Three Months Living in England: What I LOVED and What I MISSED about both Cultures
First of all I have to say that as Neil, Reagan (5) and I sit here on this ten hour flight back to America from England, that as we lifted off, we felt an overwhelming
feeling of gratitude for this entire experience. What career can you have with the flexibility and freedom to literally live, ANYWHERE in the WORLD? And I don’t mean by promotion or position in your company. I mean by company design.
I have been an hourly employee, a business owner (my hubby owns a car lot), and a corporate employee for several fortune 500 companies. At 42, I grew up in the “Amway” generation where network marketing was either loved or begrudged. Usually the latter. So with all types of job experience I can say that, if you are driven and focused, network marketing is by far the most ideal career model because of the freedom and income you can create with it.
To be realistic, I’m a worker bee. I always have been. I’ve had a job and was finding ways to earn money, since I was 13 years old. I enjoy the “jam” of being busy, productive, creating solutions and making progress. It’s how I’m wired. That “wiring” can be put on any of the business models and get results. But the difference I have found with Beachbody, and it’s unique network marketing model, is if you are going to work your ass of ANYWAY and make sacrifices to better your family, why not make them go to a lifestyle that gives you unlimited earning and freedom?
No boss, no glass ceiling and no walls.
I am forever grateful to Carl Daikeler and Jon Congdon for the vision of Beachbody and it’s “new generation” of network marketing. It’s similar to the old style, but more refined and modern in so many ways. Thank you Carl and Jon. If Beachbody were to go away tomorrow, my family’s life has been forever changed for the better.
So with that, back to the tears of emotion as we hold hands and take off from Gatwick airport in London after spending three months living in England.
Let me put this in perspective.
Neil and I are an international couple so appreciating other cultures is important to both of us. I was born in Belize (a British colony) and Neil was born in England. We now in the US with our son together, Reagan, and our daughters Raina (13) and Reese (11). As a child my parents barely got by financially. Travel was a luxury we couldn’t afford. At 17 I finally joined my cousins and spent the summer in Belize and then at 20, I traveled to Austria, Germany, Switzerland and France as part of my college’s “International Experience”. Those two trips lit a fire in my belly to experience and learn MORE about the world around me. But, as life would have it, I worked corporate jobs and time off was a luxury.
Since those two trips when I was a young adult, I’ve forever longed to travel to new countries. I appreciated the differences in other cultures and history. I actually really wanted it because I feel I got caught up in being ethnocentric and sheltered in the US. There is a lot to learn and appreciate from differences and change.
Sameness doesn’t challenge you the way difference does.
But of course, I worked for corporate America for the next 17 years and with a few days off a year, I was exhausted and stay-cations were the most I could pull off.
May 2014: How the IDEA Started
One day over lunch with Kristina Delgado (a wrongful death partner attorney in Miami—-> turned full time Beachbody coach) the conversation of international travel came up. And I spoke about one day returning to England. My husband moved to the US thirteen years ago and rarely returns to see his family and friends. I said to Kristina, “What if…..we lived in England for a few months and traveled Europe in the process. That would be totally INSANE!!”
And Kristina replied. “Why not?????…….”. Did I mention what I love about her is her optimism and how she challenges me to always think BIG???
I didn’t have a good answer for her. Any foreseen challenge that I could come up with also had a viable solution. Neil and I planned it, and on Dec 1, 2014 we moved to England for three months. We enrolled Reagan in a British school, rented a house, bought a car, spent time with family and friends and traveled Europe, specifically, Scotland, Wales, Prague, Budapest, Austria and Germany.
