Caveman and I met in a Starbucks in England. I was shy, green apron clad behind the counter. He was loud American in a red North Face jacket waiting in the clamoring line trailing out the door. We spent the budding three years of our relationship in Harrogate, arguably the most beautiful town in the northern part of the country. We met a lot of amazing people, learned to understand the Yorkshire clip, enjoyed the serious goodness of authentic fish and chips, rode the train a lot, and took advantage of cheap airfare to other parts of the globe. It’s been nine years since we returned stateside (I can’t believe it!), but that season of immersion in the UK left a tattoo of living smaller on our souls. So today I’ll share a tribute to England; keep reading for what we miss about living there.
I don’t think it’s a cop-out to say first of all that we miss the friends we made in England. After all, social interactions comprise much of a person’s opinion of a new place. Quality friendships can make the difference between ‘I love this place!” and “Can I go home now?”
After all, social interactions comprise much of a person’s opinion of a new place.
One of our favorite memories includes one snowy New Year’s Eve, several good friends and a bottle of champagne in a park near our home. It doesn’t snow often in the UK, so we celebrated by grabbing Caveman’s brand new cookie sheets and using them as sleds (or sledges) down a small hill.
We found the English to be genuine, caring, fun-loving people and attentive hosts. We loved their classic dry humor and timeless appreciation for proper. So here’s my shout-out to each and every one of you who made that season such a glowing memory. Thank you for befriending us and continuing to enrich our lives! (Here’s something fun: if we met in England, leave a comment below as an international high five. 🙂
It didn’t take us long to appreciate the UK’s “pub culture.” Colorado mountains can be quite isolating. While that may be a reason why people move here, we loved the pace change of frequent gathering in a public place simply to enjoy friends’ company. We laughed, enjoyed each others’ stories, drank and played a lot of billiards.
Of course, the collective nature of pub culture doesn’t have to take place in a predictable low lit bar. We loved the way everyone congregated on the strays (city parks) to soak up the rays when the sun shone bright. We gathered in backyards. My friends and I would drink cup after cup after cup of tea as an excuse to chat and linger.
Eating out at restaurants is another difference in social climate. Europe, in general, values the experience of enjoying a meal with friends without being rushed. Dinners out are appreciated. People dress up. People order both wine and dessert. People remain for hours and must ask for the check instead of the black envelope materializing on the table 45 minutes after arriving. (By the way, I am aware that the elasticity of European dining isn’t necessarily definitive of English pub culture, but it is something we miss about Europe overall, so this was the best place to mention it.) 😉
Location & Public Transit
One of the greatest advantages of living in England was the location. The UK is a super spring board to Europe and many other wonderful places around the globe. On weekends my family and I explored England’s treasures—crumbling abbey ruins, picturesque villages, yawning cathedrals. Longer trips allowed us to experience much of the larger continent and more exotic countries. Once Caveman and I found £1 flights via a discount airline to Rome and spent a week studying literature in the ancient city, which was pretty much all kinds of awesome.
The UK’s public transit system made it really easy to travel. I know that many US cities have well-establish public transit, but Colorado’s small towns are not included in that club. Our idea of great public transportation is carpooling to the slopes in a friend’s Suburban. So maybe we were just really easy to please, but my family was impressed. I took the train to college every day and the bus when I missed the train. In London, the tube is just plain the most efficient way to travel. For the most part, we found mass transportation punctual, easy to use and generally safe as long as you kept your head about you.
I must add that the oldest and most reliable form of public transit was also our favorite mode of travel in Harrogate: good ‘ol walking. We lived close enough to walk to the town centre, church, and even the local ASDA store.
The hours we spent plodding damp streets blessed us in more ways than one. They gave us time to think and process. They helped to keep us slim and healthy. They forced life to slow down just a little bit, and I know we soaked up precious memories as we slowly passed familiar sights on our daily walks.
Well there you go, the three things we miss most about living in England. (I’m really sorry that got so long. I can’t seem to write shorter posts!)
Have you visited or lived in England? What do you love about the country? Comment below and share with us! 🙂