Expat Voices: Meagan Lopez on living in Bristol

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American Meagan moved to the UK for love and finds the Brits "the most lovely people on Earth", if you can put up with a little passive aggressiveness.

Name: Meagan Lopez
Nationality: American
City of residence: Bristol, England
Date of birth: 18 August, 1982
Civil status: In a relationship
Occupation: Writer
Reason for moving to the UK: Love
Lived in the UK for: 1 year, 2 months

What was your first impression of the UK?
When I stepped off the plane, it was very grey. I expected that though, and was actually surprised at how often the sun did come out. I had heard for so many years from reading Dickens, and having a general knowledge of what the British felt of their home country, that it was a dark nation. Coming from California, the change of weather didn't bother me until this month.

As much as I tried to get into the whole “putting myself down” part of the culture, it went against every grain in my body and I found it difficult at first. Especially as I was trying to adjust and I felt like I was being ridiculed by everyone. Of course, this wasn't the case, but it felt like that at first.

Meagan and her partner

 Meagan: Moved for love to deepest, darkest Dickens' land

What do you think of the food?
I can't handle the fried food. I know America has a lot of it as well, but fried fish? Definitely don't understand that. I absolutely adore Sunday roasts. It is one of my all-time favo(u)rite things to do now, and I know that I will miss it immensely when I go back. Never thought I would prefer something over a Sunday brunch, but I definitely do.

Plus, I have gotten really into tea and ‘elevenses’. Love that whole concept. I've heard the British have massively improved in this area.

What do you think of the shopping in the UK?
Bristol just opened a huge shopping complex in the city centre called ‘Cabot Circus’, and it is a shopping diva's dream. The fashion in the UK fits me so much better than the fashion in the States. You just don't get the variety in the States, unless you want to pay hand over foot.

Absolutely adore it.

What do you appreciate about living in the UK?
I appreciate the fact that the first question when you meet someone isn't “So, what do you do?”

I appreciate that family life is more valued than work life.

I appreciate their sense of helping others – as far as the NHS and other social services are concerned. It isn't just about the individual; it's about the collective welfare.

I appreciate their television and, now that I understand it, their sense of humour.

Visiting a British coastal village
Visiting coastal Britain
I also appreciate their history, and the fact that at any moment, I can drive down the street and look up at most random houses and witness history. Or drive to Stonehenge or Windsor Castle. Love that.

Their respect for the environment, and their usage of re-usable grocery bags.

What do you find most frustrating about living in the UK?
I am not one to stay quiet when I'm frustrated by something or when something bothers me, so I have no qualms about expressing this opinion (when the time is right, obviously). So, I get very frustrated when things aren't talked about, or pushed aside. In America, we call that 'passive aggressiveness', and it drives me up the wall. Needless to say, I have probably made one or two British uncomfortable. For the most part, however, I think they find it funny.

The showers. I just don't get why only half of the shower has a door. Surely, they understand that water will spill everywhere?

Baking and cooking can be quite frustrating when you realise there are many words that are different.

What puzzles you about the UK and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
I miss good quality soy milk and cafe lattes.

I'm still not completely sure how to answer when someone says “Alright?”

Their heating still puzzles me, and I really miss my clothes dryer. Even though I said earlier that I appreciate their respect of the environment, this is one thing that I really could do with. Clothes hanging on the line just don't get soft like they do in a dryer.

I miss the quality of performances and high-expectations of self. As much as I find it charming about the British, there is just something about going to an American theatre or music performance that doesn't compare.
Football team
Football: an integral part of British culture

How does the quality of life in the UK compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
In most ways, the quality of life is much better than in America. After all, they have healthcare, first of all. For variety of food and conveniences, America wins without a shadow of a doubt.

On the other hand, having six weeks of vacation (or holiday) time majorly affects one's outlook on life – for the better. And the fact that people tend to buy homes much younger can give an overall feeling of being settled that one doesn't get in the US. Their food is also fresher (unless you shopped in the very expensive Whole Foods in America). They also don't tend to work as much overtime here, and that is huge. People walk everywhere, which automatically gives them better health.

Compared to France (where I lived for a year), the UK doesn't really compare. I think the French do it right. Even just comparing the quality of food that the British eat and the French eat. Plus, Paris versus London – Paris will win every time.

If you could change anything about the UK, what would it be?
On a purely superficial level, the size of the roads. The paparazzi. It's embarrassing (and also a guilty pleasure) how aggressive they can be. Their prime minister.

What advice would you give to a newcomer?
If you're moving here, realise that the similarities between the US and the UK can be quite deceiving. It seems like we're alike, but in reality there are vast differences that should be acknowledged. It will make life easier to view it this way, in my opinion. I assumed too much, and didn't think it would be as hard as it actually was to adjust. Know that it won't be easy, but understand that once you do acclimatise, you will hopefully find a sense of accomplishment, a sense of self and a comfort that you may have never had before.
Outside Old Trafford
Outside Old Trafford, home of Manchester United F.C.

Would you like to add anything that we haven’t addressed?
The UK is an amazing place, and once you look past the grumbles of the locals, you will see that they are some of the best and most lovely people on earth. You will feel a part of a community, and grow a respect for your home land that is truly humbling.


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3 Comments To This Article

  • Liz posted:

    on 14th May 2016, 01:45:09 - Reply

    Hey Srod,

    I'm actually living in Bristol and studying at the University of Bristol as an exchange student, for similar reasons, and lucky enough to find a program that fits into my undergrad degree from the US (home). I'm also from California. Just curious, did you apply to a MA program at Bristol? It's a lovely and wonderful city, much quirkier like Seattle!

    Have you made the move over?

    The visa process is a nightmare. We're looking into options of settling in the US or here, but it's difficult for an American to find a permanent placement here :(

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Srod posted:

    on 30th January 2016, 02:06:25 - Reply

    I am planning a move over to the UK for similar reasons ( par amor) but found the visa entry program to be a nightmare, so I applied to MA programs in the UK. I just got into one of my programs and am excited for my move to Bristol! Being American (as well as from California) I relate to the majority of your article. Thank you for sharing your perspective. It's not as easy as one would think to make the move, but I am sure for you, it was worth it :)

  • carole leita posted:

    on 13th February 2012, 01:24:14 - Reply

    Very useful insights.