So like I may have mentioned, it's been a bit hectic around these parts. We had the shippers come in two Fridays ago. Because they were earlier than expected we managed to clean the entire house that same day – though because they were earlier than expected, I didn't get half the bedding washed as I had hoped and thus some it was tossed and the rest we have to carry with us for two months. Fun times. We have also temporarily moved into my mother-in-law's house which you may remembered from my first post about it contains it's own set of challenges. I will state it again for those who don't want to re-read – my mother-in-law is brilliant. Staying at a place that is not your own for an extended amount of time, whomever house it may be, sucks monkey balls. But that is what must be done and being done it is. I do leave for the States (sans husband and son) next Tuesday so I think I can manage not ripping out those un-mixer taps in a feat of rage for a week. Maybe.
Since I only have a week left here, I thought it might be time to compile a list for you some of the things that I will really miss from England. I can't possibly list them all, especially since I probably don't even realize all the things I will miss. I'm sure three months from now I'll be walking along thinking, “Damn, I could really go for some Smarties right now...and a bag of Hula Hoops.” Or who knows, it might be, “Damn, I really wish my produce was excessively packaged for hygiene.” It's hard to say.
OK, let's state for the record that the cost of VAT (value added tax)(ie: sales tax) is typically higher than any in the States. The standard VAT rate is currently 20%. Compare that to the current sales tax rate of California which is 9.75%. That's fucking a lot. I'm not going to miss the VAT rate. I am going to miss 'VAT included'. What VAT included means is that when you see a price tag in the store, that is the price you are going to pay. In the UK, I can buy a bottle of bubbles for £1.30 (What? I have a kid!) and a can of tuna for £1.65 (What? I have a cat!) and when I go up to pay, I know I will have to give the cashier £2.95. If I'm in the States and the bubbles were $1.30 and the tuna $1.65, I'd probably give the cashier the evil eye if she rings up some sort of amount where I have to go searching for 3 pennies. And the amount is always something that requires 3 pennies and I never seem to have more than 2 pennies and I'm pissed off that I don't have any thing smaller than a quarter which is going to result in more change and DAMMIT, JUST INCLUDE THE FUCKING SALES TAX ALREADY.
So yeah, I'm going to miss that.
Since we're on the subject of money, let's talk about tipping. We all know that the British are completely shit tippers. This is why waitresses in the States don't like waiting on customers that are clearly from across the pond. While the Brits know that when they are in the States they are suppose to tip, some feign ignorance and others leave 5-10% honestly believing that it's a decent tip. To the latter half, we have to excuse them. A 5-10% tip in this country is honestly a decent tip. When I went to the hairdressers, I tipped the stylist £5 for a £50 haircut. That's 10%. The stylist held my fiver back to me and said, “You gave me too much.” I said, “It's a tip.” She said, “That's too much...are you sure?” I said, “You deserve it.” She took the cash but she had that look on her face that showed she thought I was crazy giving her so much money.
I guess you may be wondering what I'm going to miss...well, it's not having to tip, or if I do tip, not feeling required to leave 20%. That really sounds terrible, doesn't it? It shouldn't. I was a waitress for many years. I was a bartender after that. In the States I know that people in the service industry count on their tips for their livelihood. In the States I tip, and I tip well. I just don't like the feeling of guilt I have if I don't tip well because the service was bad (and I when I say I don't tip well, it means I leave 13%, and the service has to be complete and utter shit for me to ever do that). Here, I don't have to concern myself with that. The bartender I'm talking to or the waitress that is serving my food is being paid properly by their employers. They don't count on my tip to pay their rent. If they are rude (which if they aren't counting on tips happens a lot) you don't tip and you don't feel crap about it. If they are friendly and pleasant, you give them 10% - and they always thank you for it.
Now I miss driving. I miss driving a lot. I'm really looking forward to getting behind the wheel again and cruising down the freeway at 90 mph blasting some tunes scaring old ladies gripping the their steering wheel as I pass. That said, I'm also going to miss walking. I'm going to miss my toned calves. I'm going to miss spending a day at a fair and not having my legs ache for two days afterward. I can swear to you, myself and all the personal trainers in the world that I will continue to walk once I get back to the States. But I won't. There isn't a convenient bus to get me to Target. There isn't a quick train to hop on to get me to the beach. And you can't ignore the fact that I'd look completely daft taking a little pull shopping trolley to the grocery store every day. The car will be used and it will be used a lot. I guess it would be fair to say that I'm really going to miss a proper functioning public transport system too.
The United States of America doesn't have any parks! None! Not a blade of grass in sight! All concrete and 7-11's!
Yes, I lie. The States have parks, and lots of them. From my experience, there are two park types in the States– the small jungle gym type of ones that are in a neighborhood with at least one homeless person sleeping under a tree and the big massive parks with no jungle gyms but plenty of coyotes, bears, and dead bodies that have been dumped by the latest mass murderer. I'm not a big fan of the parks in America. I've always avoided the small ones because I didn't have a kid (so that will change...just have to step over the homeless guy to get to the slide) and I definitely avoided the bigger ones as I never wanted to discover a body. That is fact. I have an irrational fear of discovering a dead body....or a dead squirrel...or a dead anything really, that isn't a bug because bugs are disgusting.
The parks here are different. They tend to be bigger and lusher and always have a jungle gym and a duck pond and seem to be manicured enough that if there was a dead body in there, the maintenance team would have discovered it hours before I'd have a chance to.
PINTS OF BEER IN LABELED PINT GLASS
So have you ever been out with your friends and it's your turn to buy the round and two of your friends order a Miller Lite and one friend orders a Coors Light (by the way, why are your friends drinking such crap?) and when you get the drinks the bartender has put a straw in the Coors Light so that you know that the one with the straw is the piss from Colorado and not the piss from Wisconsin? You don't get that here.
Not to say that they don't have shit beer here, they do, but it's clearly labeled so that everyone can see that you are drinking shit beer. I guess I shouldn't say 'labeled'. There isn't a sticker or anything. It's just when you order a Guinness, it comes in a Guinness glass. If you order a Carling, it comes in a Carling glass. If you order a Strongbow, it comes in a Strongbow glass. So on and so forth. No confusion, no fucking little straws bobbing at the top of a pint. Pure brilliance I tell you. Though, it does take away that mystery of two people tasting each others pints trying to figure out if they've got the right one...that's always a laugh.
Yes, I said it again. I will miss the shit NHS. This is only because I had a glance at what our insurance premiums are going to be for our family of three and it made me shake in the corner whispering, “stay healthy stay healthy stay healthy”. Seriously America, get your shit together...I don't like missing the NHS. That's just wrong.
There isn't a lot of food I'm going to miss in the UK. I will miss the chocolate and beer but that's obvious and I can get both reasonably easy in the States. The food from the chippy though, well...how can I explain how something is so not good, nor good for you, but yet has a special place in my heart that I know I will crave? I honestly don't know anything more British then a bucket full of barely cooked chips hot from the fryer wrapped in 6 layers of newspaper smelling of vinegar and salt swinging in a plastic bag on your arm stumbling home from a night at the pub. It's that really. That is what it is like living here. If you understand those chips, then you understand England.
This is my last post from the UK. I'll miss writing about here. I'll miss just being an expat. Thanks for reading though, and I'll see you on the other side of the pond (if I don't die in a fiery plane crash).