12 November 2010

Things I miss about England.

So, for those of you who don't know, I studied abroad in England. And it was the best thing ever. For seriously. And you're about to find out why.

Without further ado...

Things I miss about England:
1. all my England friends (note I don't necessarily say English friends because I have friends over there who are from all sorts of different nationalities) who are wonderful.

2. walking around Canters, getting lost, and using the Cathedral as a compass to know exactly where you are. Seriously, you look up, figure out which way the Cathedral is pointed, and voila! You're never lost. And it's the tallest thing around so you can't possibly miss it.

3. Nutella in glass jars instead of plastic... it just tastes and keeps better.

4. FOOD WITH NO HFCS or other weird chemicals. And while we're at it, soda sweetened with sugar. When soda is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, it's way too sweet. Sugar gives it more of an edge. And is less harmful to your body. Stupid corn.

5. Walking everywhere (although let me tell you, this did take some getting used to. For like 2-3 weeks in the beginning of my time in England, I got so frustrated, I'd think to myself, "I'm American! We don't walk, we drive! I want my car, I miss my car!!" but after a while you get used to it and start loving walking. Which brings me to...)

6. the -10 pounds on my body while I was over there because of the lack of HFCS and other gross chemicals designed to addict you to the food and need to eat more of it (thanks American government in bed with big processed food companies) and because I walked all the time.

7. The pubs. Especially Darwin Origins and Hobgoblin. And quiz night at Origins! Which brings me to my next point:

8. 18+ drinking. You can drink with freshers! Which brings me to my next point...

9. Pubs on campus. 5 of them. Seriously, let me tell you how awesome this is, and not just from a convenient party perspective. Can we say SAFE? If you live in a residential college (i.e. a residential building) and there's a pub/bar in the next wing over, guess how much driving home you're doing after drinking? NADA. None. Zip. No drunk driving here. In fact, not even as much sober driving here either, as demonstrated in point 5. It's just so convenient and safe, and the University makes a shit ton of money off of it.

10. The societies. Sort of like clubs would be at American universities, only there were more, and better. Seriously, there was a society for everything! There was a Pagan society, which I was deeply involved with (much love, PagSoc people!!), a PIRATE SOCIETY where you just DRESS LIKE PIRATES AND DRINK. And a poledance society (sadly, I didn't have time to participate in this one but I would have loved to) and a fencing society (KICKASS) and a photography/modelling society and a Rock society (which I was kinda involved in, but more just good friends of the people running that and so went to events now and then) and a Live Music society and a Rowing and Boating society and a Drama society and... seriously. I could just keep going on and on and on. There were so many! Something fun for everyone to do. It ROCKED, and it got you out of your room from playing video games, and socializing. Which brings me to my next point:

11. England is so SOCIAL. Seriously. The first night my mom and I were in London, we made friends with the gent who owned the Bed and Breakfast we were staying at, and his group of friends. We just hung out with them in a pub in Victoria like we’d all been great pals for years. You can talk to a guy in a bar without him expecting you to come home with him (well, I mean, obviously there’s going to be jackass exceptions here and there). People talk in grocery queues. Almost everyone is friendly, and let me tell you, for all the hype about how Americans are treated badly abroad… I don’t buy it. For one second. The fact that I was American interested people greatly, and was often a topic of friendly conversation. See that? FRIENDLY. Not “ugh, you’re American, you must be fat, lazy, indulgent and stupid” but “I want to know more about you.”

12. English money. I believe Bridget Jones wrote about this too, but ok Americans… you know how sometimes you’re digging in the bottom of your bag and keep finding coins, and all of a sudden, before you know it, you have like $3.00 in coins that you didn’t have before? You’ve got like ten quarters going on there, man. Well now imagine each of those quarters was worth two dollars. They don’t have one pound bills like we have one dollar bills, they have £1 and £2 coins. So you can EASILY find £10 or £20 in the bottom of your bag. At the present exchange rate, that’s about sixteen or bucks. You … just found lunch for two days, four if you go to McDonalds. Furthermore, English money is pretty and colourful. £5 notes are green, £10 are orange, £20 are purple and £50 are red. And even better: They’re different SIZES. So, blind people can use them easily. How cool is that?? And then you’ve got pretty coloured Scottish notes, Northern Irish notes, Isle of Man, Guernsey, etc. So pretty.

