Summary List Placement
I moved from the East Coast of the US to Edinburgh, Scotland, in 2017.
Here are a few things that I don’t miss about living in the US after moving to the UK:
I don’t miss compulsory tipping
I’ve worked as a server and bartender in America, so I completely understand the necessity of tipping in the US. However, it’s been liberating to live somewhere where tipping isn’t as expected or widespread.
In the UK, servers and bartenders are paid at least the minimum wage and don’t depend on tips for the bulk of their income. That means a tip of just 10% to 15% is perfectly acceptable for very good service.
Additionally, many restaurants automatically include the tip in the final bill, so you often don’t need to leave anything at all.
Tipping taxi drivers is customary, but you’d normally only round up to the nearest pound unless the service was really exceptional.
Also, tipping isn’t the norm when ordering drinks at a bar or pub. I can’t express how much simpler that makes a night out. No more struggling to do maths after a few glasses of wine.
I’m glad I no longer feel like I need a car
From our Scottish city, my husband and I can hop on a train and go anywhere from Paris to Amsterdam without needing to drive a single mile.
The bus system here is also fantastic; it’s easy and cheap to travel around the city or far into the surrounding countryside.
In contrast, I always felt owning a car in the US was absolutely necessary. Even when I lived in Boston, a major US city, and had access to citywide public transport, getting to and from where my family lived just an hour away was impossible without a car.
Not having a car in the UK has saved us money and allowed us to be more flexible with our travel plans and housing choices.
I don’t miss the regular conversations around guns and gun-related rights
In my experience, guns are simply not a major part of people’s lives in the UK, and debates about gun rights don’t figure prominently in the UK’s political and media conversation as much as they do in the US.
Private gun ownership in the UK is also far lower than it is in the US. Gun Policy data from 2017 found that the rate of civilian firearm possession in the UK was about five firearms per 100 people. That same year, the US rate of ownership was estimated to be 120 firearms per 100 people.
Gun violence is also far less common in the UK as it is the US. The UK also has stricter gun laws than the US -here, obtaining a firearm is typically a long, somewhat difficult process. In some US states, you can purchase a gun in less than an hour.
It’s honestly a relief to live somewhere that isn’t engaged in an endless struggle to figure out how to balance gun rights with safety.
It’s been nice not to deal with the difficulties of travelling from the US
America is a big place, and the entire UK could easily fit inside the US many times over.
America’s size means there’s a lot you can do and see without ever leaving its borders, but going abroad can take a long time and be very expensive.
Flying to Europe from my home state of Massachusetts might easily cost more than a thousand dollars. Getting to Asia or Africa could mean days of travel time and even higher costs.
From Scotland, I’ve flown to Italy for less than $US50 round trip and reached Spain in as much time as it would have taken to commute to work and back in America.
Visiting countries from the UK is far easier and cheaper than from the US, and I love it.
I don’t miss the dominance of coffee in the US
Coffee reigns supreme in America and has been ever since the Boston Tea Party of 1773, which made it fashionable to ditch British tea for coffee grown in the so-called New World.
Unfortunately, I have a low tolerance for caffeine. Coffee has never agreed with me, but tea has been my lifelong ally.
According to the UK’s Tea Advisory Panel – yes, it’s a real thing – the British consume approximately 100 million cups of tea daily.
In consequence, I’ve found that UK cafes and supermarket shelves offer a far greater selection of tea than their counterparts in the New World.
It’s also easier to get a cup of perfectly brewed tea here, and for that, I am grateful.
I don’t miss the supersized food in the US
Supersized food seems to be everywhere in the US, from large portions at restaurants to king-size candy bars and gallon buckets of movie-theatre popcorn.
In my experience, dishes at UK restaurants are usually just enough for one person, and bringing home leftovers isn’t the norm.
Refrigerators in the UK also tend to be smaller and narrower. As an American who’s used to stocking up on a month’s worth of frozen pizzas and sparkling water at a time, it was initially hard to adjust.
But a smaller fridge means I shop more frequently, leading to fresher meals and less expired, wasted food.
I do occasionally miss the ability to buy a bag of chips large enough to use as a sleeping bag. But overall, having smaller food portions available helps me make healthier choices.
The US seems to glorify busyness, and I don’t miss that either
Half of my family is Greek, a country that knows the value of a midday nap and relishes long weekends away with friends and family.
Though no one could mistake Scotland for the Mediterranean, the work-life balance here does feel healthier than in where I grew up in New England.
The people I know in the UK take long vacations, made possible by the UK’s legal requirement for almost all employees to receive at least 5.6 weeks (about 39 days) of paid vacation time per year. Paid vacation for US workers isn’t guaranteed, and the average worker (depending on their company) may receive about 10 days of paid vacation.
Businesses tend to close earlier and open later here than in the US, and there seems to be less pressure to check work emails after business hours.
Overall, it seems to me like there’s less competition in the UK to be the person with the most on their plate.
Not paying for health insurance has been great
In the US, some have healthcare that’s partially covered by their employer and the government has some plans that provide health insurance to certain groups, such as low-income families. But medical care is not free.
The UK offers free medical care for all residents through the National Health Service (NHS), and it’s funded through taxes.
This means that everything from cancer treatment to regular checkups and prescription medication can be accessed for free.
It’s not a perfect system – in recent years, funding cuts have contributed to staffing shortages and longer wait times for patients needing specialist care.
Nevertheless, despite receiving excellent regular and emergency medical care, I haven’t paid a single medical or health-insurance bill in three years.
Frankly, now that I’ve experienced universal health coverage, any other system feels inhumane.
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