19 February 2014

An American Perspective: What It Feels Like To Live In England

If you've been reading my blog for a while,
you know I LOVE living in this country

It is so beautiful and so interesting
- filled with history and culture galore -

But what does it feel like to live here?

via Wikipedia

It has taken a while to get a visceral sense
of the size and population of England

England is roughly the size of Louisiana,
and one would need five Englands to fill the state of Texas

This shows the whole UK, not just England
via Sarmonster

It takes appropriately 45 hours to drive the US from coast to coast

In Europe, you cannot drive 45 hours in a straight line and still be on the same continent

Starting from the closest European point to England (Calais, France)
you could be in Beirut, Lebanon in 45 driving hours

Moscow is only a 26 hour drive from Calais
(only 19 more hours to go for the equivalent of the US drive)

via GoogleMaps

In contrast, I can be almost anywhere in England within 5 or 6 hours
(if traffic cooperates)

Anyway, you get my point
But not so fast...

Fill up Louisiana with all the people in California (the most populated state),
and then fill it with half those people again
You've almost reached the 1,054 person per square mile in England

This leads to an intricate web of roads to maneuver daily
and a large infrastructure in place to serve the population

Not only is the population more dense in England,
but the things to do and see is fantastically dense too

So this feels different than America

Population per square kilometer (2006 data)
via Wikipedia 

Generally speaking, the English can visit their families by car or train
It is easier to see childhood friends when they are just a drive away

In contrast, many Americans fly to visit friends and family
which makes reunions less frequent

And because we live on an island,
every time we fly, we are traveling to a foreign country

Flying to a foreign country entails border control lines upon arrival
followed by passport, visa, and paperwork checks when we return to the UK

It can feel like we live on a cultural island from the rest of Europe as well,
as English is the official language only in the UK and Ireland

Mainstream film, television and music
generally come from within the country and the US,
not from Europe

Although the UK is part of the European Union,
they retain their own currency

So it feels like we live on an island in a number of ways

Languages in Europe
via Wikipedia

Stick with me for a few more observations :) ...

American news has an equal dose of local and national headlines
while English media tends to cover more nationwide stories than local tidbits
As a result, I don't feel I really know what's going on in my local community

And while American epicenters for politics, finance, fashion and entertainment
are spread between Washington DC, New York and Los Angeles,

London is the heartbeat of the country in all of these industries
(making it such an AMAZING city!)

And when I say 'country',
I may be referring to England or the United Kingdom
(for England is a country within a country)

Another oddity is
there are two governing bodies at work here:
the United Kingdom and the European Union

Living in a country with a constitutional monarchy has been interesting
It actually seems quite efficient to share
the dance of international relations between the Queen and Prime Minister

The Queen is the face of good public relations for the UK;
meanwhile, the Prime Minister tackles the hard political issues at home and abroad

I can't avoid mentioning that taxes and the cost of living are very high,
making it harder to save money here than in the US

With higher taxes comes a larger government presence
which provides health care for all and generous welfare for many

The government design still feels very foreign to me,
and I admit I still find it confusing as to how it works legislatively

Interactive map shows US with 35% marginal tax rate and UK with 50%
See more via TurboTax

Of course I knew about England's famous wet weather before we moved here
And to be honest, it hasn't been that bad
(although this year has been breaking records)

There are so many different types of rain to experience
that it doesn't get monotonous
- fine and misty, scattered showers with 'sunny spells', occasional hard downpour -

Thunder and lightening rarely occur

England averages only 33 inches of annual rainfall
while Scotland & Wales receive much more (mostly in blue)
 via MetOffice

The English have an expression
'Just get on with it'
which goes hand in hand with a rainy life

Most events carry on, regardless of rain or shine
In fact, you plan for rain
with a backup plan if it is sunny and warm

But it was the winter darkness I had not prepared for mentally
Sharing the same latitude with Kiev (Ukraine) and Krakow (Poland),
the sun rises late (8:06 am)
and sets so early (3:51 pm) in the winter

But the reward is very sweet with
LLLOOOONNNGGG days of daylight in the summer
(over 16.5 hours)

And thanks to the Gulf Stream,
England is warmer than other countries sitting on the same latitude

With warm-ish summers and mild winters,
temperatures do not fluctuate a lot between seasons
It is almost always sweater weather

The mild wet weather creates the perfect recipe
for the most glorious gardens and greenery you'll find anywhere

A map of public gardens approximately 2 hours from London
via Britain's Finest

While the trees lose their leaves in wintertime,
the grass and hedges stay green all year
which brightens up the dreary days

The mild winters bring early springtime,
and daffodils are starting to bloom now

And that feels very happy :)


beetree said...

As usual, love your insight, Laura! You've been there long enough to really have a "home" sense and not have the vacation glasses on. It must be odd, though, to have it feel home and still foreign though. Have you put away the list of things you miss from the US, or is it still always in the back of your mind? :) What an amazing adventure!

Laura said...

Winter has been very long here... I've not seen green land since December... I look forward to the day I see bulbs popping through the earth... On the up side, I've enjoyed snuggling on the couch with the girls and they have finally started skiing :-) I love the fact that here in NJ we have the mountains so close in the Winter & the beaches in the summer... All just a short drive away... But I will always miss the green, green grass of home ;-)

dawn said...

homesick again Jen

Grammy Goodwill said...

