Holy balls this year has gone by so QUICK.
Today marks an entire year that I have lived in the UK.
I feel like a completely different person than the one who flew into Gatwick this time last year. I have experienced so many new things. I have met an insane amount of new people, and formed a lot of new amazing friendships. My relationship with D has grown and matured into exactly what I had hoped it would be.
It’s been an absolute whirlwind. As I reminisce on this past year, a lot of things have happened.
I moved in with my boyfriend in our very first flat we’ll ever have together. We spent a lot of time, money and effort into furnishing and decorating the flat over the course of the last 11 months.
We’ve been a lot of places around the UK since I’ve moved here. We’ve traveled to the Peak District in both Tissington and Dovedale, Brighton, Southampton, Portsmouth, Canterbury, Bristol, Leeds, and Wales. Literally everywhere in London, specifically Paddington Central, Covent Garden, Soho, Camden Market, Shoreditch obvs, Wembley, Greenwich, etc etc. The list goes on.
(Yes most of the above are links and clickable to blog posts. Check them out if you haven’t already).
I’ve lived through my first birthday, Christmas, New Year, and Easter here.
I’ve learned how to navigate the trains. Although, I kinda messed that up a bit last weekend.
I’ve learned a lot about British culture. And even a lot about the world by being here. Moving to another country will teach you things about yourself and the world that you never really knew was important until you learned it yourself.
For instance, the Brits love to drink. They love the pub. Their life is the pub. You think I’m kidding? I’m not. They don’t need food, which is why a lot of pubs will not serve food, or the food they serve is crap. It’s about beer. It’s about socialising. It’s about relaxing.
That’s another thing. The Brits understand life in a way that I have always wanted to live. And this is with a work-life balance. They respect their jobs and will go to work everyday from 8-4 and then they go home. And that is normal. You are not looked down on for wanting to leave after you’ve put your time in. I’d feel so guilty as I left work every day in the US after doing my 8 hours because most people would work a solid 10 every day, even if they weren’t getting paid for the full 10. I’m sorry, but I believe I deserve to be paid for the time I put in. Otherwise, I’m going home and enjoying my social life, my relaxation time, or whatever I choose to do with that little bit of time before I need to get into bed. But it’s none of your business. Obviously, this sounds a bit extreme. It’s not that extreme. But Brits do tend to be a lot more relaxed and go with the flow about this kind of stuff than Americans are.
The British sense of humour is the best. There are a very small amount of people here who do not like to laugh. It doesn’t matter where you are. Pub, food shops, work, socialising – most people love jokes. And they all feed off of sarcasm, and understand it very well. I can’t even tell you how many times I’d crack a joke at work in America for it to fall flat, be ignored, or someone to think I was actually being serious. It was a tough crowd.
Living in Europe has given me insight into so many other cultures as a lot of people move here to London, or travel here. One of my best friends is Turkish. I actually know quite a few Turkish people here. I have a friend who’s Venezuelan. I’ve met quite a few Brazilians. I have a Polish friend. I’ve met a lot of Germans. Of course as most of the people I know are British, I’ve met a surprisingly small amount of Irish people.
But having so many friends with so many different cultures has given me the opportunity to learn so much. It’s forced me to crawl out of the American bubble I grew up in and has opened my eyes to so much that’s out there. I could write a whole blog post on this subject alone, but for the sake of this current one, I’ll keep it relatively short. It’s shocking how self centered we are in America. We view ourselves as the absolute best and don’t really bother to learn much about the world we live in. To be fair, America’s big enough that if you don’t have a desire to leave, you can still travel around the country and see and experience a lot. But you’ll never have a clue about the rest of the world until you decide to break through that bubble. I was in complete shock at how much everyone here in the UK knew about the world and America specifically. It not only made me feel stupid, but embarrassed that I never really even cared to learn about other countries and cultures. That is, until now.
On a separate note, there are quite a few things I do miss about living in America. Obviously my family is the main one. It’s hard being away from my mom and dad as we were only 45 minutes away from each other before. It’s been good for me to be away so that I could really learn and grow on my own, but I do wish it was much easier to see them.
The other main thing is driving. Here in the UK, most of the cars have a manual transmission which I have a very limited experience of driving and I’m absolutely terrified of it. So D has to drive me everywhere, or I just take the trains. Most of the time, it’s okay and easy to deal with, but I do miss the independence that comes with having your own car. I can not wait to be back in the States next week and get to drive us around. I’m actually looking forward to the 4-5 hour car journey to and from Chicago as it will feel so good to be back in control of a vehicle again.
