Friday, March 27, 2009

It's not just the language difference....

...nor the time change, nor royalty, nor the geography that makes the UK so different than the United States - or the US so different from the UK, if you will. Rather, it is a combination of hundreds of little things. When I say little, I mean 'minor' and not necessarily 'small'...although that is probably a good place to start.

As Americans we are well aware of our obsession with all things bigger and larger. It's no secret that we like it that way. What was a secret, I think, (and at least to me) was exactly to what degree we have everything on such a larger scale. What I have discovered since living here is that the rest of the world doesn't live smaller, but the United States just lives larger.

I've already addressed the snack-size bags of chips in a prior post. In addition to chips, things like ice cubes are smaller and are in much less quantity. I've included a picture of the ice cube tray that came with our new refrigerator. It is seriously the only one that came with it...teeny trays with tiny cute-shaped ice cubes. It makes me wonder what a Brit would think of those huge freezer cases full of giant bags of ice cubes that sit in every store and 7-11. I should include a picture of our refrigerator as well, but I'm going to let you do the math on that one by providing you the measurements of ours so you can compare it to yours. Keep in mind that the refrigerator we have is considered full-size. It measures 22 inches wide by 66 inches tall. The freezer compartment is on the bottom and consists of three drawers...oh, and an ice tray. Don't forget the ice tray.

Speaking of 7-11...well, I can't really speak of 7-11 because there aren't any here (at least not where I live or have been) and the concept of a convenience mart like that is entirely different here. There are things called 'One Stop' and some other quick-mart like shops attached to gas stations, but they aren't the same as the ones in the US because they aren't based on saving you time, or being convenient. In fact, the notion of convenience is pretty much nonexistent here. That leads me to my next observation.

When we moved into our house it took about three days for us to notice that we didn't have a microwave. It then occurred to me that maybe we didn't actually need a microwave, so we decided to give it a try: living a microwave-less life. Surprisingly, it has worked for us. I won't lie...there are times that it would be easier to have one, and every time we are at a store HUsband suggests that we get one I get tempted, but I've rather enjoyed the challenge of making do without one. Weird, I know.

Our house came with a washer, but not a dryer. When we looked into getting a dryer, we discovered that although dryers are available here, most houses don't have them because of the extremely high cost of gas and electricity. Indeed, as I looked around, I noticed that just about everyone has a laundry line hanging in their yard, and at every store I've noticed there are multiple choices for clothes drying racks. During this investigation I also discovered that the radiators are the best way for drying clothes, at least during the winter. The stores sell these wire rack things that hang off the radiator and increase the surface area for drying clothes. And because it is a radiator, there's no risk of fire. It's just hot water going through the pipes, and while it keeps the house remarkably warm, it isn't hot enough to burn anything. Believe me when I say that I checked out that possibility in every possible way.

While I'm talking about water, I'll describe the faucet situation. This puzzles me SO much. Apparently the concept of one tap for the water just hasn't caught on here, and it isn't just in our house. I've noticed it everywhere else I go...there is a knob and tap for the hot and the same for the cold. So washing your hands with warm water isn't is either hot or cold. Running a bath requires a lot of stirring, as the water from the two faucets needs to be mixed.

Did I mention that my washer is in my kitchen? I thought that was strange at first, but as I watch local commercials and tv shows, I see that it is the norm. Unfortunately it also means that I don't have a some brilliant design effort, the person who remodeled the kitchen placed the washing machine (a front loader) in the space where a dishwasher might go. However, if the number of commercials for dish washing detergent are any indication of how many people are hand-washing their dishes, I am certainly not the minority.

If I can be completely honest right now, I would have to say that the dishwasher is by far the thing I miss most. I really hate doing dishes. But you know what it has made me realize? All the complaining about unloading the dishwasher I used to do was absurd.

In fact, many of the realizations I have come to since moving here come at the expense of my ingratitude for what I had back in the United States. That is not to say that I do without here, but rather, I do DIFFERENT. And as I've said so many times before, this country is NOT what you see in the movies, it isn't what you read in the books. What it IS, however, is incredibly complex and admirably self-realized. It's mind-boggling when considered in the context of its size, which is roughly the same square mileage as my state of Oregon.

I'll leave it at that...right now I need to get back to creating posts that are in the true spirit of the beginnings of this blog. I think I'll tackle soap and deodorant in my next post...and NO, it is NOT about the American misconception that Europeans don't shower as often as we do or use deodorant. Besides, the British don't consider themselves as Europeans. Again, another topic for another post.

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