No matter how enthralling your new life abroad, it’s only natural that you find yourself missing home on occasion. When everything around you seems alien, it makes sense that you long for the familiarity of friends, family, your old house, even your local pub. The longer you spend overseas the more likely it is that you start thinking about the small things the UK has to offer.
What expats miss tends to vary depending on where they move to overseas. It’s not really surprising that British expats in Saudi Arabia are going to miss England’s green and verdant landscape more than those who have moved to Germany, for instance. What you will personally miss as an expat depends upon where you have moved and what your personal tastes are.
Here are seven of the most common things expats miss about the UK. A few of them may surprise you.
Yes, you did read that right. The weather – often one of the reasons expats and sun-seekers leave in the first place – can be something longed for once you’re in a more stable clime. British expats miss the it all; rain, drizzle, mist, clouds, mizzle and fog included. ‘That won’t be me,’ you may say, confident that you will never want for a cold autumn wind while spending your days tanning by the pool, but out of 3,500 expats surveyed, one in five admit to craving the best (or worst, depending upon your perspective) that Blighty has to offer.
Expat blogger Jayne Gorman, currently living in Australia, explains;
‘Sydney doesn’t do rain by halves. 9 times out of 10 it’s gloriously sunny with clear blue skies. And then it rains. And it really, really rains … Often it will pass soon enough but if not you just have to swim your way home. Last week, as I trudged through the pools of water that used to be a footpath, I suddenly found myself lamenting good, old-fashioned drizzle. The type of rain that doesn’t require an umbrella (for the brave) or is sufficiently blocked by one if you do happen to be carrying it. That’s the type of rain I can handle.’
When you think of countries famous for their chocolate, it’s likely Belgium and Switzerland pop to mind. But apparently when UK expats get a craving for the sweet stuff it’s the products made back home in Britain that they long for. Brits are very protective about their chocolate – just look at the furore when American giant Kraft brought Cadbury’s and changed the Crème Egg recipe. Differences in the recipes between countries mean that even the same chocolate bars and other sweet treats you may have grown up with or come to cherish at home could taste below par abroad and do nothing to allay your cravings.
Brits are great at self-depreciation. We’re also adept at irony, which is why the former sentence might raise a smile. When you expatriated you probably spent a lot of time researching property prices, distance to schools, average wages, taxes and living costs. It’s unlikely many did a ‘sense of humour’ survey on their chosen country of residence. Of course, no one is likely to say ‘our sense of humour is rubbish’, but there’s just something about British comedy that has made it universally loved. Our grip of sarcasm, irony, satire and general wit is hard to beat and 42% of 1,000 British expats taking part in one survey noticed the difference when abroad.
Rather like chocolate, the problem with overseas bacon is not that you can’t find it, but that it’s not ‘proper’ bacon, according to expats. Expats tend to complain that what is on offer is either too thin or has a poor fat-to-meat ratio. As Hayley, an expat blogger living in The Netherlands laments, ‘That wafer thin stuff you get at the slagerij (butcher) called spek (bacon)? Just because you call it bacon, doesn’t mean it is. British bacon comes in slabs! Thick and meaty. ‘Nuff said.’ Expats in other countries have expressed similar sentiments. This obviously isn’t a problem for aspiring vegetarian expats.
We thought we’d leave this one out because it’s far too obvious, but British expats seem to really love living up to our national stereotypes. Tea seems to pop up sooner or later when expats are talking about the things they miss from home. Variety is a considerable problem abroad, coupled with general dissatisfaction regarding the default option offered in many restaurants or cafes. Expect your thirst for tea to be more infuriated than quenched if you order a cup abroad.
The Brits love to apologise and we’re not sorry about it. Well, actually we are. Talk to several expats and you’ll find that the issue of apologising comes up a lot. But it’s not what you think; the complaint isn’t that people abroad are rude, they just aren’t so polite they will say ‘sorry’ when you bump into them. It’s a little thing, but British people are used to apologising for pretty much anything, such as being bumped into by a stranger, pushed in front of in a queue, or when disturbing a passing shop assistant. This kind of behaviour can get odd looks overseas, making some Brits feel self-conscious and sparking dreams of going home to beg forgiveness for whatever they can think of. Sorry.
All countries have a history, but some of them less so than Britain. While often found amongst expats in America, this observation does apply to other places as well. Most Brits don’t bat an eye when they step into a 400-year old pub for a pint or a nice lunch. It’s not so easy to do abroad if you’re surrounded by new developments or if the oldest building doesn’t even pre-date your grandparents. It’s something many Brits don’t really notice until they move away, but England has an ancient, almost timeless quality. The landscape is littered with thousands of years’ worth of history in the form of stone circles, burial grounds, Roman buildings, medieval castles and Victorian structures. Compared to all this, some regions of some countries can feel that they lack a little permanence.
Moving abroad can make you realise just how much you take for granted. Hopefully this list will help you to prepare for your move by reminding you that the little things can make a big difference. However, as well as accepting just how much there is to miss about home, it’s worth remembering that there is so much to discover and fall in love with abroad. When you are surrounded by amazing people, places and opportunities, you’ll find that your longing for home often evaporates as suddenly as it comes on.
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