Saturday, 14 April 2012

Guest Post: An American Living In Britain- The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

I'm back in the UK! Yes I know, I can hardly believe it either. Where does the time fly by?? This trip was a very different one to the usual Wegan trips- it was the shortest, and had the least amount of pictures taken- EVER! Do not fear, we still have got some to share with you plus a What Wegan Wore Spring Look. Excited? Whilst away I requested the lovely Sprezzatura girls to do an update for our blog, and then didn't get round to posting it. D'oh! Though as my jet lagged brain and aching heart is recovering, this is a great time to finally post it.  Laura shares with you what it's like being an American in Britain- I love it and it's all SO true.  Take it away Laura!!

Hola, Weganers!!

I’m Laura, from Idaho in the USA, and I blog with my beautiful British girlfriend Sarah over at Sprezzatura! I’ve been living in London for almost 4 years now, and been with Sarah for over 3 of them. While Megan is nursing Whitney back to health in the USA, they asked if we could do a guest post for them, and we were more than happy to oblige!

As Whitney will be moving across the pond to the UK permanently in the next few months, I thought I’d put together a kind of ‘the good, the bad & the ugly’ list of how it is to be an American living in the UK – because as you will have seen from Wegan’s blog, and from our previous guest post about the ‘lost in translation’ elements of being a trans-Atlantic couple (, there are a LOT of changes and things to get used to when you come to ‘old Blighty’!!

What are the best things about moving to England?

Besides Sarah? :)

Would it be wrong to say Cadburys? I know in the states we’ve now technically got it, but trust me, it doesn’t taste nearly as good as Cadburys chocolate here.

Other things you’re going to love? The transport system, and walkability: everything is so close and easy to get to here – and you never have to worry about a designated driver when you are out!

The British sense of humour is second-to-none: with my British/Australian parents, I had quite a sarcastic and dry sense of humour growing up, which a lot of people at home read as ‘bitch’ – but here that mistake never happens! I love how wicked and hilarious British people are with their banter (teasing). I only occasionally take it the wrong way.

I also appreciate how much Brits travel – sometimes they don’t go much further than Spain or France, but because the UK is a tiny island, people are much more likely to get out – everyone I know leaves the country at least once per year. This means they get to experience different cultures, see the sun, try new foods (Whitney & I both really appreciate that one!!) and use their passport pretty much whenever they want! This isn’t new to me, as my parents traveled with me from 6 months of age, but I went to Europe with my choir in my senior year of high school, and over half of my classmates had to apply for their passports in order to go. This shocked me for 2 reasons – a. they had never left the USA (Idaho borders Canada, for god’s sake!!) and b. I didn’t realize that you don’t get passports at birth, and you actually have to apply for them!

What’s the hardest to get used to?

Heating is SO difficult to get used to. Most houses and flats have radiators instead of central heating here, so for the many MANY cold months of the year, when I’m cold I turn on the radiators – they take half an hour to warm up, and when they do, don’t have any effect further than 1 foot away from them… so eventually I just give in and put on my 3rd hoodie and another blanket. At least Sarah is good to snuggle up to…

Also, I really miss American junk food. Yes, England have the Cadburys edge, but I miss Cheetos, Lucky Charms, beef jerky, really obscure things. Luckily, my wonderful mother is back in Idaho sending me occasional survival packages, and we stock up whenever we go home. So a piece of advice: bring along all your favourites, you won’t realize how much you’ll miss them until you are here!! But don’t worry if you forget anything – Brits are cracking onto this market, and you can find your favourites in American candy stores across the country, such as The Stateside Candy Co. in Guildford (not too far away from Windsor). They are overpriced, yes, but if you’re desperate, definitely worth it.

And more than anything, I get homesick. It’s gotten much better over the years away from home, but especially around the holiday season, I miss my parents, my little brother, my friends at home, Christmas in the USA… it hits me out of nowhere – but luckily Sarah is very supportive, and my family is only a Skype call away. Skype is an American in England’s best friend (it’s everyone who is away from home’s best friend, really!).

Is it different working in England as an American?

Yes! I have been the ‘token American’ in every job (and in every group of friends) I’ve had over here. I’m not even sure why, but somehow I seem to laugh louder than everyone else, and I’ve been told my colleagues can ‘always hear the American coming’. Is that a good thing?? (I hope so!) My girlfriend actually didn’t like me when she first met me because I was ‘too American’! But now she loves it. Or so she tells me. She even calls me her ‘ray of sunshine’ in the office!

