For the most part, I would say we assumed "normal" life pretty quickly and by now most things no longer feel as foreign as they did in the beginning. I will admit there are definitely things I still miss about the US and things I find strange or irritating about life over here, but there are now things about the UK that I am sure I will miss once we return to the US.
In no random order, here are some things I still really do miss about the US:
- Being close to our families. We are lucky enough to have had our families over here to visit, and they will return within the next year, but it is still sad at times not to see them as often as we did before. Same story with our good friends!
- Various products: unsweetened chocolate squares (no good substitutes of any kind of over here), Cheetos (terrible I know), marshmallows, cheez-its, tootsie rolls, big bags of chocolate chips (Trader Joe's semi-sweet brand to be specific), applesauce, CHEX cereal, PAM spray, and peanut butter are just a few.... and looking at this list, I realize there is nothing really healthy on there!
- Dining out. Restaurants in our area, although charming, are not quite as prolific and of the same quality as we experienced on a regular basis in Chicago. We were spoiled with the dining options in the city of Chicago and miss our good steaks, hamburgers, deep dish pizza, sushi, and weekend brunch restaurants the most. No good substitutes over here in our area.
- Buttered movie theater popcorn. They offer "salt" or "sweet" popcorn choices at the movie theater over here and while we have not attended more than a handful of movies in the last year, I miss the kind slathered in liquid butter and topped with salt. (again, realizing another thing I miss about the US is really not that healthy!)
- Fast customer service. I suspect that by the time we move back to the US, the mediocre customer service that the US cable company will offer me will feel like lighting speed compared to the experiences I have had over here.
- Fabric Stores - i.e. Jo-Ann Fabrics or any other big chain or independent quilting/fabric shop in the US. I am sure my wallet (and Scott!) appreciates the lack of such stores over here but I could spend hours just wandering the aisles of a good fabric store. There is a story called Hobby Craft over here that is a very watered down version of a Michael's but really it doesn't even hold a candle to any type of "superstore" craft store in the US.
- Window Screens and air-conditioning in the house. Have you seen my posts about spiders before???? I often feel like I am living at a summer camp because I see and kill so many spiders!
- Target. There is no substitute.
- Stores open past 5:30pm. I cannot wait to be back in the US where I can run out to the store at 7pm just because I would like to go shopping later in the evening. I will never take 24 hour stores for granted after living over here!
Again, in no random order, some things I have really grown to enjoy on this side of the pond:
- Boden. I have recently discovered this online shopping outlet. I LOVE it. My poor wallet (and Scott)! I especially love it because they offer LONG options for dresses and pants which is a golden find for someone like me who is taller than most. I am even more thrilled to know that they now have a US division of their company so once we move back to the US, I will still be able to indulge in this shopping habit.
- Waitrose Grocery Store. It is really a fabulous grocery store and makes Dominicks or Jewel in Chicago look pretty dismal. They have a wonderful selection of bakery products, fresh fish, and more - although it all comes with a price!
- Percy Pigs from M&S. I am slightly addicted to these "soft gums" as they call them here. Basically they are chewy gummy candies.
- Custard Cream Biscuits. These cookies are cheaper than buying a bottle of water. They are simple vanilla wafers with cream filling on the inside but they are served frequently with your coffee or tea, or during a meeting, and I eat them all too often as a result! They are a tasty little treat though...
- Salt & Vinegar Crisps. Salt & Vinegar seems to be a very popular flavor chip (as known by Americans) and Scott & I both really enjoy the flavor. It seems that every brand of chips offers this flavor and they are all good.
- The slower pace of life and extended amount of vacation time. It seems to be a love/hate relationship we have with the pace of life over here - it is frustrating that things move much slower than we are used to at times, but then on the flip side, it is very nice to be able to take a step back and slow down a bit. Stores physically close earlier here and everyone takes their allotted 5 weeks of yearly vacation. Such parameters have actually allowed us to spend more time together and have given us plenty of time to travel. Sometimes it feels like we are on vacation every other month. (not that we are complaining - but it is a wonder how things get done when people are on holiday so often!).
- The access to Europe and beyond. We have been able to see so many amazing places over here that we know we never would have the opportunity to see with such ease if living in the US.
- Scott's office being located just 2 miles away from where we live. His short commute has been a complete change from his days in Chicago when he drove for over an hour (or more) each way to and from work. He now is able to come home from work in the middle of the day for lunch, and even though he works more hours than he did in Chicago, he is actually home earlier (sometimes) than he was a year ago.
- The weather. How could the weather be a positive when it rains so much over here, you ask?!?!? Again, compared to the weather in Chicago (mainly the winters there), a year round fall-like climate with rain really seems to be a nice improvement over digging a car out of a foot of snow in below-zero temperature! Besides, if we miss the sun in the summer months, we just can hop on a plane and head to southern France or Italy for a week. :)
Overall, we are glad to be celebrating our first year of living abroad and hope that our future time here brings as many wonderful discoveries as we have had within the first year.