Q & A Wednesday, Episode 1: What’s it like living in England?

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Today I’m trying something completely new. I get a lot of questions about all kinds of things– becoming an expat, living in England, facing life’s challenges, foraging, cooking, etc. Since I write about so many different topics, the range of questions is pretty wide. And I find that I’m answering a lot of the same ones over and over again, too! So I’d like to try something different– a weekly video segment answering the questions you’re asking me. Let’s try it out, and if it seems to be helpful or something you like, then I’ll keep doing it.

Today’s question is from Rosemary. She asked me, What do you like the best about living in England? Is there anything that drives you nuts about England?
Here’s my answer:

And there you have it! Making a video felt a little bit vulnerable, because I wasn’t able to say things exactly how I wanted, and there is some risk of being judged or misunderstood. Or that I was boring you! I’ll take that risk, in exchange for being known a bit better, and connecting with you more, hopefully.

Here are some posts that will expand on some of the things I mentioned in this Q & A on what it’s like to live in England:

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this conversation! Do you live in England? Would you like to move here? Were you surprised to hear my favorite and least favorite aspects of living in England? Let’s chat in the comments below!

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42 Responses to Q & A Wednesday, Episode 1: What’s it like living in England?

  1. Gardengoddess42 May 21, 2014 at 2:33 pm #

    In your ‘likes’ you list the availability of good locally grown foods, and what a pleasure that is for you. Yet you find restaurant food so bad. It’s a very striking contrast. I know that many restaurants in the UK now do make a point of using locally grown vegetables, fruits, and cheeses especially. (The UK has a larger selection of cheeses than France for instance. Also, I believe, restaurants in the UK have more Michelin stars.) I find chain restaurants in the UK are iffy, just like chain restaurants in the US. Maybe there are some hidden gems in your neighborhood somewhere that would better suit your taste.
    Thanks for being brave and putting this, and yourself, out there!

    • ariana May 22, 2014 at 10:34 am #

      Hi there! I agree that the food supply and restaurant situation seem paradoxical. I think the availability of good food ingredients is what makes the eating out situation pretty frustrating. I described it here: https://andhereweare.net/2012/04/eating-in-england-an-exasperating-experience.html .

      We didn’t really eat at restaurant chains in the USA (besides Chipotle, which I miss!) but there were always inexpensive options for enjoying really good, fresh food. There *are* some decent restaurants here, but the problem is that they are so expensive and the food is not wonderful– I could cook something comparable or better at home– so the price just makes it not worth it.

      That said, there is one cafe in town that I like to meet a friend for lunch at, and it’s where we’ve taken visitors. And we are going to try a new place that recently opened that we’ve heard good things about. Not getting my hopes up too high, and trying to also not be cynical– it’s a fine balance. 🙂

  2. Christina May 21, 2014 at 3:42 pm #

    I seek out your posts out on FB because of all your wonderful topics. I love all the photographs of the places you’ve visited, the family outings and walks, the foods you make, and your family life and watching Amelia grow. Very cool. I am assuming you video’d from your laptop. Can you video from your camera and vlog on the go too?
    You have a beautiful home. Can you give us a tour? I love the setting you chose for this video with the fireplace in the background. I feel your pain for the lack of people even saying hello, but thank goodness Amelia doesn’t have to go through it too.
    I am so pleased that you have started vlogging. I will now be looking for your vlogs and all that you have to offer. Thank you for this first video and putting yourself out there.

    • ariana May 22, 2014 at 10:38 am #

      Hi Christina, thanks for all of your encouraging words! So glad to hear that you enjoy the FB posts and what I share here. I did make the video from my laptop, and that was in my dining room. I can also do videos from my camera, but it’s not quite as easy. Maybe I can try on one of our trips, sometime!

      Thank you for complimenting my home. I did a tour a couple of years ago, but would like to do another one before we move at some point, since we have made quite a few changes in the last couple of years. But to see more now, you can go to this post (https://andhereweare.net/2012/03/just-come-moment.html) and click “next post” at the end and see quite a few parts of my house that way.

