Welcome to Life in the UK

So you are making the big journey across the seas to the UK.  Be it moving or just spending some time exploring you need to ensure you get involved in the British way of life. Get chatting to some locals, watch British tv, go to places off the tourist trails, learn the lingo and try out some of the British cuisine. If you are staying in London,  do make sure you get out and see some other areas. Go rural, get to the coast and just don’t stay in Shepherds Bush with all the other Aussies. The UK has a brilliant culture and heritage and the best way to experience this is just throwing yourself in head first.

As it’s a funny old place and I’ve put together a few pointers for you to get you prepared for your time in the United Kingdom. Things I wish I had known before I moved to the UK include – 

They drink. A lot! Aussies often get a reputation for being big drinkers and to some degree, we probably are however the Brits seem to do just do it more often. There is always a reason to go to the pub. The weather, new baby, new job, lost job, a new partner, break up, celebrations and commiserations. There is a huge pub culture in the UK and you know what they do pubs really well. There are cute ones, quaint one, historic ones, real ale ones, cider ones, gastro ones that serve insanely good food and trendy ones. If you ever find yourself in a village there will always be a pub welcoming you with open arms. I live in a small village and we have 6!! Another thing I always find weird but is considered perfectly normal is when two people go to the pub for a pint of coke. If you’re not having an alcoholic beverage I just don’t get it. That just wouldn’t happen in Aus.  I also for ages couldn’t work out when someone asked for a ‘half of larger’ what the half of the drink would entail. A ‘half’ however is a glass size. #muppet

Although we both speak English there is still a language barrier.  A couple of my favourites that have caused a few giggles are the following

Muffler= exhaust

Whippersnipper = strimmer

Zuchini= courgette

Capsicum = Pepper

Lollies- sweets  (lollies in England is an ice lolly or lollipop)

Band aid- plaster

Doona- duvet

Singlet top- vest

Overalls- dungarees

Rather than just having towns and cities in the UK they have cities, towns, villages and hamlets. Towns are considered a town if it has a town hall and city is a city if it has a cathedral. A village can be bigger than a town but if it doesn’t have a town hall then it’s still a village and a hamlet is just a really small village. The mind boggles.

Soaps are huge over here- Emmerdale, EastEnders, Coronation Street and Hollyoaks. I’ve dabbled in a few but have stuck with Emmerdale. What can I say I’m a country girl. They have their own national comedy duo Ant and Dec which are kinda like the UK version of Hamish and Andy. Although Hamish and Andy are funnier. And younger.  Piers Morgan in the morning is no comparison to Koshy or Karl. There are far too many reality shows- Love Island, Made in Chelsea and The Only Way is Essex you really don’t need to watch them but be warned they will be all over the magazines and newspapers and the locals will be obsessed with them.

There are SO many old buildings. Which is great as there really isn’t that many in Australia so getting to explore them is pretty awesome. The National Trust and English Heritage have memberships and there is always several properties within a few hours of each other. It’s a great way to learn more about the history of an area.

You can tell where someone is from the moment they open their mouth. Coming from Australia where it’s such a vast country you couldn’t tell if someone was from Sydney or the back of Bourke but in England, two people that live an hour away from each other could have a different accent. I still don’t understand how it works. My personal fav is a Somerset or Yorkshire accent.

In England driving more than 2.5 hours to a destination requires an overnight stop. There is no way people would drive 2 to 3 hours somewhere to then return that same day. Considering Australia is several times bigger than England driving long distances is in our blood. The roads in the UK are also really narrow. In many places especially the country there will be some parts of the road that have ‘passing places’. If you plan to drive do make sure you’ve read up on the road rules

Barefoot is perfectly normal down under. England not so much. They also think you’re weird if you wear flip flops all year round.

The weather is always a good conversation starter. If I’m lost for something to say I will ALWAYS bring up the weather. Even if you’ve not checked the weather bring up rain and it will usually cover it.