So here is what I’ve observed, loved, not cared for and has stolen my heart over the past three months. Some may agree, disagree, but understand that I am not solely loving or dissing my United States or United Kingdom. I am sharing my personal observations of BOTH and what differences I saw, for better or worse. And for some people, our adventure and story will be the closest experience to seeing a new country they have ever had…
My American English Experience <3
HUMANITY: ENGLAND SCORES
The biggest difference that stole my heart in the UK was the British sense of HUMANITY. Hands down the Brits are far more kind-natured and polite than
Americans, overall. Americans are more vain and ethnocentric than Europeans in a general comparison. Don’t hate me for saying that. But it’s true, not just in their news stories on the BBC, but in their adverts on TV and in the way they treat others and live their day to day life.
People say, “sorry”, “excuse me”, “cheers” and “hello” WAY more frequently and as part of everyday busy-life interaction. More strangers will smile and hold doors open, they will help you if your struggling to carry something, let you OUT of elevators (or lifts) before rudely pushing and crowding their way in (pet peeve). They understand the right of way and even if Im totally in the wrong crashing into to them because I’m not paying attention, they say, “Sorry” (insert the accent and it’s
even sweeter 😉 ) It makes ME want to be nicer and more polite and understanding to others. Kindness has a ripple effect. In my experience, Americans get all huffy and offended more easily and it shows in their reaction.
The British society is way more accommodating to the HANDICAP and DISABLED. Within a few weeks I noticed a significant difference in the amount of handicap I’d see around the city. I mentioned it to Neil and chalked it up to it being the month of December and maybe people were feeling more generous to walk their blind granny in the fresh air in the city market because it was the holidays. But December came and went and there was no change. We went out a to a club on several occasions and to see a load of 20-something girls dancing around with their friend confined in a wheel chair on the dance floor was pretty common. I saw people out to eat, at clubs, shopping, at the gym, and out just walking with family and friends with down syndrome, blindness, amputees and severe burns with no shame, vanity or embarrassment of the company they keep.
It didn’t stop there.
In the states its normal to see parking and bathrooms that accommodate handicap, but thats really it. In England, not only do you see more physically and
mentally handicapped people by themselves and with others, but the culture is way more accommodating to their needs. You can go to a grocery and there are 8-10 shopping carts to accommodate wheel chairs. I was listening to the news about how at all the concerts halls England is not only making handicap sections even more predominate and plentiful (think about everyone standing up to dance and sing at a concert and you can’t, nor can you see the stage when others do), but that they are making it to where you can have enough room to accommodate a certain amount of your group of friends, as well. (often times the handicap person is separated from their non-handicap friends concert tickets and put in a different section. I never really thought about that until it was put in perspective by the British government). I also noticed a difference in their actions and services to help the lonely elderly population. There are a lot of movements and organizations commonly seen to help connect isolated elderly widowed generations with others to finally get social interaction. I believe this difference also goes back to the overall awareness of humanity I spoke of above. I think in America, it’s sadly out of sight and out of mind. At first I wondered if there were MORE handicap people in Britain, then I sadly concluded probably not :-(. How many people do we probably have at home in the US that get left behind by others and society. Realizing how many disabled people probably get socially excluded and left behind, in reality, breaks my heart and is cause for me to make a difference when I get home.
CUSTOMER SERVICE: AMERICA SCORES
There is a lot to be said for American Capitalism and the “survival of the best service” evolution in American Business. I think that when people’s livelihoods, promotions and business survival depend on great reviews and service, as Capitalism promotes, everyone wins, the best businesses thrive and customers are happy. Although the people in England were extremely polite, they still did little to accommodate the needs of others in the SERVICE and HOSPITALITY industry. Sounds contradictory to them being soooo polite, right? I thought so too and it still makes me scratch my head in confusion. I found the service industry in the UK to be crappy. If you’re freezing in a hotel lobby or restaurant you just deal with it. They will says “sorry”, and then do nothing and give you a lame excuse like “winter is over so we turned the heat off for the summer”..and it’s January, mind you.
