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Our year abroad has come to an end….highs, lows and tips for living in the UK

Posted Sep 14 2012 4:49pm

It has been a few weeks between posts as we have been busy finishing up work, packing up our life in the UK and fitting in some last minute travel to Spain and France. Today we embarked on the first leg of our 5 week journey via train from Amsterdam to Beijing, before flying home to a new life in Melbourne. As we start this new adventure and after many goodbyes, I have reflected on my time living abroad in the UK.

HIGHLIGHTS

1. Travel. It’s cheap and being on the doorstep to Europe has allowed us to travel extensively and fill our souls with new cultural and culinary delights. My favourite way to travel is to walk everywhere, particularly on the off the beat, non-tourist tracks and feast on the local cuisine. I prefer to spend my money on good quality local food and wine than waste it on souvenirs that will end up in a dusty cardboard box.

2. Living in a small country village. We were fortunate enough to live in a beautiful village called Olney which is located approximately an hour north of London. I loved walking through the fields on the “public footpaths”, having a drink with the locals at the pub, buying my organic locally grown produce from the weekly markets in the village square, the quiet and breathing in the fresh country air. I learnt that the simple things often make you the happiest.

LOWS

1. Not seeing enough of the UK. Even though we got to see a lot of England, I wish we had spent more time in Scotland and Wales. As outdoor enthusiasts, it would have been nice to have spent some time exploring the Scottish Highlands and Snowdonia National Park.

TIPS

1. If you wait for the perfect day to do something, you might never do it. The weather can be unpredictable so just plan ahead. Always take a warm jacket and some form of rain protection. Now when I get home a bit of rain won’t stop me from heading outside.

2. Join a group to meet people and make friends. We joined a running club to keep fit and make friends and I joined a book club which got me reading again. It was also a lot of fun catching up at the local pub and discussing the Fifty Shade books over some red wine.

3. If you are planning on working realise that the job market in the UK is tough at the moment. Unemployment for 18-24 year olds in quiet high, wages are lower than in Australia and competition is high. In hospitality for example, the average wage is just over £6 ($10) an hour.

4. The UK doesn’t start and finish in London. Sure it’s a great city with lots to do, but there is so much more to discover. Membership with English Heritage or National Trust allows free entry to most of England’s major attractions from castles and stately homes, to parks and events. Membership also allows you to park for free at these attractions!

5. If you are travelling abroad with the cheap carriers accept that it will never be a pleasant experience. From the pushy and rushed boardings, packed airports and little legroom, the best thing to do is take a deep breath, give yourself plenty of time at the airport and go with the flow.

6. Give up on trying to find decent coffee unless you are living in London and even then, the cafe’s are usually run by Australian’s or New Zealanders (we used to go to Lantana). Us Aussie’s are quiet big coffee snobs, so either invest in a nespresso machine, drink tea or put up with it.

7. Embrace the Sunday Roast. Nothing better than having a late lunch of roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and horseradish sauce whilst sipping a pint or pims and reading the paper.

8. The winter is long but the days are short. Normally only lasting from 9am until 3pm, so
make sure you get outside for a dose of vitamin D otherwise you’ll start feeling a little blue. If you can’t manage this, make sure you take a vitamin D3 supplement.

9. Join up with deal websites like Groupon, not only for deals in your local area but also for great holiday deals in Europe.

10. The Brit’s have been led to believe that Foster’s is “Australian for Chic”. We have been led to believe UK ales are warm. However there is now a real push for locally produced beers and ciders in UK pubs. Most cellars are quiet cool so unless there is a heat wave of 30 plus degrees or you have the first pint of the day which has been sitting in the lines overnight, you will find a pint more refreshing then you have been led to believe.

11. Rental’s are usually only equipped with a bar sized fridge. So get used to doing at least a twice weekly fresh food shop or embrace online shopping, whether from your local organic distributor or from the major supermarkets.

12. Need your Vegemite fix. Stock up from Poundland, where you guessed it, everything is usually a pound.

And the best tip of all is to enjoy every minute. It’s a great place to live, especially if you make the most of every free day you have!


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