As of yesterday morning last week, that is how long Chelsea and I have been here in the great country of England. On one hand, I feel like a whole whirlwind of events and changes have happened in just one year, but on the other hand, I can’t believe it has already been a year. I thought I would use this occasion to write yet another list and reflect a little on how our lives are different here in another country. I submit to you a list of things England does really well. Next post will be all the stuff we miss about the USA. In no particular order:
England have it right
The concept of a real English pub is hard for me to explain, and much easier to experience. The atmosphere is welcoming and relaxed, and you can be assured to get both a solid ale and some grub while there. The lighting is low, woodworking old, and there are not too many tables or places to sit. A nice local pub is something that I wish everyone could have, although we don’t really have a favorite yet. There are over 60 on our pub map of Oxford, so we’ll be sure to get back with our favorites once we have visited them all.
We love the beer here. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Bells Two-Hearted as much as the next guy, but the English really have a knack for ale. People here always correct me, because the term “beer” usually refers to ale, and lager is in a class of its own, although I use beer interchangeably. The lager here isn’t anything to write home about, but there are SO MANY good ales that I rarely have the same one twice. The ale here is served at cellar temp, but since the weather is 45F in the winter and 55F in the summer you can be sure a fairly consistent product is being pumped from those old stone cellars. The slightly warmer temperature actually enhances the flavor of the malts and when combined with the lower level of carbonation, makes for a beverage that is both tasty and really easy to drink.
3. Public Transportation
This makes the list because we have managed to survive here without a car, and will continue to do so. Chelsea uses her bus pass to get to and from work everyday, and although there are occasional blips on the radar, the buses are usually really quite reliable in town. Additionally, we have managed to travel all around the country by train or bus, and have only rented a car a couple times. Long distance rail and bus tickets aren’t incredibly cheap, but when you consider that the converted cost of gasoline is $7.86 per US gallon, and that we would have to pay through the nose for insurance and parking for a car that we own, we are perfectly happy letting someone else drive.
4. Radio 1
I suppose this item on my list may be relative to all the bad radio stations in Ithaca and East Lansing, but I really enjoy BBC Radio 1. They are always hip to the newest music, and really seem to have their finger on the pulse of what is cool and about to hit it big. I also particularly like that they record their programs and stream them online, so that I can listen to Judge Jules next time I feel like a bit of a dance in my head at work.
5. Mobile phones
“I’m not sure why, but Britons have really embraced the mobile” is a direct quote from my friend James almost two years ago. All of the carriers here seem to have quite the array of new phones, and being the gadget geek that I am, I am almost always envious of the newest releases. We have been content with the coverage here too, as there are many companies to cover what is really the size of one of our states. Another aspect that I think the companies do well here is the pricing. Chelsea and I got new phones for free (including my Android phone), and each get 200 minutes a month, unlimited texts and 500MB mobile internet for about $60. And we feel ripped off. So many companies offer competitive pay-as-you-go plans that you really only pay for what you use. For us that would have been about $15 last month. My first cell phone plan back in 2000 wasn’t even that cheap.
6. Proximity to places that we want to visit
This point isn’t really about the English culture, or anything to do with the UK except for its geography and the logistical advantage that is London. Basically, we can get anywhere we want to go within the continent for cheaper than it costs to fly from Detroit to Chicago. Our list of places to visit continues to grow as we meet new people or visit new places, but we aim to get to 4-5 new countries per year for the next few years, and are super glad to be living in a place that is so easy to get to and from (save for the snow disaster a month ago). Another bonus of living just an hour outside of London, is that it makes it easier for ALL OF YOU to come visit.
I’ll continue to update the post as I think of more, or feel free to add in the comments things you like most about it here.
7. Indian Food
As Kim pointed out in the comments, I didn’t really make any comments about the food here. Well, mostly because we aren’t super impressed with the food here, although I suppose there isn’t a more appropriate place in the world to get fish and chips. Anyway, I can’t believe I forgot about Indian food. When we lived in the US, I had tried Indian once or twice at restaurants, but mostly just made a few dishes with our friends Sarah and Nirav. When we came here I was amazed at the sheer number of Indian places. I actually heard a quote the other day that more chicken tikka masala is sold in the UK than India. Anyway, whether you like the coconut curry, chicken from the tandoor, or pickled lime with those funny Indian nachos (poppadom), you can’t really go wrong with Indian food here in the UK.