In most restaurants you have to go to the bar, order and carry your own drinks back to your table. Then, go back and order for everyone in your party, as well. (Try doing that for a large party). Ultimately, someone in your group (usually my husband) is always off fetching or ordering something for the table and to me, defeats
the connivence of going out to eat and having discussions over meals. I dunno, maybe you think I’m high maintenance, but if I’m going out and paying for a meal, I want to be served. It’s not just with restaurants, but with many service related businesses practices. The SERVICE and HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY just does not compare at all to the American “I’ll work to make this a great experience for you” loved-up 5 star rating- kind of feeling. I think because people rarely gets good service, they have just come to accept it.
MODERN CULTURE: TIE
England’s style is overall a CLASSY culture. Sure there are tacky folks…lol But in general the European style is what I call more “Kate than Kim”. Yes, as in Middleton and Kardashian. Girls and women are more about values and self respect. They are more about being ladies than being the “hottest MILF” in the room and striving for that public “reaction”. The women’s clothes reflect that and I know because I found little that was my style. Not that I dress like a tramp…lol but, I found it difficult to shop over there as I found the clothes to be A LOT more conservative than my liberal Florida taste. But, to be fair, I felt as a culture I think thats a really good thing. There is more of an emphasis on family core values as well. Even the employment standards gives 6-12 months of maternity leave and 2 weeks of paternal leave. There are also shorter work days and more vacation (holiday) days per year. Overall the values are more about being classy, giving, family oriented, conservative and humble.
SETTING the MOOD: AMERICA SCORES
I guess this goes back to service but I’m admittedly an “ambiance snob” so don’t take offense, it’s just one of those sensory “things” I appreciate. There are soooo many little things that can make a fair experience feel both comfortable and amazing with little effort. This is something Americans totally “get” specifically in the areas of service and hospitality. From homes to restaurants to hotels, literally just dim lighting (nearly every light in my home is on a dimmer), soft back ground music suited to your guests generation (or theme of the restaurant) and a couple candles can do soooooooo much for the mood and the lovely experience one feels in that space. This is something my parents always did whether we had guests or not, they always had music and lighting that created a feeling. It’s just a few of those small things that people don’t usually notice that are soooo easy to do, but easy not to do. In Britain, we would go to places to eat and literally the lights would be annoyingly bright, there’d be NO music so there’s that lack of mood and it’s just quiet except for the random conversations around you. I dunno- I admit Im an ambiance snob- so to me the Brits basically failed in this department…LOL (I will say that most of the Indian Curry restaurants- the ambiance was
APPRECIATION and RESPECT for HISTORY: ENGLAND SCORES
There is far more culture, respect and interest for history in Europe, than in the states. To be fair, we only go back a couple hundred years. These countries go back
THOUSANDS. They have a lot of culture for us to learn from and appreciate. I used to dismiss history as “old news” and never appreciated it’s purpose as a kid. After living in Europe, I realize that yes, history does repeat itself and the common themes are wars around land, power and religion to gain power. The song “Everybody wants to rule the world” rings true…. and over and over again in history, there are just different players. The more we understand the dynamics of history and cultures the more educated we become in finding peace, voting for leaders and understanding more worldly relations, economics and intentions. I’m sad to realize that humans are still such a brutal species to one another. We have a more modern means of human suffering, and the more I understand, especially visiting concentration camps like Dachau in February, I wonder have we really advanced as a race from the beheadings, quartering, public burnings and drownings of medieval times and earlier?
FOOD QUALITY: ENGLAND SCORES
The Brits have a much higher standard for clean eating. I know from my year of nutrition school that there are many everyday chemicals allowed in the US food supply that are banned in Europe. But to see the difference first hand over
here, compared to the US is really apparent. I can drive to my moms house out in the country and see miles of factory farming. I can see the the chemicals being sprayed on our foods. In England, it’s common to see sheep, pigs, and cows grazing for miles and miles as well as farm land with no “sprayers”. I can’t help to think that the rigidity in government laws in the UK in what harmful chemicals are not allowed in foods have something to do with the fact that there is socialized medicine and the government picks up the tab for sickness. So it’s in the governments best financial interest to keep people healthy. On the contrary, if you’ve ever watch Food, Inc or Fed Up, there is a lot of money to be made in keeping people sick, and selling pills from pharmaceutical companies that contribute a lot of money to our US government, in America. Thats a whole nother story to share. Just know that I respect and appreciate the awareness created here in England as well as the result of their food quality and accessibility.
