon = Amazon UK
- Bar culture = Pub culture
- American football = Football + Rugby (I’m trying to get into rugby, but it’s just not happening)
- Jersey Shore = Geordie Shore
I’m still in the phase – that I hope never ends – of getting so exited about the little things. I take pictures of Big Ben and the London Eye every single time. I laugh whenever the train conductor says Waterloo (WaterLOOOOO). I explore the back alleys with the beautiful multi-colored row houses.
But, I think people (myself included) have this picture of living abroad being without it’s struggles, and that’s not entirely true.
Monday-Friday, life is JUST like anywhere else. People commute to work, get angry at the guy with the backpack on the subway, almost run over the old lady on the escalator and risk their life to get that elevator as if there will never be another one. Co-workers have the same conversations on Monday mornings (where DID the weekend go??) and then on Friday (where DID the week go??).
The weekends are where I think life deviates, at least in my experience. There’s always a part of you that isn’t sure how long you’ll be abroad – it could be a year or 10 (just kidding, mother-in-law) due to any set of circumstances and that has made me do and experience more than I normally would’ve back home. Every weekend I try to see something I haven’t seen before – a new pub, market, museum, restaurant, exhibit, pop-up, etc. Chicago had all of these things but I’m not sure I took full advantage of them because I always told myself I could do it next weekend or next year.
So, what do I miss? That’s easy (aside from family and friends of course) – Target and Piece Pizza (if you are from Chicago, you understand me). My husband would probably say Cheez-its (very hard to source here for some reason) and American sports, specifically American college football.
Are we glad we took the leap of faith and moved here? Absolutely. I think we were bound to move abroad at some point – my husband’s sister met her Irish husband while living in Ireland and my husband’s twin brother lives with his wife and beautiful 3 children in Singapore. Although this makes for difficult family reunions, it’s wonderful to see everyone’s adventures around the world.
If you are thinking about moving abroad or curious about my experiences, feel free to reach out and I’d be happy to give you my two cents.
Cheers to a sunny Saturday!