      Thank you!

  3. SarahEileen May 21, 2014 at 4:08 pm #

    Where I live in western NC, there are several places we can walk to to get whatever food we cannot find or grow ourselves, and that is one of the things I love about it best. I just wanted to shine a little hope, that there are other places where one can do that! There may not be many “stores” at these farms, but we even have a bit of a bartering relationship with some. It is a beautiful community lifestyle, where we can help each other and live more sustainably.

    Do you have many followers in Europe, or are they mostly from the US? I only found you recently, but I really, really like you. <3 I am just not on a lot of social media outside of facebook, so I have to be a little more diligent about reading your blog. I love that you eat weeds, and I have learned a lot from you already.

    • ariana May 22, 2014 at 11:00 am #

      Hi SarahEileen! It’s great to hear that there are beautiful places and communities in the US where you can get great, sustainable food and take walks in nature. I am happy to hear about that, and it gives me hope for when we move back to the USA someday.

      Most of my readers are in the USA, but of course a lot of them are American expats like me, and I have readers everywhere– I wish I could meet everyone in person. Thank you for your kind words and for saying that you like me! That is so sweet to read, and brightened my day.

  4. Hayley May 21, 2014 at 4:59 pm #

    When I moved to a new place (I’m in the UK) I took an evening class in cake decorating. I know you took a pottery class, did you not make friends there? I found a great group at this class, we still meet for curries 10 years later!

    • ariana May 22, 2014 at 11:02 am #

      Hi Hayley! I did take pottery for four terms, yet the only person I became friendly with was another American expat. It was tough going week after week, and still feeling like an outsider, and I eventually stopped. On a more positive note, Jeff and I went to our first ballroom dancing class last night, and everyone was really friendly! We are very excited about that, and will keep going!

  5. Abby Jo @ Forgotten Way Farms.com May 21, 2014 at 5:18 pm #

    Hello, I found your site thru pinterest! I’ve been reading for a couple months, I love the beauty around you and your forging & wine making post are my fav. I love the show River Cottage out of England and am a huge foodie. I thought you did great on your video 🙂 We did our fist blog video this week also, I would be delighted to have you come over and visit. https://www.forgottenwayfarms.com/forgotten-way-blog. We may live across the pond from each other, but we have lots in common. I don’t write about it on my blog, but I traveled a lot when younger, mostly South America. It’s been so fun to get to know you more through the video, and hope for more. I’m not on Facebook, but I do have a blog and pin on pinterest.

    • ariana May 22, 2014 at 11:09 am #

      Hi Abby Jo! We are also *serious* River Cottage fans. Most people I ask from the States (even homesteaders) have never heard of it, and I can be a little obnoxious about telling them they HAVE TO WATCH! 🙂

      I loved your video, and can definitely relate to wanting to be living outdoors as much as possible. I loved seeing your girls in the trees. We have a nice garden, and although our winters can be really long, it’s so wonderful when we can be out there in the warmer months. Great to connect with you, and thanks for introducing yourself!

      • Abby Jo @ Forgotten Way Farms.com May 22, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

        Hello Ariana,
        When I watch River Cottage and than read your blog, I soooo want to go on a gleaning/forage walk with you! I hope you keep lots of those posts going too. Let’s keep in touch!

  6. Kellie May 21, 2014 at 7:14 pm #

    Thank you for sharing your video about living in England! I’ve really enjoyed your blog and have enjoyed the video as well. My husband (who is English), newborn daughter and I (American) are moving to England, to the Beaconsfield area outside of London, from North Carolina this summer are I’ve really enjoyed seeing your prospective on living in England. I can really relate to your video… I am really excited about the travel in Europe, free range food, and beauty of the county, but am also nervous about the culture, food when eating out, and weather. Thanks for sharing your stories and keep them coming!

