Friday, January 13, 2006

Common or Beyond

Who would have ever thought I'd end up living in the UK? As a kid, my visions of England included kings... Henry, George and *grin* Arthur. Medieval and literative roots poking through the canvas of daily life. The Beatles, right hand drive cars and people drinking tea with their pinkies sticking out.

At the age of ten, my teacher Elsbeth Lundstrom showed us wonderful slides of her visit to England. I saw Big Ben and Stonehenge and many pictures of her smiling away in front of the moss-covered stones of tumbled down walls. In our class play that year, I was picked for the role of Mary Poppins for the (OMG BLUSHING) 'english accent' I'd somehow managed to acquire. Still can't believe I did that in front of a crowded theater! Lynne would laugh her ass off if she could have seen that...

We watched a lot of documentaries in my home. Dad had a standing subscription to National Geographic.. along with the requisite stacks of back issues you can't bear to throw away. ( Our's were stored in the cupboards above the closet in the room my sis and I shared. I could get up there by climbing from the top of Kelly's frige in her kitchen set and remember many quiet hours squirreled away there with my flashlight... no, not in the frige, in the cupboard!)

Like most other Americans, I wanted to visit England. I figured it would be some whirlwind trip, maybe two weeks scooting about, trying to see all the 'sights'. I'll still get to them, but will have more time to thoroughly feel the place when we do. It's rather a delightful prospect, wouldn't you say?

In the meantime, I'm getting a very in-depth experience of regular life in the UK. Liverpudlians have a reputation for being a rough lot. And sure, among the teenage and young twenties set, people sometimes feel harsh.. but isn't that a general condition for that age anywhere you look? Really, people here are lovely. Families seem more important here, people check in and look after eachother more regularly. (Course, the country's small, they can't really get as far flung as we do without immigrating, LOL) Even from the comparison of my loving background, the people here hug more often. They also have that charming habit of kissing on the cheek.

I'm going to give you a run through of differences in our house alone. I realize differences come from perspectives, so this is coming from a gal who lived all her life in the western US.
* No screen doors, no windowscreens. Weird
* Our shower has its very own little boiler, separate to the hot water tank. Some kitchens do as well.
* Mixer taps are only a recent upgrade. Most sinks and bathtubs still have individual spouts for hot and cold water.
*No electricity outlets in the bathroom, except for ones specifically fit for a shaver. I HATE this one
* Light switches work opposite ours
* Rooms generally smaller
*Fewer electricity outlets in each room, as the sockets themselves usually only have one plug space. They also have on/off switches ON each outlet.
* Small appliances all have their own fuse built right into their plugs
* Closets aren't built in, you have a wardrobe instead
* Heating systems.. probably very different anywhere you look.. we have these things called Economy Seven heaters, essentially a coiled heating element sandwiched between huge cement bricks. You set the level of heat you want and it fires up in the middle of the night, when the electricity is cheapest. The bricks hold the heat and you can then adjust the vent to make it release as much as you need. ( The girl from the land of central heat and air says... okayyyyyy)
* The water heater only charges at night as well, though we do have a 'boost' button to reheat if we need more.
* The postman only delivers, doesn't pick up. You have to drop in a mailbox or at the post office.
* When I first got here, there were two mail deliveries a day. The second one was second class mail.
* All lightbulbs do NOT just screw in. They have something called 'bayonette' plugs. Two posts go into slots, then twist.
* Teaspoons here are bitty! Like four inches long, used for TEA, LOL... I brought my own set of silverware so I could have 'regular' cereal spoons and not have to try cramming that giant tablespoon into my mouth. They do it with ease, I would be laughable and feel infantile!!
* Most kitchens have an electric kettle for tea and instant coffee. Many fewer kitchens have an automatic coffeepot or an electric can opener. Lynne still boggles over this when she visits the states.
* A stovetop is called a hob
* A broom is a brush and you 'brush up', not sweep
* Most kitchen sinks only have one basin and a small washtub sits inside it. We remodled and have a dual basin, though the second one is smaller. After washing up, most people don't rinse. We do.. I can't not, you know?
* Dishwashers aren't common. Clothes washer and dryers are typically both fit into the kitchen though.
* TV here took a while to get used to. First of all, you pay a yearly tax just to operate the tv. One of the stations, BBC, I think, is publicly sponsored by this tax, will have to check with with Lynne for clarification though. A few stations will replay their current episodes later in the week, to give you a choice of when you watch and the ability to catch lost episodes. Advertising schedules generally allow one big bracket of ads halfway through a half hour show. An hour long show gets an ad break at twenty and then forty past. American broadcasting shown on this schedule looks funny, so many instances of reminding you where they left off before the break.. which didn't occur here. The american schedule of ads every five minutes is even more incredibly annoying to me now.

Okay, there's certainly more to tell about outside the home but I've been sitting at this long enough. It's hard to work with generalities and stay aware of perspective differences. Above all, I don't want you to think this is meant as a negative in any way. Things CAN be frustrating, but most of all they're fascinating. I like the differences of life outside the box.

Oh and before I go, sorry about my snarling earlier. The purge and your kind words have made me feel better.. but I sincerely hope I didn't splash your shoes. LoL ~~


loubie said...

"I brought my own set of silverware so I could have 'regular' cereal spoons and not have to try cramming that giant tablespoon into my mouth. They do it with ease," trying to say we all have big mouths??? (or should that be gobs?!)

"An hour long show gets an ad break at twenty and then forty past." Or as we Brits would say...twenty past and twenty to ;)

What a hoot baby...your eye for observational detail is most impressive *smooch*

~ nellenelle said...

Mary Poppins? Didja fly? And no one filmed this? Hmmmmm... did Lynne play Annie Oakley in a play by any chance?

Great post... thank you for sharing the differences you have experienced!

Smart thinking, bringing yer silverware!

Trop said...

I read this entry earlier and it kept coming to mind while watching Ladies in Lavender this weekend.

Anonymous said...

my question is....when you cross the street, have you started looking to the right first? then left then quick right?

Kim said...

yes, I have, ttt! It's a matter of survival around here, with all the tiny cars madly scooting about!