Expat Ramblings: In Praise Of England

Last week, while scouting for ideas for my article about weird English things, I started a Facebook thread that proved extremely popular. Most of my German expat friends had a lot to say about taps, windows and a certain cultural obsession with WW2, but as the discussion went on, we collectively realised that some things about this country actually rock pretty hard. After all, we’re choosing to stay here!

  1. Charity Shops (you might call them thrift shops). My absolute number 1. I cannot stress enough how amazing they are, and why the hell do they not have anything like it in Germany? That’s madness. Half of the books I own cost me less than a pound in a charity shop. Some shops even have them sorted alphabetically. I recently discovered a store the size of an airplane hangar that sells awesome women’s clothes, all for 2 pounds. Charity shops are retail therapy for people who feel guilty about going on shopping sprees. There’s always something, and where else would you go for a cheap picture frame and come out with a plasticine kit, a knitted jumper (size 3-4, not currently worn by anyone in my family) and a set of cricket gloves? Exactly.
  2. Night-time shopping. I love going to the supermarket at night, or on a Sunday! One of the most annoying things about Germany are shop opening times. For me, quickly popping to the shop for baking powder is only possible after the kids are down for the night, and I can’t imagine how Germans do without that option.
  3. Supermarket deliveries. Click, click, and delivered at roughly the time specified. While I’ve never done it, I’m glad to have the hypothetical option.
  4. Cricket. If I ever moved back to Germany, I would single-handedly have to set up an East German cricket league, just to feel properly at home.
  5. No mosquito or wasp plagues in the summer. Although I’m used to hotter summers, I do not miss those creatures.
  6. BBC Four. There are information channels in Germany, but not one that also shows awesome Eurocrime TV series. Plus, you just can’t beat a television presenter with an upper-class accent.
  7. The smell of curry on the high street. German high streets smell of people, English high streets make me hungry. In East Germany, you’ll have to look long and hard to find a good curry, whereas here, you can’t miss it.
  8. Cheap children’s clothes. There is no tax on those, so kitting out a small child is soooo much cheaper than in Germany. The obvious downside to this is that most clothes are probably made in sweatshops, and good-quality items are much more expensive.
  9. English people don’t hate small children. Germany is a bad place to have children: From holidays alone I have gathered that there are very few public breastfeeding areas, even fewer baby changing facilities, access to museums etc. is a nightmare due to lack of ramps and lifts, prams are huge and in the way, and people are very impatient with small children. As a new parent in England, you have access to a million changing rooms and playgroups, and people actually smile at your child. (Of course, by the time they are four, your kids will be expected to disappear from view and start full-time schooling…)
  10. London, you beautiful monster! It’s too big and too scary, but it will draw you in. London has everything, and it’s beautiful. It’s a pity you won’t be able to afford living there.
  11. Literary adaptations. England has the greatest literary tradition, and everyone’s proud of it. They never stop filming new versions of Austen/Brontë/Hardy novels.
  12. The rolling hills. If you manage to get out of town, the countryside will blow your mind. If you manage to go there on a sunny day, there’s truly nothing better.
  13. Country pubs. They’re so… quaint! The food is horrifically overpriced, but the views are worth it. And if you really want to appreciate them, drive through the East German countryside on a Sunday, in search of food. It’ll leave you changed, and not in a good way.
  14. Free entry to National Museums. Culture is expensive in Germany.
  15. And lastly, to quote a friend: “One thing you can rely on: someone will always offer you a cup of tea in a crisis!”

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