Expat Diaries Living Overseas

Expat Diaries: 12 Things I Unexpectedly Miss About The UK

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.

1.Drizzle

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.

Another ugly Sydney sunset - I joke!

Another ugly Sydney sunset – I joke!

2.Rugging Up

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!

3.Central Heating

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.

Lovely place to picnic - but where can I buy my scotch eggs?

Lovely place to picnic – but where can I buy my scotch eggs?

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!

7.Commuting

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.)

The 'British' aisle at Coles - we have Birds custard and everything!

The ‘British’ aisle at Coles – we have Birds custard and everything!

9.Women’s Magazines

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’!

10.Picnics

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.

11.Ready Meals

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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?

22 Comments

  • Reply
    Emma @ Adventures of a London Kiwi
    August 31, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    Do you miss calling pants, pants as well? I do over here in the UK…

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      September 1, 2015 at 6:34 am

      O yeah! I forgot that was probably confusing for the Aussies. I recently caused much confusion by suggesting to a bunch of Aussies that we go to an ‘offie’ – meaning an off license. A few baffled looks later they respond with ‘oh a bottle-o?’ Sometimes I think we speak 2 different languages!

  • Reply
    Julia
    August 31, 2015 at 2:18 pm

    Although I would love to lament the loss of some of these things with you, here in Amsterdam I’m actually pretty well served. They dole out drizzle by the bucketload (cloudload), we have an M&S (and Topshop, River Island) and we also get BBC 1 and 2 on the cable package on the TV. However, the M&S is tiny, and as it gets its stock from the UK, most things are on their Best Before date on the day you buy them (and there’s no real clothing section for the undies!) I can definitely agree on the chocolate front. Although Holland is trying to get better at producing their own good quality chocolate, the most you can usually buy is Nestle and Milka and any overpriced Cadburys or other English chocs don’t taste the same. One of the big things I miss about the UK is the sense of humour. It just isn’t the same here, especially with a slight language barrier, and I get excited when I meet an English person that I can have some banter with!
    P.s. Good to know about Stylist on the Kindle – never knew that before!

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      September 1, 2015 at 6:36 am

      Ha – hope you enjoy your time with Stylist 🙂 The app is on Kindle and iPhone. I can understand what you mean re the English banter, I missed that when I was travelling. The Aussie humour is quite similar, plus there are loads of us Brits out here, so that’s not something I’ve struggled with in Sydney!

  • Reply
    Marie @ To Europe And Beyond
    August 31, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    Oh yes, the UK has ruined shopping for me. I literally plan an entire day of shopping whenever I’m back to visit DESPITE the awful exchange rate. It’s just too good to pass.

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      September 1, 2015 at 6:36 am

      Same. Last time I went home I packed only the clothes I hated so I could throw them out and come back with a whole new wardrobe 🙂

  • Reply
    The Dame Intl
    August 31, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    When I was in Aus and as a confirmed chocolate addict, I was told that in Aus they put something in the choc to stop it from melting and that’s why it’s different. That’s maybe why I lost weight when I was there, I stopped eating chocolate!

    Aussie TV SUCKS BALLS.

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      September 1, 2015 at 6:38 am

      Haha the tv comment made me giggle. I’ve found a few Aussie dramas that I love but the adverts just make me cringe.
      I should probably consider eating less chocolate but instead have proceeded to try everything in the ‘lolly’ aisle. My current love is Guylian pralines – they officially taste the same the world over!

  • Reply
    Kirsten
    August 31, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    I can already relate to so much of this and I’ve only been living in Canada for one month! I really think there is nothing like M&S anywhere else in the world – I miss dine in for 10 pounds (ugh, I cannot find the pound sign on a North American keyboard) and my favourite chicken and stuffing sandwich. On that same topic – Boots! What a fantastic shop, and I miss it so.

    I also miss having everything in one place – having to go specifically shopping for alcohol is frankly strange to me, and I was actually just having a conversation with someone about how I’m sad that I read less now than I only have a 15-minute walk to work instead of a 30-minute commute.

