You can probably tell from my social media feeds that I love living in Sydney. But the UK will always be my home. Aside from the people in it (which it goes without saying I miss terribly) these are the things about Blighty I unexpectedly found myself pining for.
So 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. I’ve popped to the shops a few times only to get stranded on the doorstep at Coles, left watching as a lake’s worth of water gushes from the sky – the kind of rain an umbrella is absolutely hopeless in. 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.
I was shocked to discover that Sydney does get rather chilly in winter, albeit for a few hours late at night. I actually got use out of the winter coat I bought from England (for 5 whole days – mainly in Melbourne!) but only for evening outings. During the day winter can see highs of anything between 15 to 20 degrees so even if it starts off cold enough for a coat you may be sweating by the time you finish your first meeting. So once again I found myself unexpectedly missing the chance to properly rug up. I’m talking; thick coat, winter boots, 2 scarves, fingerless gloves (I still need to tweet, you know!) and an extra pair of socks. Basically, I miss wearing all the snuggly clothes in my wardrobe all at once!
Man did I miss radiators this winter. I was cursing all you lucky people in the UK who can heat your homes at the flick of a button as I practically sat on top of our lowly electric heater the past few weeks. Our apartment is pretty cleverly designed to be honest. It’s glass fronted in a way that let’s in the sun during the winter mornings but shades us from the glaring heat of summer. During the daytime we have no need for heating (or air conditioning) but come the winter evenings the heat that’s been generated by the sun starts to wear out and you end up pulling the bed linen onto the sofa in a bid to stay warm. Next year I’m investing in an electric blanket.
4.Marks & Sparks
The institution that is Marks & Spencer must surely feature on every expat’s list of things they miss about the UK? I miss everything from their pants to their sandwiches, birthday cards, meal deals and Limited Collection clothes range. But most of all I miss that you can buy all of the above in the 1 place for a decent price. Australia (and indeed maybe even the world?!) has nothing else like it.
5.And Sainsbury’s Express and Tesco Metro
We happen to do convenience stores rather well in the UK and we’re smart about what position we put them in. I have looked long and hard but I can find nowhere in the Sydney CBD where you can grab ingredients for dinner on the way home from work (I’m discounting the Woolworths at Wynward coz it’s kind of gross). At train stations you’re lucky if you a find a pint of milk and my local convenience store doesn’t even stock a loaf of bread. What is this madness? Also, as I mentioned in my post about things that confuse me about Oz, government rules mean you can’t buy booze in the local supermarket or convenience store either. One needs to be very organised about their meal planning and booze-drinking in Oz.
6.The BBC (ITV, Channel 4 News, and +1)
I think almost every one of my expat diaries mentions TV now but I swear I discover something else I miss about the UK free to air channels everyday. This week I am particularly missing the concept of +1. It’s not a thing in Oz. Some of the shows are available online if you miss them but not until the day after they have aired. So, for example, if you are on a Skype call during an airing of The Bachelor, you can’t catch up immediately after but have to wait until the next day, by which point you will probably have seen all the spoiler tweets about the show anyway. (A ‘hypothetical’ situation that totally happens every week!) Even the Aussie soaps are only shown once per day – there’s no catching up on Home & Away or Neighbours during your lunch break like I did all my student (coughs *freelance*) life!
Do I miss fallen leaves on the line, cancelled trains and unexpected line closures? No sir. Do I miss an excuse to spend an hour a day with my head in a book (trashy magazine)? Yes I do. I’ve missed the reading I used to do on my commute ever since I began freelancing but I miss it even more in Sydney seen as it takes me less than 20 minutes to get anywhere. (Strangest complaint ever right?) I also miss grabbing my weekly copy of Stylist at the train station – thank goodness I can download it on my Kindle.
8.High Street Fashion
More and more European high street brands are cropping up in Oz all the time but often the clothes are for the wrong seasons. I also miss all the places you wouldn’t usually confess to shopping – like Wallis, Primarck and Florence and Fred at Tesco! The UK really excels at high quality, low-cost fashion – Australia’s Cotton On does not cut it! (Witchery, however, I am a huge fan of.)
I bought my first set of trashy mags in Australia this month as I’m finally at a stage where I recognise the people in them (probably not something to be proud of!). Australia have their own version of all the great magazines – Vogue, Marie Claire, Elle etc – but don’t do so well at the middle of the range weeklies. There was an Aussie version of Grazia but it was sadly discontinued so now I have to pay for the UK exported version. Similarly you can pay export prices for the likes of Hello and OK Mag but it would be great to see Oz doing their own magazines that fall somewhere in the middle of Vogue and ‘Famous’!
We may not have the weather for picnics in the UK but we do have the sausage rolls and scotch eggs. I miss the picnic foods of the UK and, of course, the convenience of being able to pick them up from a supermarket/convenience store near the park. The only time we’ve taken a picnic to the Botanical Gardens it involved carrying an ‘esky’ (Australian brand of portable coolers) several thousand miles and almost taking out a few kids with it in the process.
You can judge me all you want but on the nights when this girl was cooking for 1 a ‘Fuller For Longer’ meal from M&S was the only way to go. I miss grabbing a risotto or Thai curry that costs less than a fiver and tasted pretty darn good. I’ve dabbled with a few meals from the freezer aisle in Coles and will never go there again. In Oz it seems it’s best to cook fresh or get a takeaway, but this often doesn’t make sense if there is just 1 of you eating and you’re on a budget. Please can someone introduce tasty and affordable meals-to-go pronto?!
12.Choccie (Aussie term for chocolate)
And finally, the shelves of Aussie supermarkets may contain chocolate that looks the same as home but it doesn’t come close to tasting like it. Everything by Cadbury’s and Mars is made differently out here and the slight differences in the recipes is most noticeable to this chocolate connoisseur. There are a few ways around this:
- Develop an obsession with an Aussie chocolate i.e Caramello Koalas. I cannot negatively compare these to my favourite childhood confection as I never ate them.
- Head to the British aisle at Coles and purchase the Minstrels and Yorkies they have shipped from home.
Don’t bother buying Malteasers, M&Ms, or anything by Cadbury’s because they don’t taste the same 🙁
Are you a UK expat in Oz or elsewhere? What do you unexpectedly miss about home?