Here’s what day-to-day life is like in England.
The days are very short. Sunrise is about 8:00 and sunset is around 16:00. Most of the time it is cloudy. It rains. Everything is damp. As for winter, there is none. The weather is still similar to the beginning of October. There is frost at night. Most of the trees still have their leaves. I might have to cut my lawn before the Christmas holidays. I’m having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit without the cold and snow.
On the plus side, I can ride my bike most days. I haven’t had to wear any winter clothes yet nor have I had to shovel the driveway.
I didn’t realize what important “triggers” I used to predict the seasons. Geese and ducks. Flocks of them in typical V formation flying south. They don’t have that here. I miss that.
We bought a small car, a Toyota Versa, when we arrived. They don’t even have this model in North America. It is quite low to the ground and I don’t think it would get through the snow in Canadian winters. It is fuel-efficient and gets about 5L/100km in the city (46 miles per US gallon). Gas (petrol) costs about £1.30/litre which works out to about $2.10 CDN/L or about $8.00USD/gallon. Because the weather is so nice here, we ride our bikes almost all the time. It’s a pain to find parking (and expensive) and there is limited traffic on bicycles compared to cars. Also, because we have a left-hand drive car, I’m pretty much useless at trying to parallel park in these tiny car park spaces.
Most British military families send their children to boarding school as soon as they get to the Jr. High level. This allows them to have a consistent education as well as minimize stress in changing schools with every military move. Consequently our children are the only teens in our neighbourhood. This is a benefit because they are also the only babysitters in the neighbourhood and they are both booked almost every weekend!
Everybody has a cell phone or as they call them here, mobile phone. Why? Because phone plans are dirt-cheap compared to Canada. With an unlocked phone you can get a pay-as-you-go plan from £15/month (about $25CDN). That includes 3000 texts, 300 talk minutes and UNLIMITED data – yes UNLIMITED!
I get text messages from courier companies telling me the delivery time for my parcels, I get text messages from the school to remind me to support my children in an upcoming test or project. Many businesses are on Facebook and Twitter. Actually even the UK military housing agency has a Twitter account.
Most payments are direct debit, credit card or cash. Cheques will be phased out in Britain in 2018. Our bank (HSBC) didn’t even offer us cheques with our account because they are so seldom used. Most billing is electronic even at “in-person” stores. You can opt to have the receipt for payment sent directly to your email account.
The sales tax, called the VAT (value added tax) is 20%. As foreign military, we are allowed to claim back a portion of the VAT we paid on certain goods so we need to save all of our receipts and prepare a report every quarter.
I order my groceries online and they come directly to my house. It is wonderful. The store has nutritional details about each product on the website so I can make informed choices. The personal shoppers do a good job of picking top quality produce and I haven’t had any problems with rotting veggies showing up at the door.
If products I purchased are not available, they will substitute similar products and I will be charged the lower price. So far, they’ve only brought a few things that I don’t like including a “leek soup mix” instead of “vegetable soup mix” and they substituted Blue Cheese for Camembert. If I don’t like the substitutions the drive will take them back and reverse the charges. They have brought a few things that we really do like too. The “dessert pears” are very good as are the satsumas. We’ve also tried every brand of Brie they sell and we have decided on our favourite.
The funniest thing of all is the package sizes. The largest bag of flour I can buy is 1.5kg (about 3 lbs). Margarine, yoghurt, sugar, and cereal…they all come in small packages. It is a good thing they do because refrigerators are very small here compared to back home. This means I have to shop more often but that’s okay because I have it delivered!!
FYI: Dairy products are less expensive in England than in Canada (relatively speaking) but meat is a little more expensive. With fruits and vegetables the price depends on the season so it is hard to compare.
I am totally enjoying the experience of living in a new country!