It’s approaching my 6 months anniversary of being a resident here in the UK. Doesn’t time fly when you are having fun?
Remember how I was both excited about and dreading the move to London? A couple of months ago, a friend asked me how I was and what I liked and disliked about the UK, and whether anything surprised me. As you would expect, the society here is quite similar to that of Australia, after all, the Australian modern culture did originally come from England (note that I said modern culture, not traditional culture!) and therefore there really isn’t a whole lot of culture shock involved.
However, there are still things that did surprise me (both good and bad).
Surprise #1: The Lower Wages
I got a pay cut when I came to work here, and it was confirmed with other expats from Australia that the wage really is slightly lower. It didn’t really matter all that much because besides rent, living costs are actually a little cheaper. However considering the amount of global economy that exist in London it did surprise me that the national average wage here is so much lower than that of Australia, and a lot of the people here don’t earn even half of the Australian average.
That includes the hourly average for shift workers. Even in London.
I suppose one city can’t up hold the wage average for the entire country.
Surprise #2: The Bureaucracy
You thought you knew bureaucracy until you hit this place. From opening a bank account to dealing with health insurance claims, there’s a lot more layers of processes than we had back in Australia, many of which doesn’t seem to make sense either.
And 70% of processes that we take for granted in Australia, can’t be done online.
You’d think that a modern society in today’s age would at least have a lot more online enabled processes?
“It’s about giving someone a job” said a colleague of mine, and it certainly seems to be so. Why do I need to make an appointment with someone whose only job is to make an appointment for me with the actual person I need to complete a process?
Don’t know, but I hope I least have increased the employment statistics by allowing the multiple phone calls to happen.
Surprise #3: The Sun
I was convinced that by entering the UK at the beginning of winter, I’d be met with three months worth of grey skies, with daily horizontal rain that drizzles like there is no tomorrow, and be bound indoors and eventually grow mold from the damp around my armpits.
But it didn’t happen. The sun made more than several appearances in the past three months that I began to think that everyone was lying to me, until the news confirmed the other day that it has been the most sunniest winters in 90 years!
No, it isn’t like the sun we get in Australia, nor is it warm enough to heat up a chilly day, but it’s still the sun and it was making appearances!
Well, lucky me. Now that we are in spring may the sun continue to shine and my days be filled with light!
Surprise #4: Good Availability of Fresh Produce
By the way the British act when they move to Australia, I thought I’d be starved of fresh fruit and vegetables here in Britain. The fact is that fresh product are readily available and at good prices really surprised me.
Sure, there may not be the same varieties of mangoes and vegetables on the shelves, after all, we are talking different geographical locations with different products, but it means I get to try different things!
I am also loving seasonal eating, where different produce will start to appear and disappear throughout the year, making me a lot more appreciative of having the four seasons as a guideline to good eating.
Surprise #5: Good Food Exist in Britain!
About British food, an ex-French president once said: “You cannot trust people who have such bad cuisine. It is the country with the worst food after Finland.”
It is common knowledge that British cuisine is no cuisine at all, even if it’s allowed to be called food.
Well, that was in the one meat and four veg days (and no, you cannot use the war rations as an excuse. The Germans, the French and the Italians were in the war too, and their cuisines never faltered!) and it has surprised me how far this nation has come when it comes to food.
Perhaps it is due to the quality of fresh produce (See surprise #4) now available, the different cuisines being brough over from the country’s immigrants and the rise of food related celebrities and shows, or the fact that the British has finally learnt the art of the taste, not just to eat.
Of course, you can go to Jamie Oliver’s restaurants for good hearty Italian meals, but there are also plenty of entrepreneurs opening quality cafes, restaurants and eateries exploring the possibilities of old and new recipes.
So, in general, good food = happy Amy!
Has anything ever surprised you when you have lived in other places?