Friday, January 30, 2009

Life in England: Ten rants and ten raves

10 things I dislike about living in England:
1. Everything is very expensive!
2. Surveillance society (Big Brother Britain): CCTV (Britain is the most watched nation in the world!) - ID cards/databases; and a plan to monitor the e-mail, telephone and internet browsing records of every person in Britain.
3. Anti-social behavior (hoodies, yobs).
4. Small houses - no built-in closets and most have no basements. Also, even detached houses are built very close together. If you're lucky, your house might have a utility room for the washing machine and dryer. Most houses don't though so the washing machine is in the kitchen.
5. Congested roads, parking on pavement (sidewalk).
6. Awful customer service.
7. Pervasive drinking culture ("Binge Britain").
8. Litter - everywhere.
9. Separate hot and cold water taps. This drives me crazy.
10. TV licence - I resent this compulsory, annual tax to support the BBC especially with the advent of iPlayer. I think it's very unfair that everyone in Britain still has to pay their TV licence fee while the rest of the world can access BBC programmes for free via iPlayer (which is supposed to be limited to the UK) simply by changing their IP address!

10 things I love about living in England:
1. Temperate climate - it seldom gets very hot (hence no air conditioning in houses) or very cold (I'm from Minnesota so this is especially appreciated).
2. Gorgeous gardens! - and able to garden all year round.
3. History everywhere you look - ancient buildings, cathedrals and castles!
4. NHS (National Health Service) - it's not perfect but medical care is available to everyone and you never get a bill.
5. Teashops - tea and scones!
6. Theatre; pantomimes.
7. Traditions like mince meat pies and crackers/paper crowns at Christmas; May Day and  Morris Dancing.
8. Stunning scenery - the beautiful countryside, houses with thatched roofs, tall hedges alongside twisting country lanes, lakes/mountains, and narrowboats on canals.
9. Pubs (public houses) - not just a place for a drink but a friendly place to meet and eat pub food; welcoming convivial atmosphere - cozy in the winter (many have a real fire) and pub gardens to sit outside in during the summer. 10. The charm of English seaside villages and towns. The seaside is never far away.


  1. I agree with all these! I suppose that wherever we live there are pros and cons. It's only if the latter had outnumbered the former would I have ever considered living elsewhere! xx

  2. I'm glad you agree with me, Flighty!

    You're right, there are pros and cons no matter where you live. I'm sure I could create a similar list of rants and raves about living in the USA. (hmm, now there's another idea for a post!).

  3. "Stunning scenery - the beautiful countryside, houses with thatched roofs, tall hedges alongside twisting country lanes, lakes/mountains"

    I'm a big fan of Midsomer murders and I keep wishing I live in some place similar.

  4. Connie, I'm a big fan of Midsomer Murders too! The funny thing though about the scenery in that show is that it's filmed in lots of different locations in England, not just one village!

    This is from - the definitive guide:
    "Filming takes place on location in the English counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire and Surrey."

  5. Great post! I can't help myself...I must respond.

    Things you don't like:

    1. Can you explain more? I felt it was expensive because I was earning dollars and living on the economy with a terrible exchange rate. But I thought it was all relative, thinking if I were paid in sterling it would have been as bad.

    2. Agreed - this most be the result of the "for the greater good" mentality.

    3. Agreed, yet we have that here too. I was at the mall last night and felt like I was in the halls of a high school. It's getting out of hand.

    6. Our customer service is horrible as well. You're lucky to find anyone to help you, except when you don't want it and rarely get a "hello", "please" or "thank you."

    8. Really??? What a shame.

    9. Ugh...I know. How many times have you scolded yourself?

    10. Thanks for cluing me in on how to get around the rules on the IPlayer. ;) I've complained to the BBC because I'm willing to pay a fee to use it but they have not made it available to people outside the UK yet. They are missing out on a money making opportunity and maybe it would result in a lower license fee for you? (yeah, right.)

    Things you like:

    Agree with it all except the Morris Dancing. ;)

  6. Thanks, Melissa! And thanks for responding to my list, one by one. It's interesting to read your views.

    Everything is very expensive here - housing, food, petrol (gas), and energy costs. In fact, a report by the Economic Research Institute, determined that Britain has the highest living costs in the Western world!

    Oh, I realize Morris dancing doesn't appeal to everyone but it's one of those quaint traditions that I love watching. I'm a bit of a nerd about things like that.