    • ariana May 27, 2014 at 9:22 am #

      Hi Kellie,
      I’m excited for you and your family’s big move this summer! You will love so many things about England, and being near London will be a huge plus. About a year or so ago, we took a 3-day trip to London just to eat. We ate a ton, but the other thing we did was TALK, non-stop to all the people around us. Almost all of them were immigrants (students, waiters, people working in shops…) also hungry for conversation!

      I also have to add that I think my little town and Suffolk are one of the hardest areas to break into. I have heard this from a lot of English people. So, hopefully things will go more smoothly for you in that regard!
      Wishing you well on your upcoming adventure!

  7. Holly May 22, 2014 at 7:05 am #

    I enjoy your blog and feel as though you are a friend who shares a lot of common interests. Seeing this video has given me an even deeper appreciation of who you are, so thank you! I understand what you mean about wanting to connect with those around you. I’ve lived in two different communities within the same city in California, and in my current neighborhood I barely know anyone. My next door neighbors don’t want to be friends, and I find that rather sad. However, in my last house I had some deep friendships with my neighbors, and I still go back to visit some of them. It makes me wonder if your experience may be due to where you are, or if this is true of the country. I’ve spent some time in Japan, and I know that foreigners are treated differently depending on where you are.

    • ariana May 27, 2014 at 9:26 am #

      Hi Holly! Can I just say that your comment made me feel great? I wish I could meet you and all of the lovely people who read here and take the time to connect. Even though it can be one-sided, I still see my readers as friends (or would-be friends, if we could just meet!)

      You are right about neighborhoods having their own subcultures. I have definitely experienced that in the USA. As far as ours goes, I think we’re actually pretty lucky that our neighbors on both sides of us are friendly and willing to interact with us. I think there is a level of wariness when it comes to Americans, too– everyone wants to know when we’re leaving, and I understand that befriending us and getting attached may feel risky if we are just going to leave again.

  8. Laurel May 22, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

    Hi Ariana – Loved your video. It was nice to see you speaking for a change and I feel like I know you better, and Amelia too since her two videos. She’s such a cutie! I didn’t detect any English accent, but you said she can turn it off and on. I’d love to hear it “on”.

    I’ve been to England seven times and I know exactly what you mean about the beauty, the gardens, and the horrible restaurant food. (When I first went there in 1984 people didn’t wear deodorant so… things are getting better.) I once had a “lasagna” in a pub in Loughborough that was surely made of library paste and nothing else. Completely inedible! And yet I’ve had some wonderful pub grub in various parts of England. Do you think you get better food at ethnic restaurants (Indian, Middle Eastern, Greek….)? You may find better food at pubs rather than restaurants.

    It sounds like the most difficult part of living there is the sense of social isolation. I don’t quite understand why, but the Brits are so easily embarrassed. John Cleese spoke briefly about it in the movie “A Fish Called Wanda” and Hugh Grant mentioned it in “Notting Hill”. I’m wondering if there are any Brits who are reading this, if they could explain what it’s all about? How does the fear of embarrassment lead to fear of speaking to people you don’t know. I know it’s hard but you shouldn’t take it personally. In my travels there I haven’t experienced any of this, but travelers might be treated differently. And maybe small towns are different from London. You might have had a different experience if you lived in London. Does Bury St. Edmunds still have that ivy covered pub, across from the Abbey Gardens?

    Anyway, hang in there. Hope you meet a bunch of great friends at your dance class, and that you get to stay in Merrie Olde Englande as long as you want to. I’d trade places with you!

    Laurel in the Blue Ridge Mts.of East TN, which is also beautiful but…. culture shock for me!