A cup of tea will fix anything. No matter what time of the day or night. Brits love their tea and to be fair there is nothing better a cup of English Breakfast. What you do need to do though is read up on the colours and strength of teas. Builders brew is a common term for a cuppa and this basically means a dash of milk. If you are making a cuppa for someone always ask what strength they want their tea.

‘Alright’ is considered a greeting. My dad will alway answer it like a question which he thinks is funny every single time. If someone says ‘Alright’ to you just reply ‘yeah, alright?’

There is still a class system. Not everywhere and not everyone cares but it’s there. Your postcode, up bringing, social status all come into play at one time or another. Just ignore it.

Bank holidays are just public holidays.

Fridges are half the size of Australian fridges and often houses will have the washing machine in the kitchen. Yes, the kitchen!

Their postcodes are completely different to Aussie ones. A postcode here can pin point your exact street and then you just have to pick the house number. It’s really good for sat navs and finding your way around.

Vegemite will always be better than marmite. Penguins don’t compare to Tim tams and Nik Naks have nothing on twisties. Try them all but you’ll soon understand. 

And finally for the love of God whoever you speak to do not call your thongs, thongs. They are flip flops and you will get some seriously weird looks.

I’m sure I have missed many other tips but this should be enough to get you on the right track. If you have any pointers I’ve missed do put them in the comments below with your blog link and I’ll update this post with your suggestions.

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46 thoughts on “Welcome to Life in the UK”

  1. This makes me miss England! When I lived in the U.K. , I never knew how to answer ‘alright’, so confusing!

  2. Haha. I love this! Yes we do drink a lot (I’m feeling it this morning). I really realise this whenever I go abroad! And yes tea is magic. It really does fix everything.

  3. From someone who is English and has lived in England all her life, this is hilarious!!!! You actually have it spot on. I lived in Northamptonshire, then Norfolk, and now near Newcastle, which is where Ant and Dec are from ~ the Geordie accent is the best of the lot. It’s called ‘Geordie’ because in the border wars of hundreds of years ago, between Scotland and England, the people of this side fought for King George.

    One thing you may not have noticed (!!) is that UK isn’t one country, it’s four. We aren’t just British, we’re English, Scottish, Irish or Welsh; it would be like referring to the Swedish, Norwegians, Danish and Finnish as just ‘Scandinavian’. Many of (older ones in partic!) don’t say our nationality is British at all, but that of the country we’re from. And the Scottish hate the English, btw 😉

    Love this post!

  4. As a Brit – this is absolutely spot on! Although I hate reality shows… 🙂 And can we borrow the word “whippersnipper” please? It’s so much better than “strimmer”!!

  5. Loved this post, often wondered about the things!!! I still like my cuppa and it sure does fix a lot of stuff.

  6. Great tips. I’ve been to London and definitely loved the pubs. And the old buildings. I do have my washing machine in the kitchen and it is so convenient! It is in a closet, though, so not that noticeable. LOL.

  7. Ha ha, this is absolutely brilliant! You’ve summed up us Brits and our quirky little island perfectly. I’ve just spend two weeks in America and had such fun talking about the language barrier – they couldn’t get their head around ice lollies but then I couldn’t understand their traffic lights!

  8. Towns can be towns without town halls – and cities can be cities without cathedrals. It depends whether they’ve been granted town or city status.

    Also, in Wales (an excellent part of the UK – you should visit,) we can have different accents from one town to another. Literally 5 or 10 minutes drive away could be a different accent. 🙂 I think it’s to make up for the fact we only have just over 3 million people here – everything has to be concentrated down! Lol.

  9. This was wonderful! As an American, reading about an Aussie in the UK opened so many doors in my mind. I got a deeper glimpse into both cultures from a unique perspective. The differences in perceptions on car trips in particular. I’d say Americans take a lot of car trips. I personally don’t like to drive more than two hours if I’m not staying overnight, but I’m curious how other American readers of your blog feel about that. Thanks for the insight–I thoroughly enjoyed it!

