The Good and Bad of England

Time seems to pass by so quickly while living in London; I have so many things I want to see and do (and need to do – like work, homework, and other grown up responsibilities) that my days go by fast. I spent the better part of Monday thinking it was Tuesday, so there you go.

While I’ll touch on a few things I did this week in this post, I’d also like to take the opportunity to be honest about what moving to England is like. There are aspects of living here that I definitely like better than the US, but there’s also aspects that are really different from what I imagined, or that I didn’t know about.

But first off, my week. Last Thursday started with the arrival of someone new; a roommate! Since my second bedroom isn’t being fully used till my family comes back in summer, I rented it out for April and May. My roommate is a German student who is in London for an internship. We get along quite well so it’s been a good start. On Friday Lauren arrived from the US so we spent time going out in SoHo, having a delicious tea time near my flat, and walking around Camden. Camden is easily my favorite area of London (and luckily is close by!). There’s all these intertwined markets that have stalls with international food, souvenirs, art, t-shirts, etc – and the market is open almost daily. Lauren’s stay was short as she continued her trip on to Oxford to visit family, but I was glad to have had my first friend come visit.

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Course one: Finger sandwiches
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Course two and three: Scones and dessert
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Camden Market with Lauren and my roommate

The remainder of my week was less than eventful. As I mentioned in last week’s post, I have one month of grad school left so the pressure is on to get all my work done and make sure I pass. What I can say is that now most things are settled for me here now, I’m getting back into some of the good routines I had in the US. I went for a good run on Monday evening, had my eyebrows waxed, and hired someone to clean my flat (the price of hiring someone here is significantly less than the US! Like… 1/4 of the price). This week I only had to go to Newbury once for work, which was really good for my sanity.

I’m really excited for this weekend; I am finally getting out of the UK for the first time since moving here and going to Bruges in Belgium! I don’t have much of a plan for Bruges besides a walking tour and where I’m staying, so I’m just going to enjoy wandering around.

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Now, on to what I have found to be the good and bad about living in England (after almost six weeks of living here):

The Good

  1. They walk more: This is probably obvious to most people, but it’s really something I love. I easily walk at least 10,000 steps a day in London, and regularly hit 15,000 to 20,000 steps – and that’s not counting when I actually make an effort to work out! This is also tied to using more public transportation; I don’t have a car here but am able to take a train, bus, or walk almost everywhere.
  2. London is an eas(ier) city to move to: I’m not talking about finding a job or getting settled here, because those can be challenging. But finding things to do and finding people to hang out with is not too difficult. There’s a ton of places to see (too many to list!) and with active London MeetUp and Couchsurfing communities you can attend things like day hikes, pub quizzes, or happy hour and meet a lot of other new people to the city who are looking for friends. This is also a city where going to dinner or sightseeing on your own is not taboo and seen regularly, so I feel less self conscious if I am doing so.
  3. General awareness of the world: British people, and Europeans in general, know a lot about countries beyond their own, which is something I don’t think I can equally say about most Americans. I can embarrassingly admit that I wasn’t even 100% sure who the Prime Minister was until before I moved here (it’s David Cameron), and I would consider myself a typically relatively informed.
  4. There’s no guns: I’m not against guns per se – if everyone could use them responsibly we’d be fine – I just don’t want myself or any of my loved ones to get shot. Guns for the most part (besides for some police and if you are hunting) are illegal in the UK. Of course there are a few bad people who have them illegally, and the UK does have stabbings here and there – but you don’t hear about a shooting here every day which is frankly very refreshing.
  5. The location: I mean, this shouldn’t be a surprise. While I do love London, a lot of moving to a European city was so I could see more of Europe. So far living here I’ve only seen Wales, but I’ll be checking Belgium and Northern Ireland off the list this month. It’s also great because not only is the proximity to other European countries closer, but its less expensive to get there. My train to Belgium was $180 and I thought that felt expensive. My flight to Northern Ireland was $60 round trip. When I’m traveling without Markie, I also usually stay in hostels which keeps costs low (with him I use moderately priced hotels, family-friendly hostels, or AirBnB).

The Bad

  1. The grass isn’t always greener: I see a lot of people on social media post about how they’d love to move to certain European countries. I think what some people don’t realize is that just because your vacation to a certain country was enjoyable, doesn’t mean its easy to make a living there. In fact, there’s a significant amount of people in London from other European countries because the economy is so much better (in comparison). I also found during my job search that London salaries are lower in comparison to DC salaries despite housing and other expenses here to be equal if not more. I’m fortunate that I make similar to what I did in the US here, but if I were back in DC I probably would be a making quite a bit more.
  2. Setting things up was more complicated than I thought: I had a harder time opening a bank account than renting an apartment. I have to pay property tax (called council tax) on an apartment that I rent and don’t own. Figuring out how gas and electric meters work – which is what my apartment runs on – was confusing and stressful. I can’t get a monthly cell phone plan because I don’t have UK credit, so I use a pay as you go plan (which is fairly popular in the UK and not any more expensive than a normal plan thankfully). All these things that I just wasn’t used to caused me problems.
  3. There are cultural differences: I knew there would be cultural differences, but I don’t think I realized how many. There are different words, different phrases, different mannerisms. British people are more open about certain things (politics, drinking), but very private in other ways. You don’t really strike up conversations with strangers – which sometimes is good, but sometimes I miss how Americans are more open to chatting with others.
  4. Trains: Regional trains – I’m not talking about the Tube – during peak times are EXPENSIVE. My round trip train ticket to Newbury for work (60 miles from London) is £60 = $84 a day – luckily my company foots the bill. Buses are cheaper and usually the method I use when I’m paying.

Hopefully this list provides some honesty to what moving is like. I’m certainly not saying it to complain; I just feel that it would be dishonest to make it sound like moving was easy-peasy, because some parts of it were not. I’m still incredibly grateful for the support I receive from my friends and family, the job opportunity I was presented, and that I overall have found myself quite happy in London.

Till next time all!

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