    • ariana May 27, 2014 at 9:33 am #

      Hi Laurel! London is definitely completely different from the small towns, in terms of social behavior. For me, the first time I went to London, I felt kind of at home because it’s more like Los Angeles than it is like Bury St. Edmunds. People there are from all over the world, and while the mood on the underground is absolutely dismal (even compared to the Paris metro) people are used to interacting with newcomers and people they’ve never met all of the time– life in a big city! We have heard from English friends that Bury St. Edmunds is worse in this regard than most places. My favorite was a guy we met from London who was just so completely fed up after living here for about five years. He said all of the things that I thought would be way too rude to admit feeling. (And they moved back closer to London last year.) It’s somehow encouraging to hear these things from other Brits– it’s not just us!

      We love the Angel Hotel! We like to go there for a cider and to sit by the fire in the hotel lobby on cold winter nights– so pretty and cozy. The food *can* be good– but pricey, and not a sure bet. We used to go there for oysters, and they recently stopped carrying them. I think they were the only ones in our town who did! Glad you went there.

      • Laurel May 28, 2014 at 4:45 pm #

        I was born & raised near Chicago and live in the South so now I feel a bit like I don’t fit in in either place. When I’m in Chicago I think how rude some people are (esp in public places like the grocery store), but when I’m in TN I think everyone is OVERLY sugary sweet. Down here you don’t dare beep at anyone, but in Chi-town beeping is how you train young drivers, hahaha! Down here you don’t call someone and directly jump into why you called, first you have to schmooze a bit.

        One time my mom and I were in a seaside hotel in England, don’t remember where, but it was a la Fawlty Towers in that there seemed to be old folks who lived there full-time. We were eating in the dining room and everyone was dead quiet. No dinner time conversation here! And as the strangers we were the object of much furtive scrutiny. Later on in the “lounge” the old ladies were knitting very fast, but watching us the entire time and not saying a word. Where I come from that would be considered very odd and unfriendly behavior. We just snickered which made them watch us even more!

  9. Laurel May 22, 2014 at 2:05 pm #

    p.s. oh it’s not a pub, it’s the Angel Hotel. Last time I saw it it was *completely* covered with ivy.

  10. Naomi May 22, 2014 at 3:12 pm #

    I can totally identify with the isolation. People here will.not.talk to one another unless they already know each other. I should be the smiling chatty one starting a conversation, but I’m painfully shy in the first place, and my language skills (or lack thereof) make it even harder. Although I have to say, that once you are friends with somebody, they’ll go to extraordinary lengths to help you, as will their friends.

    • ariana May 27, 2014 at 9:35 am #

      I totally hear you, Naomi. Making friends and putting yourself out there is SO much harder fro shy introverts, and even worse when there’s a language barrier. I was so fortunate when we were in Germany– not many people spoke English, but the ones who did WANTED to talk to us, and were very quick to invite us in and become friends. This really surprised me, and was such an amazing feeling.

  11. Hausfrau May 23, 2014 at 11:32 am #

    I enjoyed your first vlog! I may have mentioned this to you before, but I find it so interesting that some of the things we deal with in Germany are things that unexpectedly (to me) happen to you in England. For instance, you talk about people not wanting to acknowledge those they don’t know, or even their neighbors. When we moved to Germany, we heard from others that Germans are suspicious of strangers who wave at them with big smiles on their faces. Having moved from Japan, we could understand that. And actually, though people don’t necessarily smile and wave much here, many do say hello. It’s kind of funny to me that Germans will greet the roomful of people in a bakery or doctor’s office when they enter! They may not smile, though–ha! Anyway, I admit to doing what your friend’s neighbor did–darting back into the house to avoid social contact. For me, that happens when I see someone coming down the street who I know will speak to me only in German. My German still isn’t good enough to sustain a conversation, though I often understand a lot of what the other person says. But that is just me–I am an introvert and a bit of a perfectionist, especially where language is concerned (I have a university minor in French but still get nervous trying to speak it sometimes). I have to say I don’t really understand avoiding someone with whom you can converse fluently, though!

