I have been terribly busy. My 5-years-in-the-UK anniversary was two weeks ago today, and it already seems like a distant memory. My job has a fiscal year that starts in October, as perhaps could be inferred from the fact that that’s when I started 5 years ago, and that means the first few weeks of October are always absolute madness.
Because of this, I have not really had much time to think and reflect about my five years here. Some things have become quite normal and commonplace, while some things are as surprising to me as the day I arrived. I thought I might try to make a list. We’ll see how that goes. Feel free to chime in with suggestions. And you can tell that I’m a hobby blogger and not someone worried about a “brand” or “numbers” or anything because although there are posts about most of these things on this site, I am too lazy to try and dig up the appropriate links!
Things that still surprise me after 5 years in England.
- Two tap sinks. Still totally useless IMHO, especially as a hand washing sink in my lab.
- The way young girls dress. So much skin!
- Public drunkenness. Which often leads to public violence and bleeding people in the street. And public urination (typically by drunk men in all three cases).
- Cars parked facing each other. Cars parked half on the sidewalk.
- Stephen Fry as a National Treasure. Not unrelated to… the existence of the show QI (which I watch regularly, but don’t know how to explain to people back in the states).
- The school system. It’s so bloody complicated.
- The fact that I have been here 5 years, am a scientist, and still have a tough time with temperatures Celsius and metric conversions of recipes.
- The welfare state. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to it.
- The food. Try being a non-meat eater in a country whose cheffy chefs are in love with offal…
- The language. I know from my trips back home that I say lots of utterly British things and sound very foreign to my American friends. But I also still struggle in my day-to-day life with words and accents.
- Customer service. Or the frequent lack thereof.
Overall, I would say I’m rather well acclimated/acclimatized. Most of my appliances now are British plugged. My transformer for US appliances lives in the bottom of a closet for occasional weekend use with the one thing I have not replaced (my beloved Kitchenaid Stand mixer–I know, I should trade with someone who is heading stateside…) My closet is full of clothes acquired here instead of clothes imported from US shopping malls. Well, nearly on that last one. I still seem to occasionally come up with something that I simply cannot find here and must acquire abroad (Eddie Bauer no-iron button-down shirts, I’m looking at you!) I’m on my 4th UK cell/mobile phone and my third flat. My desktop and laptop computers were both bought here, along with much of my furniture. I love not needing to own a car, although I am seriously considering getting a UK driving license to be able to rent and explore this country that I have adopted.
For all of these reasons, I am seldom filled with the rage and frustration that characterized the early days of this blog. It’s kinda fun to go back and read the early posts, to remember where I was and how I felt back then. Life is not perfect–I am still sorely lacking in the area of good friends in my own town, but I suspect part of that is the fact that it’s quite tricky to find other 35 year olds who are childless and happy and thus share common lifestyles with mine. That would be tricky no matter where in the world I was, as I know from discussions with my fab sister both when she was living in China and now that she has repatriated to the US. I have hope that another few years will find me some improvement in that area. But overall, it’s hard to complain. Life lately really has been about day-to-day existence and rather little about being foreign, now that my residence visa is sorted and my job is in full-on crazy mode. I’m not traveling at all this fall, as I was unclear on the visa thing and so I’ve planned a few months of hanging around and enjoying my British life.
And really, I’m not complaining.