England is a bit weird, but I think everyone finds a few things pretty odd when they are either travelling or relocating to a new country. You only know what you know, and we all think our own traditions or ways of living are the norm. I wanted to share with you a few things that we found either amusing, confusing, or just a little odd for us since we have been here – I know that equally people who visit Australia have their own stories to tell.
1. Rule of right
In Australia we drive on the left and that is repeated in multiple other areas of life, including walking on the left side of a pathway and stepping to the left side of the escalators to let people pass. When we first came to England it was great that we didn’t have to change our driving, but when it came to pathways and escalators we found ourselves either jumping to the side or being asked to “keep to the right”. Our first time in London was an interesting trip for sure and I am sure that when we went on walks in our neighbourhood not only were we on the “wrong” side of the pathway, these odd Aussies said hello to people as they passed – weird!
2. Traffic lights
The first thing we noticed was different about traffic lights was the way they turned amber first before both green and red lights, and it was odd to us because in Australia amber is a signal to slow down prior to a red light (although many see it as a signal to speed up and beat the red light – bad idea). We do love this function here but it was odd in the beginning. We were perplexed however about the need for traffic lights on a round about, especially so many, surely either one or the other makes more sense? I remember the first time I drove around one of the junctions (roundabout) it had sets of lights at each entry to the roundabout along with around 6 sets of traffic lights on the round about itself. I can bravely admit that I cried more than once whilst trying to master this with all its lane changes around the junction and I can safely say I will be avoiding the infamous roundabouts ever such as the “Magic Roundabout” in Swindon which has a total of five roundabouts arranged in a circle.
3. Plugless bathrooms
Looking back I feel quite fortunate to have lived in realtively big houses for most of my adult life, and by big I mean big in comparison to the typical English home. Our last home had a beautiful double sink vanity with loads of storage…and plenty of sockets for hairdryers, straighteners, or any other appliance we wish to use in there. When we moved to England I went into the bathroom to plug my hair straightener in only to find no plugs, and when we asked around we found it was due to safety in water prone areas. Is Australia just a “survival of the fittest” kind of place?
4. Hot water
We are so used to having mixer taps/faucets that when we arrived here we found it odd that some public bathrooms had hot and cold taps, which to get warm would require a plug. I completely resonate with why you would need warm water to wash your hands in such a cold weather country, but I have always been perplexed as to why they dont use mixer taps. Mackenzie in particular struggles with this out in public with the cold water being ice cold and any taps that are just the one push down faucet are generally scolding hot after one use. We just ensure that we have hand sanitiser wherever we go for those ocassions that the water unbearable for our daughter.
5. Secure beef
The first time we saw the security notice in the meat section at Tescos we had a giggle, especially when we realised that certain cuts of meat also had a security label on them. As we have lived here a while now we understand why this may seem necessary to the grocery company, as steak in particular really is quite expensive here so we are lucky we dont really eat it.
6. Moist meat
Our tastes and preferences are often developed throughout our lives and we get used to the flavours and textures of our own available cuisines. We are very much used to bacn being dry cured or smoked, and the way our sliced meat is prepared. The packaged deli meats available here seemed really bland and watery and we couldn’t figure out why. That is until we noticed on the packaging the way they “sold” their product – it was very clearly and proudly labelled as “water added” as if it was a great way to prepare the product. We have since found some alternatives that are not prepared this way but we still miss kabana and cabanossi.
7. Side of beans
The first time we visited England in 2015 before we moved here, we took our nephew on a drive to see Stonehenge. It was quite a drive so we stopped at a services for lunch and when my youngest tried finding the KFC potato and gravy it was non-existant at that time. My nephew ordered his and there it was, beans as a side. It was at that point that I began noticing that beans were an English staple here whether you have them with your breakfast or on your jacket potato, not terribly odd but certainly not the norm in Australia.
8. Pass the salt
Chicken salt. Do I really need to point out what is wrong with not having chicken salt? This is something you are offered on so many things in Australia, yet here no-one has heard anything about it. Most Aussies have grown up with chicken salt sprinkles on your chils the same way you get malt vinegar here. Chicken salt is different dependant on where you get it and KFC have their own version not found here in the UK – theirs is pretty special and we have made a version of this with equal parts of normal, garlic and onion salt. The greatest though is the yellow chicken salt that I know for a fact is bad for you but is addictive and irresistable. I have recently found the Chicken Salt Co. which is imported from Australia and very tasty, but the best is the one my friend Anna brought back after her latest trip home. Anna went and visited our favourite corner store on the coast called 210 (after the closest beach access point on the Sunshine Coast), and managed to get a good supply of their own special salt that our kids have loved for nearly a decade. The owner was kind enough to let Anna buy some and its so sweet that she also remembers our family as we used to live right around the corner – its only recently that we found out that our eldest daughter Lauren was her best customer and used to buy a muffin every time she walked our dog Bella.
9. You alright?
We used to think it odd that everytime we saw someone they would ask us “you alright?” and we would answer as any Aussie would “yeah Im okay, why?” We would wonder what was wrong that everyone kept enquiring as to our personal wellbeing, but equally we would be confused as to why we would ask the same and recieve a standard “yeah, you alright” in return. It was a while before we realised that this was the quivalent to “how’re you going?” in Australia. The other thing we have started saying (and it might be a Kent thing) is “hiya” instead of hello to greet people – I am sure its going to raise a few eyebrows when we return to Australia.
10. School restaurants
Mackenzie pointed out to us that one of the weirdest things for her when we moved here was the term restaurant being used for what we know as a canteen or tuckshop. We dont have the same set up of hot dinners back home and certainly it isnt subsideised for low income families so although odd for us it is certainly beneficial, and its great that they also get the option of proper crockery and cutlery. I remember growing up and to order our big lunch or little lunch we had to write it down on a brown paper bag that was sent to the tuckshop then returned to the class in a washing basket. Some of our favourite items on ours were savoury mince rolls, fruite and cheese skewers, and frosty fruit iceblocks (ice lollies), and I was lucky that my mum was one of the “tuckshop ladies”.
I guess whatever the case, what is odd to us today will be the norm of tomorrow as we have had the time to get used to life in a different country. I dont cry going around the junction anymore and “hiya” or “you alright” is now part of my daily vocabulary, so perhaps we are becoming a little more British as time goes on. We will remember fondly these differences that have made our time in England so interesting, and subsequently will try to be more mindful of those who may be experiencing the same when they first arrive in the community in which we live. What is the weirdest thing youve found about a country you have visited or moved to?
Cheers From Kent, Tams