CHILDREN’S PUBLIC BEHAVIOR: ENGLAND SCORES
And you can see the byproduct of food quality in the behavior of the CHILDREN. Back in December I wrote half joking that Id yet to see one child hold a public screaming or tantrum. This was even during the Christmas season when kids were out with their parents and were over tired, over shopped and hungry. I actually joked to Neil that people must sedate their kids in Europe to behave that well in public. And not one child did I see in three months playing on an ipad (except my own) at the dinner table. After posting that comment of Facebook, I was on the hunt to witness an unruly child. I finally saw one. ONE in three months. Many of the chemicals banned in Europe are known to cause hyperactivity, lack of focus and essentially what we call ADHD, are in so many foods, in America. Yet, most Americans will give their children medication for ADHD long BEFORE first changing what goes in their family pantry.
CHOCOLATE QUALITY: ENGLAND SCORES
Another great example of what I love in England is the CHOCOLATE. Neil has always said the chocolate was AMAZING in England. And since Im not much of a chocolate person to begin with I never really cared or noticed. But after trying the chocolate over here, he was right. Cadburys uses natural sugar (not refined), doesn’t add chemical preservatives or fillers and uses 20% chocolate compared to only 10%, in the US. Think I’m crazy? Read the case that was just settled in the US where Hershey sued British Cadburys saying Cadburys can’t import their chocolate any longer and that Hershey’s has full right to produce the “American” version of Cadburys chocolate with their own (very substandard) recipe that has a much higher profit margin. Hershey’s claimed customers were confused over their who’s chocolate was who’s. LOL Its laughable really. Hershey’s just knew people were preferring English made chocolate bars over their American made ones- so they banned the importing of true English Cadburys. Trust me, the chocolate made in England, is MUCH better! And thats from a non-chocolate fan! Here is an article that goes more into depth over the ingredient quality of both.
FOOD TASTE: AMERICA SCORES
Ok – I have to say that as GREAT as the food QUALITY is, what the Brits do with such an amazing display of great choices is pretty dismal. That meaning, I found
the traditional English food completely BLAND. To have a load of fresh spices and herbs grown in such great soil and to really not use them, I found such a missed opportunity. In general the veggies are all cooked with no unique flavors. They are pretty much all boiled with no seasoning and then you dump a thick heavy gravy on top of everything. Sorry, but the food resembled cafeteria or hospital food. I prefer to have each food have it’s own creative texture, cooking method and flavors. The “make it all the same and dump thick sauces on all the top” didn’t really make my taste buds happy. Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsey have a lot of work to do in getting some individual sexy flavor sizzle into the British pubs and kitchens. I will say that one of the most common British meals now a days is actually INDIAN. Which, when it comes to flavor is totally up my alley.
BREAKFAST: AMERICA SCORES
What I missed most and never got once in England was an great BREAKFAST! Ohhhhh every city Neil and I travel to in America we usually go out at some point to a trendy breakfast bistro kind of place. Ones that serve huevos rancheros, some type of exotic type of Eggs Benedict, a mac-daddy omelet or creative french toast or pancake with amazingly fresh ingredients. I LOVE a really great breakfast/ brunch now and again. That is one thing that you can pretty much find in most every city in the US: a great trendy breakfast place with ambiance ;-). The breakfast in England resembles it’s other foods. Bland, flavorless, greasy fried eggs and sausage. Boiled mushrooms dripping in butter, over salted ham and baked beans with no flavor kick what so ever. The best breakfast I had was scrambled eggs between two pieces of whole grain toast. That was as good as it ever got for me and breakfast in England 🙁 Want to start a business in the UK? Open a kick ass breakfast joint!