    • ariana May 27, 2014 at 9:41 am #

      Hi Hausfrau,
      Something I LOVED about living in Bavaria is the way people would greet the room and say goodbye when they left. And people made eye contact with us when they did it! I definitely miss the “Tschüss!” part of eating out. People would *acknowledge* that they had spent the evening in the same place as you that night, and that they were leaving. Maybe that’s more Bavarian? I don’t know, but it made a big difference to me. After we ate in the same place as another family a few times, there was no getting around the fact that we were now familiar to each other. And if we ever saw someone we had met, they would always stop and chat with us. Again, maybe that’s a Bavarian thing?

      As for smiling… Totally right. I struggled in Amberg with people staring so much, and even when I would meet their gaze, they still wouldn’t crack a smile. That was hard for me. Here, no one stares– no one would dare even look at you! I am not sure if one is better than the other, as I don’t like feeling like a spectacle, but invisibility day-in and day-out isn’t great, either. So interesting!

      I think I am similar to you with the language thing. I felt like such a huge dummy tying to speak German– but I wonder if it also made me look a little more vulnerable/ endearing to the people around me? Like I needed friends to help me?

      Thanks for sharing!

  12. Natalie May 23, 2014 at 5:47 pm #

    Hey Ariana,

    As an American who lives in SW Hertfordshire, just outside London, I agree with everything you said! We lucked out with our neighbors. It is a short street, 14 houses total, and all the families say hi to each other. There is usually a neighborhood barbecue during the summer and mulled wine & minced pie gathering during Christmas. They even had a street party for the Queen’s jubilee (so I hear)! But, I think it is the exception here. Despite having nice neighbors, I still feel very isolated. No close British friends… As an extrovert it is kinda rough. Especially since I homeschool our boys…And yes, I feel really aggressive when I look a stranger in the eyes while walking down the street.

    Eating out is so expensive we don’t usually bother. Even being in London, it just isn’t worth the expense most of the time. That said, if we plan ahead to go somewhere with good reviews – it can be really good. If you stop in at a random pub while you are out – it is pretty hit or miss.

    Oddly enough, it seems since we are so close to London (but not actually IN London) there aren’t as many fresh/open air markets. There is one a few miles from us, but it is only every other week. I found a farm shop about 30 mins away, but when I went they were closed (despite the website saying they were open). The second time I went they had meats they butchered on site, but no fresh veg… To be fair, it wasn’t quite spring yet. I will give them a try again.

    The other thing I find odd is that in the grocery store people are almost, what I would consider, rude. They walk in front of you, block your view of something without any regard for other people (compared to what you would experience in the US, especially the south). I know they aren’t being rude, as you say, I am the interloper here. But it seems to be a contradiction to the driving. I find the driving, while faster paced, much less aggressive. People are much more patient and less likely to honk at you. I suppose it has to do with the amount of people on the road as well as the fact that people expect you to make mistakes and wrong turns here. Thank goodness for satnavs! Life would be a lot rougher without one!

    I really enjoyed putting a voice with the face!


    • ariana May 27, 2014 at 9:50 am #

      Hi Natalie,

      So glad that you landed on such a friendly block! That is such a huge asset. We had a neighborhood get-together for the Queen’s Jubilee, too. We were late, but made it in time to talk with a lot of our neighbors. We were surprised to realize that they were all just as awkward with all of the other people they had been living near for much longer than us. Many of them were meeting each other for the first time. This *completely* surprised me! At least I didn’t feel anymore like we were being left out of the neighborhood social club– there wasn’t one!

      Something interesting about food… Bury St. Edmunds is apparently considered a “food destination.” This surprises me. Also, that explains why our prices are *so high.* We realized that eating in London did not cost much more at all than eating in Bury. That’s why we just don’t really do it anymore– I know we can have a good meal for the same price in London, and it’s better to save up go there or travel. We don’t have a lot of ethnic food here– I would never go out for Mexican food here (there are a few places) and we have had some reasonably good Indian food. But I found that most Indian dishes are very sweet, probably adapted for the English palate. If I didn’t know how to cook pretty well, I’m sure we’d try a lot more places. But with food allergies in my family, a tight budget, and good cooking at home, it’s just not something we do anymore.

