I wasn’t born to live in Britain. I have always yearned for travel and adventure, for more excitement than the usual kids’ activities of girl guides and piano lessons. From ice-skating to horse-riding and considering jumping out of a plane at 15 (as I was underage I needed a parent to jump with me, which strangely wasn’t met with enthusiasm from my mum & dad, so I haven’t yet ticked that off the list) I always knew there was more beyond the boundaries of the village where I grew up.
My parents’ reaction when I announced to them at 19 years old that I was going to work on a ranch in Wisconsin for the summer was that of amused disbelief. Admittedly it was somewhat out of the blue, although it wasn’t so much the going that surprised them, it was more my blasé attitude about going alone. And off I went, working on the ranch, joining trail rides & gymkhanas, then taking a 2 week tour of the US East Coast at the end of the summer, visiting New York, Washington CD, Pennsylvania, Boston & Niagara Falls.
Since then I’ve enjoyed periods of travel, study abroad and periods of living in the UK, which finally ended 2 years ago when I decided at last to follow my instincts and move to Barcelona. And I’ve never looked back since. People often ask me if I would go back to the UK to live, and my answer is always a firm no. Even if I do get bored of living in Barcelona, I can’t imagine going back to Manchester or Leeds. Or London, or anywhere else in the UK for that matter. I was meant to be somewhere warm and sunny, where blue sky welcomes you each morning, and where it doesn’t rain 300 days a year. OK so maybe it doesn’t rain that much in Manchester, but grey clouds loom overhead more often than not.
Having said all this there are still a few things I miss about Blighty which make my visits back to the UK a little sweeter. Those decidedly British things that you can only find back home.
1. Real bacon. Not that streaky Oscar Meyer crap you tend to find in supermarkets in Spain, but real smoked back bacon from the butcher or farmer’s market. The kind you have fried in a bacon butty on a Sunday morning, between slices of white bread oozing with ketchup and melted butter.
2. Mature Cheddar Cheese. I am a lover of all things cheese related, but it is hard to find mature cheddar here that doesn’t cost the Earth. And Mild Cheddar doesn’t count, it is quite simply a waste of time.
3. English Pubs. Not Irish bars that are full of tourists and drunken eejits yelling at the football. I am talking about those old English country pubs with a roaring fire in the hearth, real ale on tap and old men wearing caps in the corner. The kind of pub that has darts & dominoes teams who play on a Tuesday night. The kind that has real cooked food, not defrosted in the microwave.
4. My mum’s cooking. Toad in the Hole. Sunday Roast. Stew, chips & dumplings like you’ve never tasted before. Nuff said.
5. Sunday shopping. I still haven’t got used to not going shopping on Sundays, no matter how hard I try. Saturday is, and will always be, a hangover day – meant for sitting/lying in bed and watching dvds. A chill out day. Not a day to dash out to the supermarket or to the high street along with the rest of the population. Sunday shopping in the UK was always quieter, more relaxed, and much more convenient.
6. Semi-decent customer service. Followers of my blog may well have seen previous rants about the appalling customer service in Barcelona, in particular in restaurants and cafes. In the UK we may not be the happiest bunch but generally you do get tended to within 5 minutes of sitting down at a table, and you don’t need to wait an eternity to get your food, drinks or the bill.
7. The British Stiff Upper Lip. Mainly regarding weather. It’s probably because in the UK if you stayed in every time it rained you would never leave the house, but here at the first sign of drizzle most people back out of meeting up for dinner, or worst still turn up wearing wellies.
8. Grass. A simple one, but I miss having a garden, and parks, and seeing birds in the trees. Parks here in Barcelona of course have palm trees and parakeets (not bad at all), but the grass isn’t quite as green. And coupled with living in the city centre, gardens aren’t as frequent as they are living in the suburbs.
9. Health & Safety. Sometimes over the top in the UK, sometimes hugely overlooked here in Spain. Does anyone really care about scaffolding about pavements? Well, yes actually, when part of it collapses onto the pavement below and the workmen carry on regardless.
10. National Pride. I’m not suggesting that it doesn’t exist here, quite the opposite – with the rousing displays of Catalan fervour it’s hard to miss. But here I feel slightly excluded from that – not being a local from here I do miss that feeling of belonging sometimes – like a Royal Wedding, the World Cup (which inevitably ends in disappointment) or Wimbledon when Murray gets to the final and we all wave our flags on Henman Hill.
All these things make me feel reminiscent, but not enough to make me really miss home. I am happy and settled here in Barcelona, for now at least. That yearning for travel & adventure is still there, and I may yet do something else crazy and move to another country soon…. Just not back home!
Are you an expat? What do you miss about your home country? (Or not miss!)