    Clearly I need a bit of a rant about this…!

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      September 1, 2015 at 6:40 am

      O my gosh I was talking with another UK expat just the other night saying what a lifesaver Boots is. Who knew we had it so good?! Also good luck finding that dollar key hahaha 😉

  • Reply
    Megan
    September 1, 2015 at 6:10 am

    When I was an expat I avoided anything Cadbury too. But that’s because I was an Aussie in the UK. Aussie Cadbury is sooo much better. (I’m not alone in this – I had to ship Aussie chocolate to a friend who moved to London.)

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      September 1, 2015 at 6:41 am

      Of course, I never thought about the weirdness happening the other way round. I guess it is what you get used to. It’s not like Aussie Cadbury tastes bad it’s just when you’ve had 30 years of something tasting a certain way it makes my head hurt to find it different!

  • Reply
    Nicole
    September 2, 2015 at 9:10 am

    You can actually buy booze in select IGA’s (such as Chapel St in South Yarra or on the one of Glenferrie Rd near Hawthorn), but they alcohol section does shut earlier than the general supermarket. 😉
    Not sure about Sydney but there’s also this magical “24/7 bottle-o” down the road from my house… *no further comment* 😛

    It’s funny you mention chocolate. I really didn’t fancy the British sweets as much as the Aussie ones! It’s so funny how where we grew up shapes our taste.

    As for rugging up… you should have come down to Melbourne 😉 teehee.

    When I’m in the UK, I miss the seaside/waterfront culture. As soon as the sun is out we’re down on the Esplanade or on Ponyfish Island having some drinks. The UK has the Thames, but it doesn’t compare (sorry!)

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      September 3, 2015 at 3:14 am

      You are doing a very good job of selling Melbourne to me Nicole 😉

  • Reply
    Catherine
    September 2, 2015 at 9:44 am

    Ugh, I love Cotton On, but I call them ‘casual wear-once’ clothes….you can only wear them a few times because they ALWAYS shrink in the wash! WHY OH WHY are they all ‘hand wash only’ – because they’re made of crap, that’s why. I never buy anything in Cotton On that isn’t on sale because it just isn’t worth it.

    Also, I love love love Aussie picnics, I reckon they’re way better than British ones – you literally fill and esky and take everything in your fridge. It’s brilliant.

    The trick with the chocolate is to stick to Nestle brands and Dove (aka, Galaxy), they’re the ones I found that taste the best/most normal. Cadbury’s is just…wrong. I do love a cherry ripe though. Also, apparently the reason it tastes funny is because it contains a weird ingredient that stops it melting so quickly!

    C x | Lux Life

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      September 3, 2015 at 3:15 am

      I have heard that about the preservative – it makes total sense! I’m going to scout out some Dove (Galaxy) now and remember to wear Cotton On stuff only once 🙂

  • Reply
    Katie
    September 3, 2015 at 7:51 am

    Giggled reading this and agree 100%. I’ve yet to find a decent curry house in QLD, how I miss a proper curry!

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      September 4, 2015 at 7:39 am

      O my goodness I can’t believe I forgot to mention how much I miss good Indian curry. It’s all I spoke about for the first few months but now it’s been so long since i ate Indian I forgot how much I loved it!

  • Reply
    Antonia
    March 14, 2016 at 6:20 pm

    I know this is an old post but I have been using your blog as a Bible as I move to Sydney in 3 weeks! I’m going to bulk buy M&S knickers and Percy Pigs to take out. Interesting reading about the media in Oz, I work in PR (I remember meeting you briefly at a pub during a travel bloggers conference in Brighton!) and I hear it’s nowhere near as diverse as in the UK. Thanks for providing a source of knowledge and therefore comfort to a future ex-pat X

    • Reply
      Jayne Gorman
      March 15, 2016 at 4:37 am

      Oh how exciting! I hope I haven’t put you off in any way. It’s a wonderful place to live even if it does have its quirks 🙂

  • Reply
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