I’ve lived in the UK since I moved here for my second MSc. I’m staying because I met a lovely French guy who speaks fluent English and is working at an American tech firm in London. I’m basically exactly the sort of person Boris Johnson wants to be well rid of. I don’t like to toot my own horn or anything but I’m basically why Brexit.
Anyways, sometimes I do really miss the states and we were planning to go back this past summer when … the plague returned for the farce cycle of repetitive history. And now we can’t even go visit France for Christmas. We’re both stuck in the UK being very homesick together. It’s hella romantic.
So this is a list of things I miss about the United States as an American living in the UK.
1. Junk Food
Honestly, there is no country in the world that does junk food like the US of A. My personal favourite — and my partner HATES this — is Cheez-its. Every time we go back I will buy myself a box of those things and steadily ration just two a day until I’ve finished it. Given the chance I would sit and eat a bowl of them. My partner finds it absolutely disgusting. I think he finds it as an insult to cheese and as a French guy that is truly sacrilege. But this is going to be me so he’s going to have to deal.
However, Cheez-its aren’t the only thing super hard to impossible to find in the UK. There’s also pizza rolls, bagel bites, obscenely oversized Costco muffins, Oreos, hot-pockets, Marie Calendar’s Chicken pot pie, cheesecake, potstickers, ho-hos, those little Hostess cupcakes with the little swirly thing on the top, Reese’s Pieces, and devil’s food weight watcher cookies. Oh yeah, also girl scout cookies and — weirdly — a halfway decent cheeseburger. Some of these things you can find at specialty shops or even the “International Aisle” of the supermarket (which was a massive culture shock for me, predictably) but a lot of it just isn’t available.
I mean, I guess it’s a good thing because these are BAD for me, but I still miss being able to have a dumb hot pocket for lunch.
2. Spicy/Diverse Food
Everything they tell you about British food is true. They have tried to rehabilitate their image as people who can cook but Oh. My. God. Honestly I’m just going to link the comedian Nigel Ng here because … oh dear lord in heaven grant me protection from these terrible chefs.
British people have this need to encase everything in a pie crust, which to be honest I’m not really against. I do wish they had been a little more explicit in their definition of “mince pie” before I tried one because one does not expect upon being told one will be eating “mince meat” to find that it’s sugared preserved fruit soaked in brandy, but not EVERYTHING belongs in rough puff. (For the record: I did not mind the mince pie, but I could have used the history lesson before rather than after.)
British people also HATE spice and apparently diversity. There are Indian/Pakistani/Thai/Chinese restaurants but they tend to be just like that. All your Asian food in one place. I’m sorry, but have you seen Asia? It’s rather huge. There are islands involved. There’s even a subcontinent. One cannot encapsulate all of Asia into one little dingy restaurant which apparently cannot source a reasonable supply of peppers. Also I’ll tell you in a decade when the first South American restaurant opens up. To be honest, that might be my redemption arc. I’ll have to open that restaurant myself. I’ll be serving unseasoned beef and the patrons will still find it too spicy.
The only light in the darkness is Gordon Ramsey and a.) my man is charging $106 for an American style burger, and b.) he can’t make a crepe to save his life. The recipe is fine, but give him the appropriate hot plate and he will make an absolute disaster of a mess.
3. Truly Gigantic Parks
I might be being a little unfair here and I do have a nice park about a kilometre away from my flat, but I do miss the giganticus parks of the US. I grew up on Golden Gate Park and there’s also the truly amazing Central Park. There’s okay parks in the UK but they’re really dwarfed by US and even a lot of European Parks. For instance there’s a Park near Paris called Sceaux Park. It’s about 15k all the way around and I know that because I “ran”* it. In comparison, the park I live by if I do the full circuit and include my trip to and from it’s only 5k.
*Terms and conditions apply.
Also, the parks in the UK just aren’t as multifunctional as US parks. Golden Gate Park includes a Japanese Tea Garden and actual bison. Central Park has ice skating rinks, pavilions, and horseback riding. In contrast the park near my flat has … uh … it has grass. You can play rugby on it.
