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”
For instance, you know you live in Britain when…
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
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
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.
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
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’.
Sure you can watch LSU football on ESPN America…5 days after the game was
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
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.
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.