      Yes, good point about the grocery store. I think that’s part of the queuing culture. If someone is standing looking at something in the grocery case, you’d better not infringe on their staked-out territory. They get really upset about that kind of thing, and are very hesitant to move over so you can see something while shopping. So interesting!!

      Thanks for sharing, Natalie.

  13. Hilda May 24, 2014 at 12:45 am #

    I enjoyed your video, and impressions of expat life in England. I have lived there, and in several other countries, and culture shock is a subject that is of great interest to me. I admire you for recognizing that your impressions are your problem, and you are the ‘odd one out’ and that it is important to accept the different attitudes and behaviour. When you ask ‘how long will you be able to take being an outsider’ I remembered feeling exactly as you do, and then coming back to Canada and being annoyed that total strangers were talking to me, that people grinned at me stupidly. Now I think, how long can I live in my own country with all these superficially friendly people? Again, it is my problem, but interesting how the perspective changes.
    I also remember when I lived in France, I found the shop people very brusque and unfriendly. One day, I got up the nerve to speak to them the way they spoke to me – the lady smiled at me for the first time, and we got along famously after that.
    I think maybe North America still has the frontier mentality, and so much space, we do not guard our privacy so much. It seems the denser the population, the more careful people are to ignore each other.
    One other point. I learned a Russian saying which goes “He who smiles for nothing is a fool”. Once I understood that expression, I learned to appreciate the Russians.
    Have a nice weekend, and look forward to reading/hearing more about your life there. By the way, I used to have an aunt who lived in Bury St. Edmunds – it is a lovely place.

    • ariana May 27, 2014 at 10:09 am #

      Hi Hilda! It’s funny to hear about the reverse culture shock of disliking all the grins in Canada. I am wondering whether I might end up feeling that way, too. Sometimes I *do* want to be left alone, and that of course is never a problem here. We’ve all had those bad days that we didn’t want to run into anyone we know at the grocery store, and it’s much harder in the States, for sure. (But most days, I don’t feel like that.)

      I think that so much of my perspective comes from growing up in the Philippines, more than from being American. The constant smile is something I learned there, and was accused of being a “snob” when I didn’t smile back at everyone around me. Maybe it’s because I’ve learned to do this despite be total introversion that I expect other people to go for it, too! So much food for thought…

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  14. Newmark May 24, 2014 at 6:01 am #

    Have you thought about going along to the Women’s Institute in Bury St Edmunds. They meet once a month in the afternoon. WI’s are always very welcoming.

    • ariana May 27, 2014 at 10:11 am #

      Hi Newmark– I just recently heard of them. My butcher was suggesting that I teach cooking classes there. Thanks for the suggestion!

  15. jamie May 27, 2014 at 4:06 am #

    Thanks for sharing! I enjoyed the vlog muchly. I lived up north in Edinburgh for 2 years and had a completely different experience, one that was pretty sharply contrasted with visiting family down in England (like walking into a restaurant full of people that was completely silent… so weird). Scotland is equally beautiful, and a great deal friendlier, easy to have a ‘blether’ with whoever is around. Even more on the Glasgow side, haha. Anyways just wanted to share, in case moving slightly north is ever an option 😉 and thanks for all your posts about culture shock and dealing with it. Am now living in Ecuador, and having a few culturally induced “aaaaaaaahhhhhh” moments of my own. But then they pass.
    Good job for sticking it out through the hard bits!

    • ariana May 27, 2014 at 10:16 am #

      Hi Jamie,
      So glad you’ve had such a positive experience up north. When we visited Edinburgh, everyone was SO friendly. We really loved it! And we enjoyed the food, too! I don’t think we’ll get a chance to live there, but are hoping to do some camping in Scotland this summer.