  7. The cost thing is really interesting. Im not surprised its the most expensive place to live! i remember staying with friends in LA and them complaining about the cost of things there! we ended up in a long discussion comparing salaries and the cost of almost everything and that was in 2005 when I bought $100 for £55. At that time we worked out that to work out the cost of something here in the UK you replace the $ with a £ (ie the price doubles) Cigarettes and petrol are massively more expensive than that though. Marlboro Red were $3.41 while I was there and £5.50 in the UK.

    I was job hunting at the time, having just left uni, so I had quite a good idea of pay scales here in the UK. For most of the jobs we worked in as a group, the Americans were earning at least a time and a half their UK peers and sometimes more than double (after converting the salaries into the same currency). In 2005, for the cost of renting a two bed house on the outskirts of LA, you can rent one room in a shared house in the outskirts of London.

  8. Thanks for sharing your experiences and views on the cost of living and confirming that England is indeed a very expensive country to live in.

  9. I agree with pretty much all of these. I really miss the countryside and the sea, pubs, and history. But I love mixer taps, closets and basements, the lack of traffic, and good customer service.

  10. Iota, I appreciate your views as a British woman living in the USA and it's interesting and satisfying that you agree with my list!

  11. Hello Maureen - I was a bit surprised re the mixer taps comment as I have only mixers in my house - presume you are referring to public toilets - a lot of them still have separate taps. (Although thinking about it my sister told me she will only have separate taps - bizarre!)

    Reading your list as a Brit I felt very depressed - all the things you love are what I would class as the "Notting Hill" vision of England - not very close to the daily reality of our lives. (Morris dancing is dying as no young people want to learn it).

    Annoying as it may be, it is thanks to the dreaded licence fee that we have better TV here than in all of Europe, Oz and the USA (with the notable exception of the very best of US TV such as MAd Men, The Wire). Try living in Italy where all the channels are controlled by Berlusconi and all are crass, demeaning, trivial, variety shows that define and show women as semi-naked brainless morons. Sorry a bit of a rant!

    Anyway hope you enjoy your time in the UK - but stay away from Midsome - it is a very dangerous place!

  12. Hello Clare, We have a mixer tap in our kitchen but our bathroom sink has separate hot and cold water taps. And replacing it isn't that straightforward as most of the sink/taps on offer in the bathroom shops are still the same. And nearly everyone I know in England has separate hot and cold water taps in their house too. It's truly a bizarre feature of plumbing that I just don't get.

    It's interesting that you think my list of "raves" is the "Notting Hill" vision of England. Frankly, I'm puzzled why you think so - apart from my comment about Morris Dancing which does actually exist and still goes on albeit not as much as in the past admittedly - since these features of England are quite true and in fact are also very attractive. I think I was being quite truthful with my list and not embroidering life in England in any way. As far as daily reality, people still go to teashops, the theatre, the pubs and the seaside - well perhaps not everyday but it is part of life in England. And there are gorgeous gardens and old buildings everywhere you look.

    Yes, I know the TV licence fee pays for soom good TV shows on the BBC but IMO some of it is rubbish but I still have to pay for it. I hate the fact that it's a compulsory tax. I think it should be based on voluntary subscription or have adverts.

    I do actually love living in England - most of the time - but like anywhere it has its good and bad points. I bet living in Italy is fantastic most of the time but I'm sure there are lots of things about it that annoy you too.

  13. Agree Maureen - everywhere has it's good and bad points - I think it's just we Brits get a bit weary of the Richard Curtis/ Woody Allen view of England - which seems so far from the norm.
    But like you, I am so grateful for the scenery, the history and all the good things you mention. Likewise Italy - which I think is the most wonderful country on the planet - despite it's terrible telly.
    I'd love to lose the licence fee too - but fear that the already increasing rubbish element of UK TV would totally overwhelm the good stuff - and we would end up with Euro pap and endless reality shows
    Anyway - great post! - you have got people debating!

  14. Clare, I'm still not sure that I'm presenting England the way you think I am. I think I have given quite a balance view of life in England with my ten rants and ten raves.

    I don't expect everyone to agree with my list of course but I certainly don't think I have given a Richard Curtis/Woody Allen view of England. I would never try to pretend that life is all rosy and perfect here like the movies portray it. I've lived in England for a long time (22 years) and my mother is English so I don't think I see England through rose-coloured glasses. I appreciate your comment but I admit I'm still baffled by your negative reaction. If anything I would expect my list of rants to bother some Brits, not my list of raves! LOL

    The TV licence fee is one of my pet peeves about life here. I think it's a very unfair tax - even if you never watch the BBC channels you still have to pay the licence fee - and the BBC is a huge money making empire. I think it's time to end the compulsory TV tax.

    Thanks! I always enjoy a good debate.