13. The change in vowels and pronunciation. Aluminium (different spelling too), garage, centrifugal, herbs… (I totally ganked all but garage off Eddie Izzard, if you didn’t notice) but most interesting to me… pasta and mafia. They pronounce the first ‘a’ in both words like the ‘a’ in ‘apple.’ And yet a lot of our ‘aah’ as in apple sounds they pronounce ‘ah’ as in father. Kinda funny how that switches. Also, they drop their ‘r’s at the end of words, as we all know, but add an ‘r’ to certain words (depending on the dialect, of course) like ‘pizza’ and ‘idea’ become how Americans would pronounce ‘pizzaer’ and ‘idear.’ CRAZY how that switch is made but I love it! While we’re talking about language…

14. Slang terms. I’m sorry, I just think ‘slag’ is the greatest word in the world. And Englishfolk aren’t afraid to say ‘cunt’ like Americans are. I think my favorite initial run-in with English slang was our 2nd or 3rd day in London, it was raining and my mother and I were in an elevator with two random English guys we didn’t know and weren’t with. A little backstory: the jeans and pants I always have to buy are too long for me, because nothing else fits my fuckin ideal-for-child-bearing hips, and as a result, when it rains, the part of my jeans near my shoes always gets soaked. So it’s raining, we’re in the elevator, and I’m irate that my ankles are soaked, so I look down at my ankles and say to my mom, “aww man, the bottom of my pants are just soaked.” And the two English guys look at me strangely, and then both burst out laughing. It wasn’t until weeks later that I realized ‘pants’ in England means ‘underwear.’ So… whoops. Haha.

15. The double decker buses. Those things are KICK ASS. Especially in Canterbury, it’s the most hilarious thing in the world to see them try to fit through Westgate. And it’s just fun being able to ride on the second story of a bus.

16. The ruins, and unruins-ed old buildings too. Let me tell you, American friends, if you’ve never been to anywhere in Europe, then you need to go. Pronto. There’s just this energy present there, this energy of these tons of people who have lived there for thousands of years. When you walk down Dane Johns in Canterbury, there’s just this peaceful sense of “three thousands years ago, people were using this exact place for relaxation and enjoyment, enjoying the grass and the trees and walking along the city wall, and taking their children to play and strolling through the park with their lovers. I am enjoying a place that countless people before me have enjoyed and left their positive energy and feelings of happiness for future generations. And people thousands of years from now will sense my presence and their presence when they walk here.” Seriously, all these awesome, amazing old places that have stood the test of time have this aura of that. It’s humbling and inspiring. One of the pub/restaurants we used to go to had a year marking on it, and I only remember it was in the 1300’s, perhaps 1340 something? But jesus, that building alone, that tiny little building in Canterbury is older than European colonization of the continent I live on. And then I remember walking with the guy I was seeing at the time (who was English) and he pointed out this huge, grass-covered crater in the middle of everything, surrounded by grass and trees. And he says “That was a crater from a bomb dropped in WWII.” And it’s really humbling, to see what a scar people can put on the land, and how the earth just takes it right back, covering it with grass and life. Anyway, it’s just surreal.

17. The Tube. It’s AWESOME. Seriously, they’ve got an awesome setup for it, so many lines to choose from, and if one’s blocked, there’s always a way to get relatively close to where you were going for. And it’s just so… CLEAN when you compare it to NYC’s Subway, or Philly’s El, or DC’s Metro or Boston’s T. And I love the lady who reads off the stops and says ‘Please mind the gap between the station and the train.’ Also cool? Every stop on the Tube sounds like some awesome place where you totally want to be. Woodside Park. Piccadilly Circus. Canada Water. Whitechapel. Ravenscourt Park. Bayswater. Maida Vale. MORNINGTON CRESCENT. Seriously, and like half of them have ‘green’ or ‘gardens’ or ‘hill’ or ‘valley’ behind them. FREAKIN AWESOME.

18. Speaking of transportation… the National Rail. Seriously, you can get ANYWHERE in the UK on a fricken train. Not like in the US, really.

19. English Television. Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Mighty Boosh. Red Dwarf. Black Books. I mean… seriously. I’m sayin’. I don’t miss the TV tax though. (Not that I actually paid it, since I didn’t own a TV.)

20. Prince William. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a taken woman (<3) but this won't hurt, ready? *drool*

25. Snakebites. Mmmmm. I was never a beer person until I was introduced to the Snakebite, and it was sort of a gateway drug to beer for me. NO, BAD AMERICAN, DO NOT REACH FOR THAT YUKON JACK. Stop! Put it down. There we go. Ok. A REAL Snakebite drink is comprised of the following: half ale, half cider, and some blackcurrant flavoring to give the entire drink a beautiful magenta glow and the best flavor you’ve ever had in your life. It tastes like soda but packs a nice punch. And for the mere price of a roundtrip plane ticket to England (allow one week at least between the outbound and inbound) I’ll tell you where on Kent Uni’s campus you can get a snakebite for only £2 instead of £2.75.

