Ex-pat observations in England
England,  Ex-pat Life,  Stuff + Things

Ex-Pat Observations: First Edition

I’ve travelled to the UK a lot, so it wasn’t going to be a sudden culture shock when I moved here. But while I’m accustomed to many quirks of British life, every day since I’ve arrived has reminded me of some forgotten observations and introduced some delightful new ones.

I love my new home and can’t wait to share the quirks and delights with you. Here is the first edition of my ex-pat observations and discoveries from my first month in England.

Hard water

Oh my goodness, Southern England, why is your water so chalky??? My hair, scalp, and skin were in shock the first few weeks here. It’s not my first rodeo in this part of the country, but it’s the first time being here for more than a few days at a time. I’ve been told by several people (including fellow ex-pats) that I’ll “get used to it”. But, y’all, that’s what Google is for. I did in-depth research on how to soften the water without spending a lot of money and found a filtering shower head on Amazon.

The Brit half-joked that if it affected the water flow, it was gone — but guess what? The water flow is BETTER. And after a couple of weeks, my hair, scalp, and skin seem to be doing better. And the limescale from the chalk seems to be less frequently appearing on the shower door and walls.

Weird crisp flavours

Prawn cocktail crisps anyone? Firstly, what North Americans would call chips are called crisps. And what we would mostly deem as fries are chips — as in the iconic fish and chip duo.

Back to prawn cocktail. I’m a salt and vinegar, rippled plain, or (if feeling especially adventurous) ketchup chip flavour girl. So while I love prawn cocktail, and a roast chicken dinner, I can’t even with these flavours. It’s just wrong. (Side note: I’ll have a full blog post about a classic roast chicken dinner soon — my love makes an excellent one.)

Quirky words

Crisps is really just the tip of the British colloquialism iceberg. A couple recent standouts:

Aluminium – Nope, not a typo. While Canadians and Americans (and I’m pretty sure most of the English-speaking world) say “aluminum”, there’s an extra syllable here in the UK. The first time I ever visited, I remember being in the car in Scotland and we drove by a sign. I thought “there’s a typo!?”. Nope.

Biscuits – Biscuits are the word for cookies. This is interesting to me because a biscuit to me is closer to a scone (pronounced scawn, not scoane). But then again, my first language is French, and the word for a cookie is biscuit. So there we go.

By the end of this month, I’ll have some better and new ones for you. For now, check out my list of British slang over here.

Non-refrigerated eggs in the supermarket

Ex-pat observations in England. Eggs not in the cooler.
UK supermarkets don’t keep eggs in a cooler. They are simply placed on a shelf.

No matter how many times I go into a supermarket here, I will never get used to the eggs not being in a cooler. Apparently, we wash our eggs in Canada, which takes away a protective layer from the shell. Refrigeration prevents bacteria from entering the now exposed pores of the shell.

In Great Britain and many European countries, eggs are not washed prior to getting to the shops. (Which explains the feather I found attached to the shell of one of my omelette eggs this week…) But then the eggs get popped in the fridge at home…

Weekend mail delivery

The post and parcels is also delivered on Saturdays, and sometimes Sunday here. I’m thrilled by this and love that’s it’s super easy to redirect a parcel, if needed.

The Victorian sink a.k.a. the two-tap nightmare

The double taps of Victoria-style sinks make for a tricky hand-washing experience.

We have five sinks in our home: one in each bathroom, one in the laundry nook, and one in the kitchen. Four of the five have two faucets — why?! It’s not 1870, not very practical, and makes water temperature control a nightmare. Goldilocks would hate it. But it certainly makes washing my face, teeth and hands entertaining.

Alcohol is sold in grocery stores

Unlike in Canada, where liquor laws are very antiquated. (In fairness, it’s starting to, slowly but surely, change.) Also quite wonderful here is the ability to legally enjoy a picnic in a public park or at the beach with a nice bottle of something lovely to pour and sip.

Cordial driving

Navigating the narrow roads in the East Sussex viallge of Alfriston.

The roads are very narrow in much of the United Kingdom. Particularly in older parts of cities, in villages, and deep in the countryside. The drive to and from Brit’s mum’s house is a bit harrowing. Many neighbourhood families have second or third cars that don’t fit in their driveways. So they park the street. Which makes it even narrower and basically a big blind spot.

But there’s an etiquette that most seem to follow – very similar to the rules of a four-way stop. It’s all quite civilized.

Are you an ex-pat living abroad? What are some quirks of where you live? Share your ex-pat observations in the comments below!

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