I love being in a country where you can get probably up to an hour off per day for ‘tea breaks’ – some of my colleagues go for tea every hour, and spend at least 10 minutes making it each time! On my tea breaks, I try to get conversations away from the weather, work, and ‘what you’re up to at the weekend’, which are British fallback subjects; I think people find me a bit odd for that. But there are only so many weather updates I can get during my work day!!

And of course there is the holiday time – we get at least 20 days paid holiday here in England. You may argue that it is because we need it (with the amount of rain and cold we get!), but it’s so nice!! I used to have a hard time deciding what to spend all my holiday on, but I’ve gotten into the British spirit of things, and now plan a good 2 or 3 holidays (oh, sorry Americans, vacations) to different parts of Europe or home each year.

Finally, are there any obscure differences between the USA and the UK that might surprise a first timer?

Typically, a lot of the things I find bizarre about England are food related.

Most restaurants here don’t do free refills. I’ll give you a moment, Americans, to let that sink in. For hardcore Diet Coke addicts like me, that is ludicrous. You only get one drink at dinner (sometimes in a bottle, which is a fancy distraction for the tiny amount of Diet Coke you have in front of you), and if you want more you have to pay for another bottle. I know, it sounds horrible, but over time you learn to ration your bottle and have a cold can or two waiting for you at home. And if this is a must-have, awesome restaurants like Nandos and TGI Fridays (yes, they have that here – I call it the American Embassy!) still do refills. Or, top-ups, as the English seem to call it, much to the amusement of my very-American brother.

^Our appreciation for refills and giant American sodas

We mentioned this in our previous guest post, but the ‘chips’ issue causes no end of confusion here. So, potato chips are ‘crisps’ in England, and fries are ‘chips’. And ‘fries’ sounds a lot like ‘rice’ in my accent, apparently. Why anyone would think I wanted rice with my cheeseburger is completely beyond me, but that mix-up has happened numerous times since I’ve moved here.

And finally, they think of pancakes as a dessert food. I don’t think this is universal (there might be more progressive, morning-pancake-eating English people out there), but when I started dating Sarah, she was ‘appalled’ (yes, that was the exact word) at the thought of pancakes for breakfast. So much sweet, first thing in the morning! Of course, one IHOP visit on our first visit to Idaho together changed her tune – she now is an advocate of pancakes for every meal, but still, an English breakfast is very much savoury.

^Sarah’s first IHOP experience, straight off of 16 hours of traveling to get there!

So there you have it: everything you didn’t know you wanted to know about being an American in England. Whether you’re here to visit, to stay, or if you’re British and just wondering why Americans often walk around with such a confused look on their faces, I hope I’ve given you a little insight into our world. Please come over to visit us at Sprezzatura and stay awhile!

Hope you’re enjoying your time together Megan & Whitney, and can’t wait to meet up with you both again when you are living over here!!

Love, Laura (& Sarah, throwing in her 2 cents next to me on the couch – or should that be 2 pence? :)) xo

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Are you an American living in the UK? 
Do you agree? Anything to add? :)

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  1. Hi girls :)

    Love this post, and love the guest!!! OH and I LOVE LOVE LOVE England. I want to go back :)

  2. Love this guest blog and I whole-heartedly agree with Laura about Cadbury's in the USA tasting different to that of England and even Canada! Luckily CostPlus or World Market import Cadbury's products directly from England! :D

  3. Fun post!

    I don't live in the UK, though have been a few times. I do love all of the tea breaks, and varieties of tea that are available at the markets! xx

  4. Love this post! I can agree with your perspectives, Laura and I would like to add a few of my own. I have been a frequent visitor for the past 9 years and the only irritating experiences I have had are related to travel. Particularly the long lines for 'All other Passports' at Heathrow, T-4. For Chrissakes, turn on a fan in there! It's so hot, you start sweating like a Prostitute in line for the Confessional Booth at Church! The other item is the poor drivers I see on the motorways. I get it. You drive a HOT Italian or German Sports car, but if you don't know how to keep it in the stripes without freaking out everybody else, then pull over and let the rest of us pass you by!
    Other than that, I LOVE everything about England.
    Safe travels, Friends!

    1. Haha yes it is rather hot in there! Hate that wait, just want to be out the other side already!!

      M x

  5. Hi W&M!
    I finally got to check out your blog today and I’m lovin it! It’s always nice to meet fellow femmes! I look forward to following.

    Here are 2 links to our wedding photos as promised! :)

    ~ Kristin

    1. Aw wow SO stunning!! Thank you <3 M x

  6. I just wanna say i love the new look of your blog :)


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