I miss the convenience that living in the States has to offer. Like grocery stores are so convenient. Usually you can go into a Meijer, Kroger, Publix, or whatever shop you go to and can get everything you need there. From all the food, drinks, electronics, DIY stuff, toys, clothes, movies, books, medication, even your prescriptions. And you can fill your car up with gas on the way out and you’re done. To be fair, the UK is getting much better about it and it’s very similar at a big supermarket here. Although, you have to go to a chemist to get your prescriptions filled.
I also miss drive thrus. Like everything in the States is a drive thru. Yeah, in a way it’s super lazy, but it’s also extremely convenient. There are a very limited amount of drive thru anythings here in the UK. Excluding McDonald’s and other fast foods.
I also have to mention toilets. Ok I don’t understand this at all. In the UK, the toilet is a sacred and private place, as it should be. You usually get an entire cubicle to yourself. Meaning the door and walls go from the ceiling to the floor. You don’t have giant gaps to the point where you can awkwardly make eye contact with the people on the other side. This is how it should be. I never realised how truly disgusting it was until I used the public toilets in the UK. Then it dawned on me. However, in another capacity, finding a public toilet in America is 1000x easier than here in the UK. In the UK, they have service stations every 20 miles or so on the express way. A service station is similar to a rest stop although it’s much bigger and less scarier. They have a huge area that has public toilets and tons of food to eat, petrol to stock up on, etc. It’s nice for when you’re on a long car journey. In the States, we just have gas stations and fast food randomly every once in awhile, usually every mile at every exit unless you’re driving in the middle of nowhere. This means that usually if you’re hungry, need fuel, or have to pee, it’s very easy to just stop and go anywhere like a McDonald’s, coffee shop, or gas station. In the UK, you have to time it for a service station. Because if you miss it, and you have to go and there’s not another one for another 45 minutes or you hit traffic, you’re screwed. You’ll either have to pull off the side of the road and piss in the street for everyone to see, or you’ll have to get off at an exit and detour your way around to find a supermarket or – cross your fingers – some kind of fast food place where you can sneak in to have a wee.
Trust me, this has happened to me many many times.
There’s a lot that comes with moving to a new country that you would never think of. To be fair, I’m very lucky. The Brits speak English, and have adapted a lot from America so it’s very similar. I can read signs, and I’m so close to London that I can usually get anything I would want or need. I live in the age of Amazon so if I miss anything too much, I can always order some of it – although it’s ridiculously expensive.
I once paid £9 for 3 cans of pumpkin puree only to find out that Tesco started selling it for £1 a can two weeks later -__-
Although thankfully that is still happening, I need my pumpkin fix around Fall time or I go crazy.
Despite all the things I miss about the States, or the things that annoy me about the UK, I am still incredibly happy with my decision to move here. I was told by many people that after 6 months your “high” would wear off, and you’ll realise what you had done and the depression would start to set in and blah blah blah. And it just goes to show how wrong people can be. Sure, I miss bits of the US, but I love it here. I love how mild the weather is. I do not like the super cold and I do not like the super hot. I love love love the people I’ve met here. I actually feel like I connect with the Brits more than I ever connected with Americans. I’ve been told by a lot of people I have a British personality/sense of humour. I love my boyfriend’s family. Even though we’re not yet married, his sisters already feel like my sisters, and they’ve all welcomed me into their family so lovingly. I’ve truly enjoyed my first year living in the UK and I know I made the right decision by moving.
I get asked all the time if we’ll ever move to the States together and it’s a hard question to answer. I have no idea what’s in store for our future. I think we’d both be open to it when the time came, but for now, we are both so very happy where we are. And to be quite honest, I have yet to travel around Europe and the Mediterranean before I start talking about going back to the US. There’s still so much more to do and see, I ain’t going just yet!
So to all the people I’ve met this year, to all of D’s family who have made me feel comfortable and welcome, to all of the lovely friends I have made, and of course, to D, who has made this transition go much more smoothly than it would have without him around, I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. Anyone who knew me before I moved knew how miserable I was. I went through a lot of money and hard work to get here and it was 200% worth it. I am exactly where I need to be at this very moment.
Here’s to another amazing year ahead! If it’s even half as good as this last year was, I’ll be an extremely lucky girl.