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5 Oct 2009 / Julie

10 reasons i almost didn’t come home

from Sept 17 – Sept 25th i vacationed in the UK. I had an amazing time. so much so that i really didn’t want to come home. here’s why we wanted to abandon our mortgage and move to the UK:

0. they do weddings better
granted i’ve only experienced one but it was leisurely, relaxed, and wonderful. the bride and groom actually got to eat (a common complaint i hear at American weddings) and enjoy their guests. there was lunch at the pub pre ceremony, a wonderful SMALL ceremony, a relaxed cocktail hour, a wonderful dinner that was just dinner so guests could actually get to know and talk to the people at their table (and the bride and groom could nourish themselves and enjoy the food they paid for), THEN there were the toasts, first dance, and the music (during which there was also a buffet for the guests who arrived only for the evening festivities). kudos to doing weddings better. hands down.

oh, and the consumerism around weddings that turns me off of them so much was completely nonexistent. it wasn’t about being big and extravagant. it was about family, friends, and the couple. very refreshing. while everyone wants a perfect day, there were no bridezillas to be found here.

1. their phones and calling plans are better
sure, it might be the fact that i have Verizon over another carrier, but the phones in the UK we found to be smaller, better, cheaper, and with more features. while there i used Nokia 1661 with pay as you go. among the standard phone features that it did very well, it had an fm radio tuner that was incredibly simple and ridiculously clear. and my US phone can’t even figure out how to do ringtones well.

2. the food is better
England gets a bad food rep. everything we ate there was ah-mazing. not to mention the fact that i had to go out of my way to find High Fructose Corn Syrup in my foods versus going out of my way to find foods WITHOUT it in the US.

every supermarket and restaurant we ran into or ate at had free-range organic foods widely available (if not everything on their menu). the culture around food here is just so much better- fresh, local, and delicious. i dare you to go into a US grocery store and find a cranberry and brie sandwich for take away that’s not at a specialty (and expensive) store. not only was everything fresh and delicious, it wasn’t stuff you’d normally find here. culinary delights galore. you could really taste the difference. a few days into the trip, my stomach was loving me, wondering where all this wonderful food had been all it’s life. i was wondering that too.

since coming home i’ve taken an interest in growing things in the backyard, cooking better food, and trying to figure out the best place to buy the ingredients and items i can’t find here.

3. they understand packaging and love the environment
it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the UK does packaging better. recycled materials. recyclable materials, as little packaging as needed. take my sandwich package for instance- recycled/able cardboard and a small bit of plastic made of cellulose made to the exact size of the sandwich, which also happened to open out into an easily handled lunch.

it was clear that they’ve realized that this world isn’t a renewable resource and have already taken steps to operate better within it.

4. their public transportation systems are better
sure, our National Rail train from London to Darlington was delayed 2 hours because someone jumped in front of a train 3 ahead of ours. but the engineer was apologetic and continued to remind us of the “Delay Repay / Seat Guarantee Claim Form” where we could get full reimbursement of our ticket fare since the train was late. Even if US train companies had that form, they’d never remind you about it.

trains were fast, comfortable, had electric outlets at every seat and free, strong wifi. and they go everywhere. and the metro system, of course, was easy, convenient, cheap, and fast. I was very happy to not have to drive a car for over a week. no traffic, no vehicle maintenance. it was wonderful.

and then there’s the fact that everything is so close! you can walk, bike, or skip to where you’re going! much nicer and healthier.

5. everyone is so nice
people had a real sense of humanity. everyone was so polite. not so wrapped up in their own worlds that they are rude, impatient, and nasty to other people for no reason. not only was everyone friendly and helpful but the signage was amazingly polite. Instead of “NO CELL PHONES” you’d see “Please refrain from using your cell phone in this area.” or something like that. While long winded, it was nice, and still got the point.

i mean come on, Americans would never care if your pet “worried” the wildlife.

6. it’s where the history comes from
you don’t see anyone knocking down gorgeous historical buildings for a strip mall or car park. or restoring a building to the way it was “fiifty yeaars ago…” (said ala Eddie Izzard).  it makes for interesting communities, innovative solutions to problems (ie “lets do..” instead of “eh, knock it down and start over.”)

7. we were rockstars
here, when we say we’re librarian and archivist people’s eyes glaze over. I get “so you like books” or some crack about Dewey. He gets “a what? anarchist?” but in England, clearly our jobs are much cooler because i got “that’s so awesome” and he got “OMG that is REALLY awesome!” Again, i suppose when you live where the history comes from, there’s a lot more things of awesomeness to archive.

it’s so refreshing to get positive reactions to your occupation statements instead of glazed looks or bad jokes.

8. communities are tighter / no urban sprawl
physical communities were smaller- you could walk or bike or happily skip to wherever you were going. You didn’t have to be in a major city to enjoy the benefits of this like you do here. Villages were compact and had what you needed close. in between villages, cities and towns there was open green land for sheep and farming, which i suppose is where all those wonderful organic foods come from. There was very very little urban sprawl giving way to crappy strip malls to feed our overly high consumerism addition.

9. healthcare is free
’nuff said.

and if that wasn’t enough to stay,

10. we almost missed our flight
apparently i didn’t want to come home SO much, in classic Freudian slipness i read our arrival time as our departure time and planned our last day accordingly. luckily, we figured it out right as we had to be on our way to the airport. had we gone with my plan, we’d have been leaving for the airport about 10 mins after our flight took off. good job.

There were so many things that struck me there [not the least of which was the fact that the Scottish Parliament had technology in their debating chambers (meanwhile here politicians hold up signs made with construction paper and paste)] and it got me thinking about just how young the US is as a country. I definitely feel as if we’re currently in our angsty teenage years. How many times have i heard “Just because it works in Europe…” which sounds to me a lot like “no! i don’t wanna! just because you did it, Mom, doesn’t mean, i should.” Clearly we’re set on making our own mistakes even though millions of other people across the world have already figured out how NOT to do things. We should be taking cues from the folks who’ve already had the revolutions, wars, and failures and learning from them. But i suppose it’s hard to know what’s happened in the world and how to learn from it when our education system is as it is. How can we compete in the world when there are some children in our country being taught that dinosaurs and humans roamed the earth together? or that abstinence-only is a good idea?

I look forward to the day when America grows up and finally realizes, quite like i did after i survived the teenage years, that my parents suddenly got exponentially smarter on my 20th birthday. Suddenly it wasn’t all about being the best on our own mistakes (because clearly we’re invincible and know everything and can’t fail…) but rather about learning from others and not reinventing the wheel, but improving upon it while working with others to create a brighter future…

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