Wow, where do I even begin?! It has been a minute since I’ve updated the blog, and what better way to dip back into it than starting with a major life update: I accepted a new job in the UK (England) and have been here for one month officially! Let me walk you through some of the commonly asked questions I receive.
Where are you located?
I’m in Cheltenham, England within the UK. It’s perfectly located in my book, as it’s one hour from several great places, including Bath, Oxford, Cardiff & Birmingham. Some consider Cheltenham the “capital” of the Cotswolds. Can you believe it– I’m a 10-minute drive from the Cotswolds, which is a beautiful landscape of rolling hills & meadows.
What’s it like over there?
Cheltenham is the perfect mix of old and new. One minute you’re meandering through a colorful, old street, and the next you’re heading past newer shops. Everyone is extremely welcoming & helpful. I haven’t felt lonely or like I’m “on my own” yet.
The only “negative” is that every system seems to be on strike. Heathrow airport was just striking, as were the schools, as were the train lines, etc. Everyone jokes that I came at an interesting time because nothing “works” due to the strikes.
Did you find an apartment?
Yes! “Flats” as they are called here. After enough research, I learned to download the apps Zoopla or RightMove. From there, once an apartment is available, you reach out to the agent listing that place & schedule a viewing. I viewed a few places before I realized it was going to take forever finding a furnished flat in a decent location within my price range. Thankfully another coworker had an extra bedroom in her flat & is letting me crash with her until her lease is up! Fingers crossed I can officially take it over after that!
The States! Still happily married. He’s visiting next month.
Are you having the absolute BEST time of your life?
100% without a doubt this is where I’m meant to be at this very moment in life. It feels very surreal. It’s when life is better than your dreams, you know?
All About the Travel
What weekend trips have you taken?
It’s pretty minimal so far as I wasn’t able to book anything until my visa was approved. Have gone on a few excursions already:
- Margate/Canterbury/Cliffs of Dover/Leeds Castle.
- Mercedes-Benz World.
Where are you planning on going next?
Honestly it’s a LOT harder to zip around than everyone made it seem. The two closest airports to me (Birmingham & Bristol) have limited flight options, and then any flights out of London are farther to get to. Add in how expensive flights are getting. However, I’m very determined to get in a plane, train or car as often as possible. Am heading to Poland for Easter weekend with my cousin! My cousin is studying abroad in Paris & we’ll be meeting in Krakow to enjoy a few days together. It’s really special as our family is Polish!
Are you going to Stonehenge?
YES. Absolutely. I’m in shock because most of the people at work appear to have never been. That’s insane considering we’re a little over an hour drive to it.
How much did you pack?
I brought two large suitcases, one carry-on suitcase and a backpack. I’m not as worried as everyone else seems to be, ha! Remember- this was like the ACT of packing for me. I’ve been prepping for this moment through all my travels! I’m planning on filling one to two more suitcases when I’m home in May.
What did you have to purchase for living in the UK?
Not much, honestly. As of right now, it has been converters & a Mac converter. I’m so, so lucky that my roommates (hi, Hannah & Mike!) are letting me borrow a lot of things I would have had to otherwise buy, like a hair dryer that works with UK voltage. I brought a heating pad & blew a fuse… will have to be more careful about the electronics I’m using here.
Have you had Fish & Chips yet?
What’s the food like? Do you have a favorite food?
Unfortunately besides fish & chips and Victoria cake, I haven’t had many true British foods. I don’t have much to report. Should probably make a food bucket list to confirm I hit them all! Sorry, boring, I know. Have been prioritizing everything minus food. Time for that to change.
What’s the hardest adjustment you’ve had to make?
Driving on the other side of the car on the other side of the road.
Besides that, there haven’t been many, really. If you’re forcing me to pick something, I’d say the fact that the kitchen electronics use an “on/off” switch. I spent a good day thinking I couldn’t use the dishwasher & laundry machine because I couldn’t figure out how to turn them on. Oh, and I miss having a shower head. My shower only has a handshower.
What’s the most unexpected thing about the UK?
How nice people are where I live. The Internet gave me the impression that Brits are quiet and more reserved, even if that means that may come off unfriendly. I’ve found it to be quite the opposite but am told the reserved personalities may be hiding more central to London.
Also unexpected but minor– how small the fridges & freezers are! Most of the flats I toured offered US dorm size fridges.
And my personal favorite, which is how thoughtful they are with their tea and coffee runs. My coworkers ask LITERALLY EVERY HOUR if you want coffee/tea. And they don’t just ask one person. They ask anyone in their vicinity, taking orders like a Starbucks barista. Whoever asked is then tasked with making new coffees/teas for the said 6+ people who requested it. I’m still not over it.
What has been the biggest culture shock?
Most stores close by 6pm on weeknights, and they close at 4pm on Sundays. How do people get any errands done?!
Eggs aren’t refrigerated.
Which side of the sidewalk to use. Because we drive on the left over here, you’d think they’d follow that logic with sidewalks. Nope. They don’t have a specific side. Wherever you want is what works for everyone else. It is maddening navigating the grocery store aisles.
You can’t drink in football- aka soccer- stadiums, which is completely opposite from sporting events back home in Wisconsin.
No electric outlets are in bathrooms. It has been fun straightening my hair all over the house instead.
All the Celcius/military time conversions.
What’s the most frequent transportation you use on the daily?
It’s about 75% driving and 25% walking. Looking forward to sunnier summer days when I can walk more. Breaking news: it’s really rainy in England. I do take my first train ride tomorrow though!
And just because…
Learn any British phrases?
- “We’ll get it sorted” = “We’ll get it figured out.”
- “You alright?” or “You okay” = “How are you?”. I spent my first week at work wondering if everyone was truly worried about me when they were simply wondering how I was.
- “A weeks time” = “In one week.”
- “Half six” = “6:30.”
- “Beans in a row.” = “Ducks in a row.”
- “That’s a good shout.” = “Great idea.”
- They call the middle color in a stoplight “amber” instead of “yellow.”
What was something that made you smile recently?
In London’s subway, I was waiting for a train next to a dad and his daughter. The dad was asking such thoughtful questions about the dance practice the daughter just completed. She was explaining a new move she learned, the pas de bourrée. It’s such a simple movement, but the girl was so young, and you could tell she spent the entire class trying to get it right. I let the girl know she had the most beautiful pas de bourrée I had ever seen. The girl lit up like she had just met a celebrity and looked at her dad, like, ‘Did that lady just notice me like that?!”. The dad winked at me and mouthed “thank you” in a way that made my entire day.
More importantly, when my coworker bought me an entire Marks & Spencer Colin the Caterpillar Cake to enjoy on my own. I’ve been raving about this cake since the moment I stepped foot on UK soil as it’s only available here. (Alex, if you’re reading this, consider yourself on my list of “favorites” moving forward.)