7 things I took for granted as an American and miss now that I live in the UK

  • When moving to another country, you might not realise all that you’re leaving behind at home.
  • Here, author Jennifer Still lists seven “seemingly unimportant” things about the US that she misses as an American living in the UK.

I had lived in New York City for more than half my life when I made the move to the UK with my British partner.

While I was excited to try out a different pace of living, and the decision to cross the pond was undoubtedly the most logical one for our relationship at that point, I can’t say the transition has been entirely seamless.

I knew I would be homesick for the US sometimes, especially having come from a vibrant and beautiful city like New York.

However, I never realised I would miss seemingly unimportant things like these quite so much.

Stores being open late at night

Richard Levine/GettyThe 24-hour Best Buy at Union Square in New York City.

Sure, the UK has the occasional takeout joint or large supermarket that is open late into the evening or even 24 hours, but the majority of stores tend to close in the early evening, at least in my northern English town. Just before Christmas, you can indulge in “late-night shopping,” when the stores are open until 8 p.m. or 9 p.m., but other than that, you’re out of luck.

You can also forget about doing much shopping on a Sunday; British law prevents stores from staying open for longer than six hours on that day.

Target and Trader Joe’s

Jessica Tyler/Business InsiderTrader Joe’s.

Speaking of shopping, I never realised just how much I relied upon my regular trips to Target and Trader Joe’s until I moved to a country that has neither. How I miss that delicious Mandarin orange chicken! How I long for the beloved “dollar spot“!

Of course, the UK has its share of discount grocery stores (Aldi and Lidl are pretty great), but nothing really comparable to the unique and awesome products available at Trader Joe’s. The same goes for Target equivalents – there really isn’t one here, and I mourn that fact every day.

The vast cultural and geographic differences across the US

Getty ImagesThe cliffs of Cornwall, England.

It’s crazy to think that you can travel the length of Britain, from the Land’s End in England to John o’ Groats in Scotland, via car in less than 15 hours. You can’t drive from New York to Florida in that amount of time. America is a huge country, especially in comparison to England, and the differences in culture, geography, and scenery in each of the 50 states is an incredible thing to witness.

While England is a beautiful country – and I’ve visited a fair amount of it at this point – much of it looks very similar. For instance, the beautiful northern seaside village of Whitby very much resembles the cliffs of Cornwall. While I’m by no means implying that Britain lacks diversity or that it generally pales in comparison to America, I do feel America’s sheer mass naturally makes it astonishingly different, and sometimes I miss the uniqueness of the landscape.

The preference for automatic cars over manual

William Wei, Business Insider

Because I grew up in New York, I was never in a rush to get my driver’s licence. Why bother when it was cheaper and more environmentally friendly to just ride the subway? However, when I moved to England, that wasn’t an option anymore, and I knew I had to take the plunge. Unfortunately, that meant learning on a manual car (and it took me three times to pass my test).

Admittedly, I did feel a huge sense of accomplishment in mastering what is truly a skill, but I also think it’s kind of silly that more people here don’t have automatic cars. They’re much easier to drive and much more pleasurable to drive (at least in my opinion). It’s possible to get automatic cars here, but manual transmissions are ubiquitous.

Having people to commiserate with about US politics

This is pretty self-explanatory. But it’s safe to say that while Britons might sympathize with my feelings about the state of my (native) union, they can’t truly commiserate because they don’t fully understand the culture and political climate in America. Sure, I don’t live there at the moment, but I love my country and plan to return there, so I care what happens to it.

The friendly, open, and occasionally loud personalities

If you ask Britons about their first impressions of Americans, you’re likely to hear one of the above qualities listed. It’s true – Americans are generally much less reserved than our pals across the pond and will strike up a conversation with total strangers just to pass the time.

They will tell you their life stories five minutes after meeting them, and, yes, sometimes they will speak as though the concept of an “inside voice” is totally foreign. God, I miss my fellow Americans.

That intangible feeling of being home

Shutterstock/Gregory James Van RaalteCentral Park, New York City.

There’s truly nothing like it. Every time I go back to visit, my heart breaks for the beautiful but imperfect place I left behind. I love the UK and feel grateful to have the opportunity to live here, but at the end of the day, there’s no place like home.

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