Wednesday, November 21, 2012

This is Britain.

About a month after moving to Aberdeen, I was bragging away to my Mom about how great Scotland was and how the 4 of us were loving life on the other side of the pond. Her response was “It sounds like you’re in the honeymoon phase. I hope it lasts for a long time”.

I shrugged my shoulders and thought to myself, ‘Honeymoon phase? Nah. Life here is fantastic. It will never get old.'. Flashforward 6 months later, and though I am still pleased as punch with our lives in Aberdeen, I’m starting to see some of the cracks in the UK's outer shell.

Say what you want about the US, but America is nothing if not intuitive, convenient, and efficient. These three things are not as highly valued here in the Kingdom by the Sea and sometimes its drives me bat-poop crazy.
Ever seen Blood Diamond? If you haven’t, please go watch it immediately.  Seriously. Anyway, in the movie Leonardo DiCaprio’s character has a saying, ‘T.I.A.’ which stands for ‘This is Africa’. While my parents lived in Nigeria, they had a similar motto of “We are here” that they would say whenever something so bizarre would happen that they just had to laugh. Now, the UK is in no way as culturally shocking at the Dark Continent, but sometimes Jonathan and I have a chuckle over  our own ”We are here” and “This is Britain” moments.

For instance, you know you live in Britain when…
1)Your mail understandably gets delivered to wrong house, since all of the neighborhood streets begin with the same word.
2) You can buy over the counter codeine with no questions asked, yet if you want to buy some hydrogen peroxide this will involve an interview by a suspicious pharmacist about how much you need, what percentage of solution (?), and what you are going to use it for. I actually had to show the pharmacist the cut on my nose that I was trying to clean. Only then did he give me a bottle of the stuff, the amount of which was about enough for one ear cleaning. Never has first aid been more inconvenient.
3)This is a speed limit sign.
It means ‘national  speed limit’ for whichever type of road you are on, which varies according to dual carriageways (interstate), country roads, city highways, etc. Which is all well and good if you plan on memorizing the textbook sized pamphlet on British road signs. (Don’t believe me? Here is the 140 page PDF file with all the road signs.) Otherwise, you’ll spend your first 4 weeks of driving in the UK wondering what the heck this road sign is prohibiting. Seriously, is this symbol easier to print on a sign than 50/60/70 mph?
See what I mean by not very intuitive? (Okay, so I did some research and apparently most of these signs were put up before 1965, when they basically meant ‘no speed limit’. When a ‘National Speed Limit’ was put into place, it was cheaper to reassign the meaning of the symbol than to replace the signs with ones indicating the actual speed limit. That makes sense…sorta.)

4) The government is classified as a constitutional monarchy but yet has no constitution. This is the kinda stuff I’m talking about…

5) You pay for parking at a public park.
6) The guy who comes to fix your broken doorbell thinks you aren’t home, and leaves without repairing it, because you aren’t responding when he rings the doorbell. True story.

7) A broken doorbell takes 6 months (and counting) to fix.

8) If you aren’t home (or your doorbell isn’t working) when Royal Mail delivers a package, they will not leave it on your front stoop. Instead they will bring it to a post office across town (despite the fact that there is a post office in your neighborhood) and you will be given a 2 hour time slot in which you can retrieve it. Good thing Jonathan has a housewife who can go pick up his Amazon purchases. Never has online shopping been more inconvenient.

9) You can buy 49 varieties of baked beans at the grocery store, but don’t expect to find a single brand of Pinto or Black beans.
10) You are served baked beans for breakfast.

11) If you want to make a doctor’s appointment with a specialist, you must first go to your NHS GP who will refer you to another doctor. But instead of just calling up the specialist at this point to schedule an appointment, you must wait for them to send you a random appointment time in the post. And this initial appointment is really just a quick consultation in which the specialist will decide if you need another appointment. If so, they’ll send you your appointment time in the post…instead of scheduling it while you’re in the office…with your calendar...and theirs. Never has meeting with a dermatologist been more inconvenient. But hey, at least it’s ‘free’.

12)  You show up at your NHS GP office violently ill with a stomach virus of biblical proportions hoping to get some medicine to ease your nausea. Instead, the nurse hands you an 8 pack of Tylenol. Never has puking your guts up been more inconvenient. But hey, at least health care is ‘free’.

13) You pay a 50 % income tax rate. But hey, at least health care is ‘free’. 

14) Sure you can watch LSU football on ESPN America…5 days after the game was played.

15) You might not be able to find breadcrumbs, but if you need coozies to keep your tea kettle warm, Britain has you covered.

16) When you get on the scale, you weigh half as much, yet you went up 2 sizes.

17) You travel to 3 grocery stores to gather all the ingredients for one recipe.

18) You hope and pray that the toilet doesn’t break since the mechanics are inaccessibly located inside the wall.
19) You can’t blow dry your hair in the bathroom because there are no electrical outlets. I spent our first 4 months in Scotland doing my hair and makeup while sitting in front of a full length mirror on the floor, until I finally got fed up and splurged on this vanity set.
Because we really have room for more furniture...

20) When you go to a friend’s house for the first time, and you aren’t impressed with the of the number of bedrooms, the great location, or the quality of their floors; instead you exclaim to your husband “Did you see the size of that closet!! So unfair!”

21) You live in a house with no closets, attic, garage, or basement. Seriously, where do Scottish people put their Christmas decorations for the other 11 months of the year?  

22) You have about 14 Starbucksi and 4 McDonaldses in your town and yet, none of them have a drive thru. Never has having a hangover been more inconvenient.

23) Want to grab a evening coffee with some girl friends? You can’t since all the coffee shops close by 6. Seriously, how do the students in this college town pull all-nighters without late night coffee houses?

24) You have doors leading into every room, including the living room. Doors which are too small to fit a couch through, I might add. So you’re forced to order a loveseat small enough to fit through the door frame, which then takes 11 weeks to be delivered.

I could go on and on and I’m sure I will as the need to vent overcomes me from time to time. Yes,  I am beginning to see some of the flaws of this beloved country, but I don’t forget for a second how blessed I am to have this opportunity. Because as much as I have those culture shock moments, I still have those honeymoon experiences as well. This is Britain.
We are here.


  1. 25.) The sun makes its appearance at 2:30pm, one hour before sunset, which is more than every other day that week.

    26.) Instead of words, unrecognizable symbols are used on major appliances - dishwasher, washing machine, dryer.

    27.) Pedestrians do NOT have the right of way.

  2. It's funny that you complained about the black beans, because I just posted in my blog last night that I finally found them at Sainsbury's! They are in a box, not a can. HAHA. They didn't have crescent rolls in a can though. Know where I can find those?

    1. Very true, they do have black beans in a box at Sainsburys. But one time when I went, they were out of stock, so now I've started hoarding and buying 10 boxes at a time when I see them in stock:) Haven't seen crescent rolls, but I have seen pastry dough at Sainbury's that you could probably use as a substitute.Let me know if you find them or find a decent substitute because I could use them as well!

    2. So what you're saying is.. I should have grabbed WAY more than 2 boxes?! :o)

    3. :) Don't worry; I have 20 boxes in my pantry at any given time if you ever need to borrow some.

  3. Love hearing about all these strange nuances. And I thought healthcare in California was frustrating!!!

  4. Well written post:) I can't believe your door bell still isn't fixed!!!! I'm afraid I'm back in the honeymoon phase as our move date approaches:(