Expat Voices: Melissa Richards-Stoey on living in 'Crazytown', UK
Melissa arrived on a dark and dreary night but soon found that the UK lifestyle suited her - especially the pubs and the curries.
Name: Melissa Richards-Stoey
City of residence: Crazytown
Date of birth: You can’t ask a lady her age!
Civil status: Yes, I’m quite civil thank you.
Occupation: Field of Education
Reason for moving to the UK: I was stationed there with the military. It was my first choice of duty station so I was thrilled.
Lived in the UK for: 3 years
What was your first impression of the UK?
Very dark I’m afraid. I arrived at night and being stationed near a tiny village meant complete blackness because there weren’t any street lamps. Of course there was a light on in the odd house but they were too far away to make much of a difference. Until then I had never seen darkness that black because I grew up in suburb with lots of houses and street lights.
Then I turned on the telly and only found four stations. By this time I felt like I had been transported to another planet and lost all semblance of life as I knew it.
What do you think of the food?
I enjoyed the food in England, it’s not near as bad as people make out but I will readily admit my favorite dishes were foreign ones. There’s nothing like a good kebab following a night at the pub and I could eat Indian food everyday. Britain has the best Indian and Chinese food I’ve ever tasted.
What do you think of the shopping in the UK?
It is different to what Americans normally experience as shopping. We have lost our downtown shopping areas to the shopping mall and while Britain has its share of malls, you can still do a good bit of damage to your wallet on the high street.
What do you appreciate about living in the UK?
There is so much to appreciate it’s difficult to list it all but I’ll give it a go.
I am awestruck by Britain’s vast and colourful history and the gorgeous landmarks that exist from it. I appreciate the pub and its special place and purpose in the local community. I admire Britons’ use of language and their appreciation for irony. The British sense of humour is second to none and a good sense of humour is requirement number one for any friend of mine.
What do you find most frustrating about living in the UK?
Things have changed quite a bit since I left but at the time the biggest frustration was lack of convenience. I was used to a 24/7 society and Britain was far from it at the time. A 24 hour convenience store was virtually unheard of and there was no shopping on Sundays.
What puzzles you about the UK and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
The weather is a source of amusement as well as puzzlement. Just why do you get four seasons in one day anyway?
How does the quality of life in the UK compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
During the time I lived in Britain I felt the quality of life there was better than America because Britons worked fewer hours, got more vacation time and received free healthcare. Now I’m not so sure.
Yes, free healthcare still exists, as well as a fair amount of holiday time, but Britain has become more Americanised in its attitude toward work which has led to longer work hours for Britons. Unfortunately, they have also adopted our eating habits which is taxing the NHS.
If you could change anything about the UK, what would it be?
Make it closer to America, say, as close as Canada, and then lower the exchange rate please.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Use all resources available to stay in touch with family and friends back home and to connect with your new neighbours. You are so lucky to have the internet and all of the social networking tools available to you, so use them! I had the telephone and letters. (Remember those?)
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