      Ecuador! Very cool. I spent quite a bit of time in Honduras, and it was a lot more like the Filipino culture I’m used to. I’ll bet you’re enjoying all of the sunshine. 🙂

  16. Judy May 27, 2014 at 8:56 pm #

    Very informative and enjoyable – and may I say – brave. I live in the south (Georgia), so being friendly is just a way of life for us. I can well imagine that someone moving here from England might find us just a tad too friendly. I do have two families in my neighborhood that are from England, and they seem very friendly and outgoing – who knows, we might have rubbed off on them. I have visited England twice and absolutely love the gardens and historic places. Being a tourist I found the natives very friendly – living there is probably a different kettle of fish. I am too old to do much travelling now, so I enjoy England vicariously thru folks such as yourself – keep up the good work.

  17. Vanessa June 2, 2014 at 10:41 am #

    I loved your honesty! My husband is in the USAF and we are moving to Lakenheath( which is close to where you live, I believe). I have been so excited about our move, the history, the travel, the fresh foods. I had no idea that the locals would be so “cold.” I am exactly like you, I always smile at everyone. “A smile can brighten a strangers day” is something my mom always told me. I have to say I am a tad scared now to live off base. We wanted to live in the community and experience the culture, not view it from afar. Would I be a crazy and rude neighbor to walk up and say hello?

    • Ashley June 10, 2014 at 4:52 pm #

      I lived in Lakenheath for awhile as my step-dad was stationed there and honestly the locals can be a bit cold, but I attribute that to them being so close to American bases and having to deal with a multitude of Americans who don’t understand English culture and refuse to learn. However, the further into the countryside I got, the friendlier people seemed, in my opinion at least. Don’t worry. Don’t be scared. I wouldn’t walk right up to a neighbour and say hello. Work your way up to that and you will find that people will be more welcoming and friendly than you expected. The English are naturally more reserved than us Americans but they also warm up once they see that you’re not going to hit them over the head with your American-ness. I hope that helped ease your fears a little. I had the time of my life there and I would give anything to go back. You will be just fine. And there is a great support system in everyone else that’s stationed there too.

  18. Cassie June 4, 2014 at 6:36 pm #

    Hi Arianna, I enjoyed your first vlog! Have you read Kate Fox’s Watching the English? It really sums up our Social Dis-ease! I recognised myself in her observations of awkward English behaviour of all kinds!


  19. Ashley June 10, 2014 at 4:46 pm #

    Hi there! I just happened to stumble across your blog via pinterest and I have to say I have just spent 2 hours reading almost everything you have to say. I lived in England for 5 years from 1996-2001. Not too far from you actually. I was in Brandon for awhile and then moved on base to RAF Lakenheath. My very best friend lived in Bury so I was there quite often. Reading your blog brought me back to everything I loved about England. From the quiet country life, to the crowded big cities. It’s not a very big country but it’s enormous in history and character. There’s so many things that Americans don’t get to experience that you do while living in England. The farms and countryside is amazing. There is such an emphasis on fresh local food there it’s amazing. Just being surrounded by so much rich history on a daily basis is so refreshing and eye opening. It really makes you feel awed by how many amazing people came before you. I just have to say thank you so much for taking me back to one of the happiest points in my life through your wonderful words and amazing pictures. I look forward to reading more!

  20. Emily Young September 26, 2014 at 6:08 am #

    Hi Ariana. Thanks for your gracious honesty about your social experiences in Suffolk. I am English myself and have lived in different countries…France, Australia and now my husband and our 2 littlies just moved to Hamburg, Germany. I really get your frustration at the socially-freaked-out English…when I moved to Melbourne, I couldn’t understand why complete strangers kept talking to me…in shops, on trains etc…and then I twigged…ahh..English people find this too confronting…I find this a little confronting…what if they are insane and want something from me? what do I do? But I soon got into the swing and got to love the friendliness of the Aussies. I think English people secretly would love to know all about you (how exciting/strange..an American!) but they are just too shy to go there. I don’t know where the social embarrassment comes from…there are such tightly knit, complex social rules in England that the pitfalls are endless. Its easier to avoid it altogether. Kate Fox’s book “Watching the English” enlightened me here and taught me about my own culture. And its very amusing too. Lots of luck with your dancing class and enjoy the rest of your time in England. Oh…and video a great idea…makes me feel I can get to know you better.

