I have lived in the UK for all of my life, but I have worked with US clients and US companies for most of my adult life. My agent, publisher, editor, clients and several of my friends are all based in the US. My partner is also Greek, where it seems they do things more like Americans than the British.
As a result, I’ve noticed some huge differences between houses here and over there. It’s not just the way of life, it’s not just the lack of sunshine versus the all-round pleasant temperatures. Even when you get down to the basics, such as homes, there are big differences between the US and UK.
Looking for an AC unit to produce some light reprieve during those scorching summer months? Too bad, because it ain’t there. In the UK, summer is something transient and almost mythical. It’s gone before you know it.
I was looking forward to summer this year, but I got my head down to work for a couple of weeks and when I lifted it up, it was winter again. For a few days a year you will get uncomfortable heat, and that’s the point that everyone rushes to their local department store to buy a fan, which will then gather dust for the rest of the 360 days of the year.
Forget about the AC, it’s the central heating you will be crying out for most of the time, and we have plenty of that.
Garbage Disposal and Mixer Taps
My partner is not American, but she comes from a country where garbage disposals are common. She has lived in the UK for more than 10 years, yet she still insists on throwing junk in the sink that eventually has to be transported to the bin.
We don’t have a garbage disposal. If you throw garbage down the sink it’s just going to cause a blockage and an awkward lecture from your plumber. The horror movie trope of the wandering hand going down the drain as the camera hovers over a switch doesn’t work here. The scariest thing down that drain is the leftover detritus from your dinner and potentially a sewer rat or two. See Down the Sink to learn more.
It’s not just garbage disposals either. In the UK we don’t have mixer taps in the bathroom. We have them in the kitchen, but for some reason they have never made the journey to the bathroom. And in many older homes, you won’t even find them in the kitchen. There are two taps: hot and cold. If you want warm water you have to do a hand-dance between the two taps or fill the bowl with water.
Americans seem to have an issue with low-flow toilets. They are certainly available in the US, but they are considered novelty, energy saving toilets and they are not the norm. In the UK, you won’t find anything else. They are standard in every home, but they are still powerful enough to flush whatever ungodly concerns you have.
Just spare a thought for many people living on the continent. They have low-flow toilets as well, but they tend to be weak and they block easily. As a result, paper is often placed in a small bin by the side of the toilet, instead of in the toilet itself. Ewww!
It’s very rare to find a utility room in smaller UK homes. In the US, it’s commonplace to have a separate room for washers, dryers and other large appliances. In the UK you will find all of these in the kitchen in the vast majority of homes. I know you guys have an issue with that, and if I think about it, it is a little odd. But I’m used to it.
One of the biggest issues I have with the way we do things here concerns the washing of dishes. If you don’t have a dishwasher, as many homes don’t, then the practice is to fill a plastic bowl with water (from the useless non-mixer taps) add soap and then basically bathe the dishes – dunking, scrubbing and then leaving them to dry.
This is not how they do it in the US or even on the continent. It’s a practice we seem to have developed out of a need to save water and because we don’t have mixer taps. It’s also unhygienic though and something I’ve personally avoided. I was very happy to discover I wasn’t the only one, but a little perturbed to find out that the rest of my country seems to be against me on this.
Finally, one of the most striking differences between living in the UK and the US is that you’re never too far away from the countryside in the former. In the US, you can be surrounded by miles and miles of civilization, along with all the smog and chaos that goes with it. In the UK, you’re always a short drive from the countryside and even from the beach, regardless of where you live.
And because we have the history of many civilizations dating back thousands of years, there are also plenty of old buildings, castles and more to enjoy. This history is one of the things that many US visitors fuss over, but something that we’re all used to here. I have personally lived in a home that was more than 300 years old and didn’t think much of it, except for the fact that it was incredibly cold and falling to bits.
I am a short walk from castles that are over 1,000 years old and I also live a stone’s throw from Hadrian’s Wall. It’s one of the few benefits of living in the middle of nowhere, but it’s the sort of thing that you’re never too far away from regardless of where you are in the UK.