This was so interesting and informative to read. Your visual comparisons really helped me understand the size of England, but I was dumbfounded at how populated it is. I had no idea about that!

Bess V. said...

You know, this description makes living in England sound very real, but still very enticing. I hope you're enjoying your life there!

A little bit country said...

Hi Laura, love this post. I always enjoy your insights. Having lived in the UK and been to the US quite a few times the map of the UK in the US is amazing. This sounds silly but I had no idea the US was that BIG! xo

ann said...

I did not realize that the population was so dense. They must all live in London. I love the history and literature, most of all the daffodils. Very interesting.

Iota said...

All those maps - so interesting! But more interesting is what you set out to do, ie to describe what it FEELS like to live here.

When we moved to America, of course we knew it was big. Very big. But it's a different thing to FEEL that. How it is in a text book, and how it shapes your life, are two different things.

Sandra said...

Hello Laura! I haven't visited in a while. It has been interesting reading about my home country from an American perspective! You've done a good job!
When I lived in the U.S. for two years I remember feeling lost in the huge expanse of country and certainly couldn't get round to visit it all, but I found the American people extremely friendly and welcoming and I really enjoyed my experience of American living, so different from England and Switzerland where I live now.

Switzerland of course, is much smaller than the UK, but we are in the heart of Europe and so close to many other countries. I miss living on an island where the sea is never very far away!

Ariana Mullins said...

Loved this, Laura-- what a thoughtful way to describe the experience of living here!

(I'm sharing this with my readers on my And Here We Are facebook page!)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Thanks, Ariana!

Amy at love made my home said...

I'm glad that overall you are happy, but it is interesting to note the differences isn't it. I like that we have more international and world news here in England, but like you I wish that we had more local news as well! I guess that we just want it all don't we! xx

Plain Jane said...

What an interesting post. I often think - when I'm getting cross because I'm delayed in a little bit of traffic - how long it would take me to get from a to b if I lived in the US. I supposed we are lucky in that regard but as you say it does make for a fairly condensed infrastructure and higher taxes - sigh. I do so love the seasons though - wet weather and all - that's what makes the scenery so lovely. Great insight x Jane

Linda Metcalf said...

How unbelievably lucky you are to be living there....it's my all time dream!

Theresa said...

Love your blog, pictures and perspective! I have a "friend" in England and one day soon hope to move there. Thanks for sharing!

lisaroyhandbags said...

Great post! I loved the long summers in Ireland too and seeing flowers popping up already in February was such a great pick me up even through those rainy months. I miss greenery and seasons here in Dubai - plus our days are about the same winter and summer - getting dark by 6pm. The constant sunshine is nice though. :)

Magali@TheLittleWhiteHouse said...

That was very interesting to see all this information through your eyes!

Gesci said...

Oh, this made me miss GB so much!

Moving back to the States was hard in every single respect (other than Panera), but one of the hardest had to be when everything died for winter. The brown ground and pine trees so familiar from my youth suddenly looked bleak and ugly compared to GB's luscious year-round greenery. sigh!

And we've been missing our day trips to Scotland more and more, it seems. Those easy drives (and living in N Yorks means both London and E'burgh are only 4 hours away!) and dog-friendly sites made exploration so simple!

Joy said...

I always feel a little homesick when I read your blog, even after 48 years down under. Thank you.

Nazanin Kovacs said...

Wow I really loved this post! I'm an Aussie, who lived in the States for 2 years and now living in the UK so I can appreciate everything you've written here :)

Kimberly Phillips said...

I was just trying to explain to someone how big the UK was compared to the US and was failing miserably. This post is great, pictures help! Hopefully one day soon I'll know what it's like to live in England.

Sarah Shumate said...

This really puts things into perspective! I love it!

When I first read your comment - What does it feel like to live in London?, the first ting that came to mind was WET. Especially after this winter we've had. Whew...come on summer!

Paula said...

I long to visit England again! It has been 40 years since I was there last! I would love to spend six weeks and travel all over the country!

Pura Vida said...

wow...what a great and informative post!

Tina in CT said...

My daughter and family are moving there this summer from Moscow and I think they will fall in love with the country. There is so much to see from the splendor of the countryside to all London has to offer. I can't wait to visit as I was there briefly in 1971. I love reading your blog and enjoying the beautiful photos.

Emily said...

L ~ you never disappoint! Thanks for another lovely read! ~ E

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Laura, I loved this post filled with interesting facts about many aspects of life. Will visit again tomorrow and catch up on some posts I've missed.

Tammy@T's Daily Treasures said...

Again, lots of interesting information here. Seeing green all year would certainly be a lovely thing. And rain that cleanses would be nice, too. I'm pretty much over the dust. Though I don't like cold weather, so would much prefer a little heat. :) Have a wonderful afternoon. Tammy

Lynn Ware said...

This has been very helpful as my family prepare to transfer to London area. I just stumbled on your blog from a web search. This makes me more interested in the experience of transferring there. This will be our first overseas move. Thank you so much. Blessings!