26. Other British drinks of awesomeness. Like the Shandy, if you’re not big into beer but want a nice cheap sometimes girly drink anyway. It’s half beer, half lemonade. Stop vomiting, lemonade doesn’t mean lemonade in England. Lemonade means Sprite. If you order a lemonade, and expect a lemon juice-water-sugar concoction, you’re in for some real disappointment, cause they’re gonna give you Sprite. England also just has better beer in general too. Particularly the Hobgoblin. If there’s a Hobgoblin pub in whatever British city you’re in right now (or visiting soon, hint hint) then go, sit down, and order a pint of the Hobgoblin on draft. SO FUCKING GOOD. I can get it bottled in the US and it does the job, but isn’t quite the same. Anyway. OH and England knows how to pour a Guinness properly. I get so angry in the United States when they pour all the Guinness into the glass at once and I get a head of like 82659823698260 centimeters. FUCK. THAT. In fact, I spent so much time in America getting shitty Guinness pours that my first Guinness ordered in England, they poured a third of it, and put it on the counter in front of me. I start drinking it, and the barkeep looks at me funny and is like, “Um… I wasn’t done pouring that.” And that’s when I learned… how you pour a Guinness.

27. Three words: proper English breakfast. *droooooool* except without the blood sausage, that never sat well with me. I know, I know what you’re going to say: Everyone in the world eats eggs and bacon and toast and calls it their own country’s special breakfast but hear me out. Ok, take the basics: Bacon and eggs (sunny side up) and buttered toast, now add sausage, fried bread, half a tomato, some cooked mushrooms, and … baked beans. Yup, folks, it’s the baked beans that make it. I thought it was the GROSSEST thing in the world when I heard of it, up until I tried it. And um… I’ve never gone back. (Unless I couldn’t afford breakfast or baked beans.)

28. The NHS. I don’t give two rat’s asses what comes out the mouthes of the dumbshit 50 year old white southern men who have never left the USA and are tea party members. If you haven’t been to England, and utilised their heathcare system, then face it: you know jack shit about it. I have personally used the NHS and I loved it and thought it was great.

29. British cell phones. If you make a call on a British pay per minute cell phone, then yes, you get charged minutes. HOWEVER… if you receive a call on your British phone, you don’t get charged. Nothing. If someone texts your British phone, you don’t get charged for a text. Anything you intiate, yes. Anything you receive, no. Seriously, kinda makes US phone companies look like crooks, doesn’t it? Oh wait… THEY ARE.

30. British ATMs. Guess what… NO FEES. That is right, ladies and gentlemen. Even internationally. I could draw money directly out of my credit union checking account and not get charged one pence or penny for it. TAKE THAT UNITED STATES BANKING.

31. Camdentown. You will never find another place quite like Camden. Seriously, the best mix of small, independent shops and vendors in the world, punk and goth clothing stores, handmade jewelry, masks, leather coats, t-shirts with bands, hilarious quips and puns, vendors selling handcrafted perfumes and handcreams, vendors selling foods from all around the world. And, of course, World’s End. And the river runs by with the gorgeous bridge, and at twilight there are lights that illuminate the trees (or maybe that’s just cause it was December?) Just face it, folks, nowhere you go will ever be as cool as Camden.

32. While we’re at it, London itself. I know, I know, I hear London natives complaining about how much they don’t like it, but you know what? Everyone dislikes where they live to some extent or another. *I* love London. It’s clean, it’s fresh, it constantly finds ways to reinvent itself when it gets a bit stale; it stays on the cutting edge. The architecture throughout the years has been stunning, and the city is jam-packed with awesome places to see: Tower of London and the gorgeous Tower Bridge (often mistaken for London Bridge), Buckingham Palace (when it’s open for tours), Westminster Abbey, Camden Market (I know, I won’t shut up about it), Big Ben, the London Eye, the Thames... AND FREE ENTRY INTO SOME MUSEUMS. Seriously. London is cooler than your face, no matter who you are. And you know it. Unless you haven’t been there, and you might not know it. But if you go, you’ll know. You’ll know.

33. The countryside. Green, rolling hills… quaint little towns and villages with cute little Tudor style cottages and gardens with fine ladies in big hats drinking tea… okay maybe not the ladies with hats since like, 1920. But you have to admit, England in general is just classy and gorgeous.

34. Stonehenge. If you disagree, fuck you.

35. Scotland. I know, Scotland is UK, not England but, boy, Scotland is pretty. The mountains just go right up into the clouds, and in the spring and summer, they’re just covered in pink and purple Heather. And the people rock! They’re almost even friendlier than in England. I love Scotland. But I might be biased cause I am part Scottish (Campbell Clan represent!).

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Jenni and Heather are two sisters who live in completely different places, and do completely different things with their lives.