I lived and went to school in Norwich, England for five months last year, and I miss it a ton! Here are a few things I would take back home with me to Minnesota if I could. (Warning: this is not a deep post at all.)
1) The accent
It took me a long time to get used to hearing British accents everywhere, and by the end of my program I couldn’t wait to be home and hear the good old Minnesotan accent again. I remember sitting in the cinema in Norwich watching Logan, basking in the American-ness of the characters’ voices, and then coming out and remembering I was still in England.
But now that I’m home, I binge-watch British shows on Netflix to hear the accent and feel like I’m back in England again.
2) Cheaper stuff
I know…I know…it isn’t really that much cheaper, if it all, when it’s all converted back into dollars and deducted from my bank account. I also wasn’t in a really big city, like London, which tend to be more pricey. But some foods in England have a much lower price tag than they do in the US. They give the illusion of being cheap (which I appreciate). Like buying staple food items (I’m pretty sure I could get things like yogurt, milk, pasta, some produce) for less than a pound. That never happens in Minnesota. I used to stock up on healthy groceries for £10 or £15 a week, versus $30 to $40 here.
I try to avoid the Dollar Store here at all costs, but Poundland was a regular stop for me in the UK. You could get so many useful things of decent quality for a pound. I bought things like face wipes, dish soap, and school supplies there.
And America…you have got to get on the cheap feminine products train. They were ridiculously inexpensive in the UK. (That’s probably one of the things I miss most.)
3) Gift shops
In America, if you want to find cute, creative little gifty things, you have to go to, like, that one table at Francesca’s that has mugs and luggage tags. I always struggle to find something desirable for $10 Secret Santa exchanges and usually end up with candy or reindeer socks from Target.
In the UK (and a lot of the other places in Europe that I visited) you can barely walk a block down High Street without running into a cute independent shop selling quirky or elegant gifts. Flowery stationary, ceramic jewelry holders, pineapple earrings, knitted llama key chains, nightlights shaped like hedgehogs, tiny pencil cases, bath bombs, mugs and makeup bags printed with words that probably came off a Pinterest board somewhere, things with pom-poms on them, and of course, my favorite, Jellycat stuffed animals. Even most chain clothing stores in the UK have a table or shelf’s worth of gifty stuff.
Here are a few examples. Evidently there is an entire market for that stuff that I guess doesn’t exist here? The closest equivalent I’ve seen here is in little lake towns where people go to shop and vacation. (But in the UK you don’t even need to go on vacation to find one.)
Suffice it to say, Secret Santa exchanges in the UK are probably a lot more epic than they are here.
4) The countryside
There is a lot of countryside in America, too, but it’s different because in the UK you can wander into the scenic hills for an afternoon or take an hour bus ride through the green fields and end up in another city. In America, if you leave the suburbs behind, you might be in the middle of nowhere for the next eight hours. I love watching the lush fields, the grazing cows, the moody sky, and the grey mountains pass by when I take the train in England. I would love to live in a little town or a country home and still only be half an hour from civilization.
5) The fashion
I didn’t know or think about style really at all before studying abroad, and that’s because Minnesota doesn’t dress that fashionably (sorry, guys). We JUST got a Zara at the Mall of America—that’s how behind we are. Everything that’s on trend trickles down to us a few months later.
I also couldn’t afford to buy clothes anywhere other than the Target clearance racks in college, so I don’t know how my British classmates did it. They regularly wore fashionable outfits that looked nicer than something you could get at Primark.
When I was studying abroad, I looked around and suddenly all the clothes I had seen on Pinterest back home but had no idea where to buy (Etsy?) were being worn by real people. They were standard clothing from Zara or Topshop or H&M. Skirt with sequin fruit on it? High-waisted checkered pants? Crazy sweaters? Got it covered.
Now I shop on the UK versions of sites because the stuff on there is more unique and fashion-forward than what I usually find on the US sites. (It makes me feel like a spy because sometimes I have to change my location or delete “.com” and type “.co.uk.”)
6) The alcohol
It’s stronger in Europe, and you can get delicious fruity drinks at any random restaurant or bar.
Also, Rekorderlig cider.
7) Cadbury creme eggs
I seriously ate like three Cadbury eggs a day when I was living in Norwich. They were only around 40p, so a handful went into my basket every time I visited Tesco. I was there at the right time of year for them, January through Easter.
They are different from the Cadbury eggs you can buy in America because they don’t contain corn syrup, which makes the creme filling grainy and too sweet. British Cadbury eggs are heavenly, and I would go back to England just for them.
While we’re talking about food, I also miss apple blackcurrant juice (currants aren’t a thing here).
8) Warm winters
I know British people don’t think 30°F (0°C) all winter is warm, but trust me—when you’re used to -10°F (-23°C) weather, England’s climate is more than mild.
Getting snow in England is magical and delightful. In Minnesota, it is just a headache (especially when it continues into April).
And there is nothing more wonderful than going for a walk in late February and seeing that flowers are starting to bloom.
What do you love most about the UK?
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