  10. This is spot on Mel! Although you clearly haven’t heard the beautiful Birmingham accent yet if that’s not top of your list 😂

  11. One of my friends told me while she was in Japan, it took her a while to find a good English pub, for when she was feeling homesick. In the end, when she found one, there was an Aussie an aussie behind the bar. She thought that was perfect! 😀

    I am currently finding out lots of the same things, in reverse! Fridges are huuuge in Canada. And it is really strange not being able to drink outside…plus it seems normal for people to drive somewhere and back even if it is over 3 hours! It’s really funny reading your confusion the other way around!!

  12. “Vegemite will always be better than marmite. Penguins don’t compare to Tim tams and Nik Naks have nothing on twisties. Try them all but you’ll soon understand.” – hahah yes! They’ll never truly understand.

    Plus, trousers = pants. Pants = underwear. I’ve been caught out on that one a few times.

  13. Love this as a British expat it made me miss home… I agree vegemite is definitely better but so are penguins. I had no idea what a doona was, but never imaged it was a duvet! I never watch soaps or reality TV walk around barefoot around the house/garden and live in flip flops 🙂 This was so spot on I’m from Cornwall and my husband is from Yorkshire, how you pronounce scone and bath says a lot about where you live, ooh and the north south divide!

  14. Haha, as a Brit I loved reading this – we are so strange really! Totally agree that Tim Tams are way better than Penguins!! I missed Britsh pub culture so much when I lived in New Zealand as it didn’t compare to back home. Our weather is too shit for flip-flops all year round!!

  15. Haha I loved this! I used to live in the UK so there were a lot of moments reading this when I was like, ” Oh yeah, I forgot about that” and “Wow, that’s pretty funny actually” haha. The weather one was spot on!

  16. What a great post! I can totally relate to all these funny & weird things. I still think that it does not make any sense having the washing maschine in the kitchen, why in the kitchen?! We have it in the laundry room/bathroom (Finland). Another shocker for me was the miserable, grey and wet weather all year round. And the fact that houses are very poorly built and ridiculously expensive heating costs.

  17. Hehe, love this one! It was a funny read since I like the UK as well. 🙂 It’s making me sad that the houses and the apartments has suuuuuch huge prices there :/

  18. This was so interesting! I’m a Canadian living in Australia, so it’s kinda funny to see how the commonwealth countries are all different from each other, yet have certain little things that meld them together 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  19. Melanie, I really enjoyed reading this. I was last in London back in 1992. I’d gone over to Europe fully expecting to work in the UK but ended up living in Heidelberg, Germany instead.Back then, Earl’s Court was where the Aussies used to congregate and there were Australian enclaves. Aussies meeting up with friends from home, and not venturing too far afield. Communication back then isn’t what it is now. No internet, email, scipe. Phone calls cost the earth and there was mail…”snail mai”l hadn’t been invented yet.
    I’m in the process of retracing my steps through London on a new blog I’ve just started. During the research, I restumbled upon a letter in a book: “My Trip to England. I’m following it up with Geoff Le Pard. Here’s a link: https://wordpress.com/view/couchwanderings.wordpress.com
    Thought you’d find it interesting.
    xx Rowena

  20. Ant & Dec? Piers bloody Morgan!? The soaps!!? Great post apart from the t.v. bit, what were you thinking of? Didn’t you think to throw the remote through the screen? 🙄 With stuff like that on the box why do you think we spend so much time in the pub? By the way I’m a Yam Yam and the answer to the ‘you alright?’ question is ‘Ar, am yow?’ Get your Brummie friends to explain that one before we finish building the wall to keep them off our end. 😀

  21. I don’t know if it is true for your other half but certainly I remember a whippersnapper being a colloquial term for a small child when I was growing up. So the idea of using one to attack the weedier parts of the garden actually works in either hemisphere, just ours involves offering it sweets to make it work, not petrol or electric.

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