(A Few of) My Favorite Things About Living in the U.K.
It's A Beautiful Life
Surrounded by cobblestones and colored seas of red and orange leaves, by tall slender trees stripped bare, standing proud still, I sip my smooth roast coffee and press my hand deeper into my jacket pocket. Winter is most assuredly here in England, and people old and young bustle along the streets to conduct their Saturday business as usual. It’s been nearly five months since I’ve last seen America, and with a month-long break quickly approaching as exam season is upon us, I thought it would be a perfect time to pause and reflect on some of my favorite (or, should I say, favourite?) things about everyday life here in the U.K.
1. The Food Is Always Fresh
England in particular tends to get a bad rap when it comes to food. It’s sort of an international stereotype that the food here is bland and flavorless. This is…well, sort of true. However, it is staggering how fresh the food actually is. Everything from meat to fruits and vegetables is fresh. Every time I go into Waitrose (think Publix) there’s always a part of me that is shocked to see fruit ripe or ripening a’plenty on the shelves, even in temperatures like 30 F. And the U.K. has different standards for what chemicals can be used in growing foods, which is evident in the color, taste, and texture.
2. The NHS
The NHS (National Health Service) is a beautiful, beautiful thing. The healthcare in the U.K. is based on medical need, rather than an individual’s ability to finance their care. I have never had good insurance in my life, and haven’t had any at all since I was about twenty years old. Even then, I was always worried about what my insurance would and would not cover, like, for example, if my particular policy may cover a broken bone, but not the full cost of an appendix operation (even with a certificate in paralegal studies, I found and still find insurance law and loopholes staggering). In the U.K., I am not more afraid of the ambulance ride than the heart attack, the nights in the hospital than the cause for being there. For this, I am exceedingly grateful.
Ah, yes, the fashion. Growing up, I was always (always) a jeans and basic shirt kind of girl. In Florida, we truly don’t have ‘seasons’, we have: hot, hotter, chilly for a week and five days, and hot again, so ‘dressing up’ was never really practical. Not only this, but clothes are expensive, regardless if it’s only half a shirt or not. It’s very difficult to try to keep up with the trends (that, naturally, you’ll sweat right through anyway). In England, clothes are significantly cheaper and the weather presents for all kinds of layers and styles. And the English are good at a fashion. I’m not sure if they’re pulling a ‘Keeping Up With The Jones’s’ mentality (France is their neighbor, after all) but they know how to mix patterns and textures that Americans would never dream of. While I may be more comfortable in the styles I would wear back home, I can’t say I’ve ever felt as ‘put-together’ as I have on this side of the pond. (Though, you’ll still find me five times out of seven in my Levi’s, just with better shoes. I’m not sorry).
4. Adventure Potential
If you’re like me and weren’t fully aware, the U.K. consists of England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. You can go from London to Edinburgh to Dublin without a visa, which in and of itself is pretty amazing. But while the U.K. remains part of the EU, travelling to other European countries is also an easy feat. The Eurostar can take you to and from cities like Paris or Brussels in one day, if you time it right. Flights are relatively inexpensive, and finding housing is fairly easy. All it takes is good planning skills and decent preparation and you’re good to go. (Note: always check your passport requirements before booking passage to another country to see if you will need a special visa for entry or not). Back home, travelling even within the U.S. is as expensive as it is cumbersome, and we aren’t always able to take advantage of the beauty of our homeland.
If you’re considering visiting (or living!) in the U.K., let me be the first to encourage your ambition. It is possible, and it certainly is worth the effort. Remember: never be afraid of ‘risks’, as this is just another word for ‘chances.’ Even in the grip of winter, England is a beautiful place, and while I’m looking forward to my return to open skies and sandy beaches for this break, I’m also none the more eager to finish this steaming cuppa, or miss the autumn leaves swirling at my feet.