Expat life, United Kingdom

British things I’ll never get used to

Today we will discuss my installation in England and what surprised me at first, and what still does sometimes. From shops to fashion or recycling… A small overview of my impressions, an article that will surely get a second opus.

  • Shops

Shops were the first thing I found weird. Open hours are quite difference from the ones in France, and even more in Spain, where they do close very late. In England, for a rather big city, stores close around 4.30-5 pm, except the unbeatable boutiques such as Primark, closing around 8 pm. But if you leave these exceptions on the side, the centre is dead. The only positive aspect is that most of shops are open on Sundays. For pubs and clubs, it’s the same thing, you go very early around 4 or 5pm for a bar, you eat around 6 and you come home from a party around 1 or 2 am.

Dublin, Octobre 2017
  •  La nourriture

It is a troublesome topic to me. I am not very difficult, I am very happy with English “gastronomy” (with potatoes everywhere). I am more than happy to see wonderful veggie and vegan alternatives in restaurants (with a V symbol) and a wide range of ingredients and world’s cuisine. I also have issues with some products. It is for instance, impossible to find pizza dough or pie dough as we do in France (the rolled ones you need to flatten). Here it is already prepared or flattened, or with the texture of a giant biscuit and I can’t get used to it. There is no in-between, either you cook all yourself, either you eat all prepared.

  • Fashion

I always loved British style, that I find very different from French fashion. There is a very classical and fancy, classy branch, that leads to certain poise; and a more punk rock branch, with piercings and alternative style. What impresses me is the English ability not to feel the cold: I wear several layers when boys wear a t-shirt and girls dresses without thighs. There is also a phenomenon almost exclusive to England, which is a charity shops. Of course we have Emmaus and second-hand shops, but not as much as England. You can offer a second life to any clothe, shop for cheap and do a good action: donate for children, against cancer etc.

Dublin, Octobre 2017
  • Recycling

I won’t urge myself to criticize the recycling system in England, even if it seems very different to me, to the French system: a purple bin that looks like our black bin for waste; a red one for paper and a blue one for cardboard, plastic and glass. There is also one for organic waste, that we can call “compost”. It seems very organized unfortunately you can get confused easily and everything is mixed.

  • Clichés

I will come back a bit on food but with a different manner, as I have some problems to accept so-called “French” products. Everything is French, it’s fashionable, fancy. Shop signs are written in French for no reason sometimes, and so called “baguettes” are just crappy flavoured bread without the taste, texture and charm of a real one.

I also get ask several strange; incongruous or daring questions, because French girls are “known” to be more “open” on some points…

Clichés go both side, and I was surprised on lots of aspects about our English neighbours. Usually, I have the impression that it is actually sunnier in the south of England, warmer, and there is less wind or rain here, listening to my friends in France. But we are at the beginning of winter.

Cliff of Moher, Novembre 2017

And you, have you ever lived abroad? Did you notice cultural differences when you moved, that you liked? Or not liked at all?

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