4. Diverse People
I’m from California so this is especially ouch. I used to have friends I’d see every day whose first language might be English but also might be Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Tagalog, or Spanish. Probably the majority of the people I chose to hang out with as a kid and in my youth were NOT white. It was awesome and I felt more at home with people who were from crazy different backgrounds than I did with other white folks.
But finding a non-white person in Britain is really hard. They do exist; I have actually found them, but Britain is just relentlessly obscenely white and honestly probably about as racist as America without any recognition that they’re a bit racist, actually. So that’s fun. Let’s just move on because I’m trying to keep this light.
One more thing before I go: Britain pioneered and streamlined the racist systems and structures that allowed slavery to be pervasive and led to systemic racism throughout the world today. Bye-eeeee!
Again, this might also be because I’m in Britain aka the land of pie, aka the roots capital of the world, aka if it’s not brown we do not eat it, but British green grocers are astoundingly lacking in “green.” There are about five grocery chains throughout Britain those being Aldi, Tesco, Sainsbury, M&S, and Waitrose. Those of you in the know will note that I’ve mostly presented them in order of least expensive to most expensive. I have been to all of these in a futile hunt for the many vegetables available in Oakland’s Chinese market. And yeah, again, perhaps I’m being unfair. I am from California, after all. But I’ve also been to supermarkets in Chicago and seen a beautiful array of fruits and vegetables.
Anyway, they have kale here. I mean … it’s okay I guess. I miss all the different things I could put in my dinner. But I guess kale day in and day out is fine. *sniff*
6. Use of Imperial Measures of Weight
Here I will admit to being VERY silly. I’m a scientist so the fact that I have issues with this at all is a bit funny, but I have the worst time with kilograms. If you have followed me you know one of my autism symptoms is intermittent bouts of anorexia (yay). But the thing is in the UK it’s kind of a toss up whether they’ll report your weight in kilos or in stone. And honestly, stone do not make sense. I will never understand it in part because it’s weird and in part because I just refuse. Apparently one stone is fourteen pounds. Seriously. I just can’t. Anyways, I know early in my last recovery I weighed 50 kg but I don’t know what my lowest weight was and to be honest I couldn’t tell you how much I weigh now because they keep on telling me in stones and I’m kinda scared to weigh myself.
So actually I suppose my big issue is not so much with the metric system as with another quirk in the imperial system. Also, at one point someone told me they’d see me, “in a fortnight,” and I was confused because they didn’t strike me as a gamer. But that’s neither here nor there.
7. Responsiveness from the Government and my Representatives
As much as I enjoy dunking on the UK (and honestly, after BREXIT can you blame me?) this one is a fault in the American system. Doing and paying taxes as an American abroad is almost as weird and non-Euclidean as any function at all of the UK bureaucracy. Apparently, Americans earning money abroad still need to pay taxes, but it’s not really clear how you’re supposed to actually get those taxes paid if you’re not a huge corporation or have multiple bank accounts scattered across the known world.
Voting is a bit easier, but not at all due to states’ individual efforts to ensure their citizens actually vote even when abroad so much as due to efforts of the Democratic Party and volunteerism to get out the vote IN WHICH I MYSELF TAKE PART.
Contacting a representative is nearly impossible and getting them to take you seriously particularly because you’re abroad is a joke. My representative emails his district but always with townhalls I can’t attend and zoom meetings held during the wee hours of the morning. If I were to call it would cost me scads and oodles of money and even writing a letter would be costly. On top of this I have no way of ensuring that any form of communication I have with my representative outside of calls actually gets through. When I lived in the US I could show up at those town halls and been like, “hey! Not only do I have a concern but I’ve written a rough draft of legislation for you and also I’m not a crazy person despite what my hair and the fact that I’ve shown up with about 100k words of potential law may imply!” One cannot really do that from across the pond.
So there you have it. I’ll criticize my country, but that is my right. I can both be critical of the United States and miss a lot of things about it. One can hold two seemingly dichotomous positions at once. Anyways, please send cheez-its.