  15. wow, quite an earful :)

    the tv tax sounds like it sucks EXCEPT you guys have amazingly good BBC shows. i watch them here in the us and am amazed at how good they are. (i don't have a tv, i get them online). now that makes sense!

    it makes your tv like public art ;)


  16. The tv tax is very unfair indeed. I think it should be funded via voluntary subscription.

  17. Worst thing about England is that so many English have forgotten that's what they are.

    This is why the majority put up with gross injustices like the Barnett Formula and the West Lothian Question.

    Fortunately we are beginning to wake up.

    Time for another English revolution. We will throw off the chains of the UK forever.

    English law for England
    English taxes for England
    Home rule for England

    1. ...reading this seven years got it!! Many Americans were very happy for you and suspected the sky wouldn't fall. Congrats!

  18. You're right about how so many English have forgotten that's what they are. I'm always baffled by the apparent lack of pride and patriotism. It's especially evident when you consider the way the national holidays are celebrated in the rest of the UK: Ireland (St Patrick's Day), Scotland (St Andrew's Day) and Wales (St David's Day). Here in England there is barely a murmur about St George's Day.

    And why doesn't England have its own parliament?

  19. The comments about how expensive everything is, and the reduced wages (even though you have pay numerous compulsory taxes like the NHS, and the TV license) is crazy depressing.
    My husband (English), and myself (American) will be moving to England next year, and I'm trying to gobble up as much as I can to get ready.
    I guess I'll just have to get there and deal with it.

    ~ Marie

  20. Hello Marie, yes it is very expensive here. It's a fact of life here, unfortunately. I'm sure you will adjust and you will love it here though.

  21. England is a very expensive place to live...and all your rants are right....

    I wouldn't rave about the English seasides though..or Morris dancers..but could agree on some things..! I love Italy and if I could live there I would..or France ..!

    Oh we don't celebrate St Georges Day in the way some of us want to (the English) as it is now not politically correct to fly the flag for fear of causing an upset amongst our Muslim/Indian or whatever nationality they are. Oh and we would love our own government just as Wales and Scotland....We used to be altogether until they kicked up a stink and wanted to break free!

  22. I think the seaside in England is charming and the English seaside towns are very English indeed. And since I'm from Minnesota (a state in the middle of the North American continent), it's a real treat to live on an island where the seaside is never far away. And I really do enjoy English traditions like Morris Dancing.

    What would be your ten raves?

  23. I have had a fascination with the UK, primarily England for years. I have had one roommate back in college who's family moved from Brighton Beach, and currently have a boss from Manchester. I couldn't understand why anyone would want to leave England, but for the most part it's the "grass is greener" way of thinking. That happens here in the US where I run across few people that were happy to live most of their adult life in the same city or state they grew up in. Possibly, it's the desire to simply have a new experience or enjoy a new perspective?

    Most of my family lineage (about 4 generations back) all came from England, with some from Ireland. So in a way, I feel my roots are there.

    I think my desire to live in England is twofold. First, in a strange way, I feel like it would be going home. There is something comforting about life outside of London and the big cities from what I see on tv, movies and from friends who've been there. However, I have to admit that since I haven't ever visited, it could be a completely romantic notion in my head. I currently live in the pacific northwest, so I am used to similar climate. The things I've heard from friends jives with your list.

    The second reason is that many of the things I love are English. Whether it be the style of homes/architecture, food, products only available in the UK, music, tv, football . . . all things I can manage to find or enjoy in some form here in the US . . . just seems like it would be great to be "local" to these things.

    The tv tax is the one thing that would bug me the most. Some of my favorite shows are BBC, but there is some bad ones, just like in the states.

    There are social and political things to rant about in both countries. So I know that no matter where I live, I can complain about taxation, the way government is run, and breakdown in social behaviour. I don't think those things are isolated between the two countries. Just in different ways.

    So for me it comes down to how do I make the move. My wife and I are both Americans and though she likes it here, I've been "advised" that if I get a good job offer, she'll move. So when I hear about the high cost of living, I realize it better be a good job :)

  24. You are quite right about "the grass is always greener on the other side" thought. It's a very common view.

    I think you will find that there are many Americans like yourself who have a fascination with the UK, particularly England.

    My advice: visit England and take some time to explore off the tourist track. If you enjoy your visit, try a few more visits.

    Then if you still think you want to move here, you would need to check the UK Border Agency for the latest list of eligible occupations:

    Wishing you all the best!

  25. We are planning on a big trip next year to England. I was thinking that a few visits would be important, rather than moving "blindly".

  26. That's great. Hope you have a fab time! Yes, you would be very wise to make a few visits before you decide to move here.