  21. gercat5 October 7, 2014 at 10:50 pm #

    Thank you so very much for sharing so beautifully and vulnerably. It helped me so very much!! Everything you shared about the difficult part in finding a community could have been our story exactly! Except, ironically enough, we had moved to a small American town!! It has me wondering if, cultures aside, there are just some places that are maybe not quite meant to be home, but are more like a stepping stone to the place we shall truly thrive in community. And that the tougher places are times of other heart felt finds: like you mentioned about your family having such special times together… May you find an amazing kindred hearted community in Spain!! And enjoy every moment left in England! 😀

  22. Gareth nones March 9, 2016 at 9:55 pm #

    Dear Ariana

    I stumbled across your video blog quite by accident and as an Englishman found your observations and experiences quite fascinating and I feel terribly for your experiences of unfriendliness and consequent social isolation. Concious that this blog was two years ago, I am hoping that things eventually got better and that you perhaps stuck it out.

    The culture you have experienced is that of the south East of England, not of England if a whole, and certainly not of Britain or the UK. I come from the Nortn West of England, near Manchester and my experience of moving to 30 miles West of London was similar, an equal culture shock. Those in the north joke about how the southerners do not make eye contact or speak to strangers. Generally however I find the further away from London one gets the more friendly people get. Bury St Edmunds is really East Anglia, and I suspect if you headed a little further north into Norfolk you might find people more friendly. Go to Yourkshire, Lancashire or Cheshire and you will find it impossible to board and bus or train without a total stranger striking up a long conversation. I find it terribly sad when people from other countries experience the culture of the South East and then conclude this is ‘English Culture’, since this is as alien to most of the rest of the English as it is to you, except the Northern English would not be so polite about it as you so graciously are.

    I’m not sure if you will ever get to read this as so much time has passed since your post, but I do hope things worked out and that wherever you are now your and your family are happy and feel you belong.

    With very best wishes


    • ariana March 10, 2016 at 6:50 am #

      Hi Gareth,
      Thank you for this very kind and thoughtful comment. I have to agree with you, that what we experienced in East Anglia was not representative of all of England. We took a trip to Bath a while back, and were pleasantly surprised by how friendly and chatty everyone was, and that was heartening.

      Since the time I wrote this post, we have moved to the southern coast of Spain! It is really the opposite of where we lived, culturally, and we are so happy and at home here. We’ve been here a year, and feel like it’s a perfect match for us. We appreciate our time in England, and the few friends we did have made a big difference for us, when we needed them.

      I would have liked to see more of England and get a fuller picture, and appreciate you taking the time to share your perspective and encouragement.

      • Gareth March 10, 2016 at 5:10 pm #

        Dear Ariana

        Wow what an adventure you have undertaken, and I hope you find Southern Spain a wonderful place to live and raise a family. My sister in law is Spanish and through her I realise that the different regions of Spain are as culturally different to each other as different parts of the UK. I know Spain has been through a really tough time economically of late, but I guess your husband has a job there and I imagine you must all be managing ok with the language.

        If you ever come back to visit the UK do visit Wales, especially North Wales, which is rugged, wild and mountainous and where the Welsh language is still widely spoken. We are fortunate enough to have a little home on the side of the mountain on the North Wales coast and had hoped on relocating fully there last summer in time for our daughter to start secondary school. Unfortunately things changed with work and we had to postpone, but eventually hopefully..

        Also one day if you can, visit the English Peak District and Lake Districts too, these are culturally and geographically so different to what you will have experienced in East Anglia! Mountains, vast lakes, wild places and a very different type of people!

        I think I’d be happy with Southern Spain too ?

        Wishing you every happiness in your ongoing adventure through life!

        With very best wishes



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