TRANSPORTATION: ENGLAND SCORES
Public transportation in Europe overall pretty much kicks ass and is top notch. Locally from always being able to get a clean reliable cab at any moment, to trains
that easily give you a ride to any European city, to planes that do the same at costs that are so affordable you wonder how they even make money. There are so many totally different cultures to see in Eastern and Western Europe and you can get to any of them quite easily. That’s pretty darn cool 🙂
With that being said, the speeding cameras for cars are everywhere on the highways and cities and they do random breath-a-lyzer tests and will pull people over often for no reason. The Russian -roulette system of pulling random cars over and the MOT makes for much safer roads in England.
Speaking of roads, how can I forget the ROUND A BOUTS?!!! Oh geez I went from being terrified of them (See my first and only time I tried driving in England.) to seeing them as the most efficient and practical way of dealing with intersections. Once you know how to use them, they certainly keep the traffic flowing much better than traffic lights.
SECURE BANKING: ENGLAND SCORES
One of the things that was very different (and you will hear about the US banks starting to convert to this) is the “Pin and Chip” credit/debit card system. In Europe your card NEVER leaves your sight. At restaurants, the server will bring a machine to your table where you insert your card and it reads the chip right in your sight. In the US we give our cards away to be “swiped”. There is so much more room for fraud the way we do it. It’s more expensive for banks to produce a pin and chip card, but in the long run, there’s a lot less fraudulent charges. I laugh to think of how horrified Europeans must react when a server walks off into the kitchen with the credit card when they are visiting the US!
FUTBOL: ENGLAND SCORES
What’s WAY more accepted and prevalent in England? Futbol! In the states its all about American Football, Basketball and Baseball. It’s very refreshing as a life long soccer player to be in a culture where the World’s most popular sport is appreciated. I know, I know, we could get into a LONG debate about how soccer compares to traditional American sports but understand that I find baseball painfully boring and slow, I don’t understand why American football has to have a totally separate offense and defense on the field as if two there are totally different games each time they swap and that basketball has so many unlimited substitutions and more fake dives than soccer players. Ok, I don’t want to start a debate here, just know that I appreciate being in a culture where I don’t have to defend my sport and people care as much about soccer as they do their own family, the queen and quality of their chocolate 😉
My FINAL THOUGHTS
Ok so realize that these are all totally my opinions based on what’s important TO ME and I realize that many of you reading this will disagree with me on some things regardless of where you are from. At the end of the day to me, travel and take-a-ways are about EXPANSION and APPRECIATION.
You are either expanding your appreciation for OTHER CULTURES and the way they do things, or expanding your appreciation for the way your OWN CULTURE does things, where you may have taken it for granted, otherwise. Unless you travel and go OUTSIDE of your day to day comfort zone, you never experience that perspective FOR YOURSELF. That’s truly what’s important. And what I find fascinating, is that this was basically my observations just on several countries. There are literally hundreds to go live and experience to create your OWN appreciation and EXPAND your perspective.
I truly am in LOVE with England and Europe and the culture, for both better and worse. It suits me. So much that we not only want to visit every year for three months (during the summer), but want to buy a flat in Norwich so we have a home permanent home there, too. Reagan and I are looking into getting UK passports this year so that we can travel the EU more easily. Reagan was able to attend an English school, and spend quality time with his paternal grandparents, as well as Neil’s brother and wife. Neil was able for the first time in 13 years able to go “home” for a good length of time while I was able to continue growing my business while visiting and appreciating other cultures. And I LOVE being home in America, so we are over the moon we are in a position to appreciate and enjoy BOTH.
This experience has been truly one of a lifetime, and to think none of it would have been possible without the unique network marketing business platform Beachbody has offered our family. I can’t say THANK YOU enough to Carl Daikeler, my family and my AWESOME TEAM, the Refinery.
Refining one’s Health, Wealth and Quality of Life,