  27. Temperature is ok but rain and lack of sun, always cloudy - very depressing
    ignorance and stupidity everywhere....
    awful traffic jam , specially London,
    everywhere mold,
    bread..... can't even call it that..some sponge

  28. Hi Maureen!
    I've really enjoyed reading your blog post (I googled, "Living in England" and your blog popped up.)
    I really enjoyed this post because I'm feeling a little "homesick" for my other home and reading your 'rants' about the double tap for hot and cold as well as the TV License made me laugh.
    I'm also from MN (the 612/763 area to be exact :-)) but am currently volunteering as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mozambique, Africa. However, my mom is from Ireland (but half of my family lives in England) so this is why I think of England as my "other home".
    Like some of your other readers, I'm also deciding whether or not to make to move to England after my commitment to the Peace Corps so I'm just poking about on the internet looking for more information.
    I realize your post is fairly old but I just wanted to let you know, as one MN expat to another, that it made me smile when I was feeling homesick.

  29. Also from MN. But must say I miss home. Lived here 4 years not and not made any friends :( I am shy but no one seems to be interested in getting to know me. I never felt so alone before :( at least its nice to know there are other people on the same boat as I am :)

    1. Watch Very British Problems on explains it

  30. Stumbled on this, also by Googling "living in England" as I'm feeling homesick. currently living in Australia. Like poster above, I'm shy too and it does make it hard to make new friends when you're no good at "making the first move". You're not alone!

  31. The continuous cold, dank, drizzly climate will drive you to tears.....The bland, horribly cooked food will make you suicidal....Other than that, I like living in Britain.

  32. If feeling cold, wet and hungry all the time floats your boat, then England is your nirvana.

  33. I've never encountered worse penny-pinching stinginess in my life till I lived amongst the English. I think wartime rationing is still in effect in this country. One thing for sure, these people still have a love affair with stern-faced Calvinism - at least when it comes to parting with their money.

  34. Customer service is a foreign concept to the British......They're never impolite, but the whole idea of accommodating a customer is beyond their comprehension.

  35. Just like anywhere else in Europe.....Far over-rated and WAY over-priced.

  36. Britain has the most horrible food and the worst cooks on the planet. Unless you are in London and spending a king's ransom, the restaurant experience in the UK is always disappointing.

  37. Does it ever stop raining in this country?.....And why is there no summer?......This climate is dismal......Now I know why these people drink.

  38. The English are annoyingly pessimistic. You can always count on them to be a wet blanket just when things are going well.

  39. The British would also say that Americans are annoyingly and falsly optimistic and happy which is not genuine and we get very annoyed when you say things like ' Have a nice day Maam' it makes us feel sick. We are just more reserved in that sense.

    1. I honestly did not know that other people would think of us as being optimistic. We tend to be helpful, yes, but generally I think of my fellow Americans as being crass, politically correct to a fault, and increasingly pessimistic. It's certainly nothing like the patriotic country I grew up in the 70s. (We don't fly flags here either… in fear of offending… everyone!)

  40. And also we have lovely summers ... Depending on where you are. Ithink its a ridiculous comment to say there is no summer. Its was 40 degrees in london last summer. And also if you dont like it here then buggar off back to the usa as we are sinking here ! If i didnt like where i moved to i would just go home.

  41. And also i went to the USA and the food was disgusting. Just looking at other peoples plates made me feel sick. Piles of processed meat pink in colour piled up and the portion size was huge! Like 3 X the normal size. Also you have lots of Monsanto carcinogenic food products and a horrendous method of factory farming which is barbaric. I saw that people were dying from eating your beef as it was covered in shit and ecoli. Gross. We have a massive variety of food so i think your comments are very outdated. Foreigners do t like our traditional food but we do and we dont care.

  42. Funny, reading this on the bus returning from 5 week holiday in the UK and disagree with Anonymous_April_03_2016 posts and agree with Leanne Thomas. I love the variety of foods in the grocery stores, and for the most part had amazing well prepared meals at pubs in tiny little villages. The ugliest part about UK food was all the disgusting US fast food places that are everywhere just like here.:( Even walking past a Subway sandwich shop smelled nauseating.

  43. Funny, reading this on the bus returning from 5 week holiday in the UK and disagree with Anonymous_April_03_2016 posts and agree with Leanne Thomas. I love the variety of foods in the grocery stores, and for the most part had amazing well prepared meals at pubs in tiny little villages. The ugliest part about UK food was all the disgusting US fast food places that are everywhere just like here.:( Even walking past a Subway sandwich shop smelled nauseating.