My Life in the UK

This is a topic that is talked about in one of the American Expat FB groups I am in and there are always people that hate living here and will jump at the next chance to go back home and then there are others who absolutely love it here and this is home for them.
 I belong to latter group.

I do think about this a lot, is it because I came from being out of the military? Is it because my husband is British? Is it both? Truth is I don't know the answer. I do love the energy that people have when they first arrive here wanting to get immersed in the culture but often wonder if they are often divided? The spouses are able to be immersed but the military member constantly pulls them towards the base?

Anyways, I thought I would tell you about what my life is like here and maybe you can see where I am coming from or not as it were.

I walk my dog everyday. We go to the local farmland and have a wonder round meeting up with other dog walkers. This seems to be the only time where a stranger will talk to you. I have trained him to walk well off the lead so he can enjoy a bit of a run everyday. The walk we take is about 2 miles.

I work a full-time job to which I cycle to. It is a 10 mile round trip for me. If I drive, it takes about the same amount of time but during term time, it is always faster by bicycle. I ride everyday unless I am being lazy or it is really bad weather. I like it because I am able to get in some exercise in my commute. It is always free to park my bike and makes going across Cambridge easier than a car because I get to avoid the traffic. Also we are a one car family so that saves us money as well.

Where I work I get 42 days holiday including bank holidays. I also get the time between Christmas Eve and New Years Day off because my place of work closes. I often have more holiday than I know what to do with and unlike when I was in the military, I don't have to count weekends when I go away for two weeks. I work 37.5 hours per week Monday-Friday. This was a big change for me when I got out. I used to be on-call all of the time, I was also working 12-18 hour days.

I volunteer at a local Brownies unit and until recently a Rainbow unit. I started with the Brownie unit when I was in the military but could not always guarantee I would be there because it all depended if the planes took off ontime or something else came up. I attend each of these once a week. I really love spending time with the girls and learn things that are different from what I know.

I have to be honest, I love British television and not all the good stuff. I first started out on HollyOaks and Eastenders (these are on everyday Monday-Friday) courtesy of Mr B. But I am an early riser even on the weekends so started watching the omnibus (catchup) of Emmerdale and Coronation Street. So now I watch all the British soaps! I know its sad but at least I am not tied to them so if I miss them, I don't freak out. We only have Freesat so end up watching the same channels as it is. When we had Sky for free, we watched the same channels so we decided not to sign up after the trial. We also have Netflix so we watch a lot of movies.

A lot of people ask me if I shop at the local markets. I don't have time to. I don't work in the center of Cambridge and by the time I get off work, they are packing up. It is not advantageous for me to go into town on the weekends and there is nothing worse than shopping in Cambridge on a weekend, especially during tourist season! I usually do big shops from Tescos online (my husband's beer is usually cheaper here) and have them deliver to my house. In between these orders, I shop at our co-op and the butchers.

Outside of food, I am not a big shopper to begin with. I found when I worked at Sweaty Betty I was my best customer so I stopped buying clothes until they fall apart or no longer fit (I always try to alter them if I can!) and as you know British houses do not have the same amount of storage so I have decided to have less stuff. So when I do go shopping, I am going somewhere for a purpose and like to get in and out as soon as I can. I know this sounds silly but if something catches my eye and I am tempted, I call my husband and usually end up talking myself out of the purchase. But this has been very beneficial for us moneywise because the only debt we have is our house. Don't think it has always been this way for me, I had a love affair with my credit cards while I was in and paid them all off a year before I separated and have never run them up again!

On the weekends I am either catching up on errands (although I try to do them on the way home from work), clean my house, go to a property or relax at home. I also go to church on Sundays but because I am Catholic, the closest church to me is in Cambridge.

We also go to the sailing club that we belong to. We usually have lunch down at the sailing club. Dusty and I go for walk while the others sail (again about 2 mile walk). Yes, I see that we do a lot of walking, it keeps us both out of trouble! I do not sail but Mr B does.

Otherwise I do all sorts of things as you can tell from my FB page and Instagram. I eat out with friends, go out for coffee for a catchup or go walks in the local area (with Dusty of course!). As you know I go to the theatre often. Either Jane or Mr B goes with me depending on the show and we always sit in the cheap seats.

My doctor and dentist are in my village. I don't pay for seeing the doctor. I do through taxes which is 20% after the first £10,600 but if I am ever unemployed I can still see a doctor. Also health insurance would be more than I would pay taxes if I lived in the US. A lot of people hear horror stories about the NHS in USA but as most of my readers are with the military, it is very much like the treatment you get with the military. Everyone gets what they need but those that need it first are in the front of the line. I have only had great experiences. I do pay to see the dentist but can either go private or see a NHS dentist which is cheaper.

My wage is not as much as it may be in the US and I no longer have the generous housing allowance but we make it work and I would not have it any other way. We both work full-time and have chosen a house that is within our means to include our council tax. We don't budget as such but we don't really spend either.

In the summer, I like to come home and sit in the garden as you know most British homes don't have air conditioning. TBH, we have a lovely garden which takes a bit of work to maintain but we are working on it. I love to sit in the garden and read a book.

I also like to go to the Cambridge Shakespeare festival, have picnics in the parks and attend other events. People often complain about the poor weather but we have to make sure we are out when it is good!

I am not sure why but autumn is actually my favorite time of year here. The leaves start to change, more events are being held and I see my friends more after their summer holidays. Oh and of course Bonfire night!

Generally we go on holiday once a year but have a couple of city breaks as well. No rhyme or reason the places we choose but living here makes going to the mainland very easy.

On Christmas Eve, I like to wait in line with Jane at King's College for A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. I spend Christmas with my family and Boxing Day at Jane's with friends. I like this time of year here because everything slows down which is much needed after a busy year. I also like to use this time to catch up on things that I have not been able to attend to during the year to have a fresh start when the New Year comes.

So looking at what I have written, I know I don't have an exciting life but we are happy. We are living within our means. I love the history and the culture here. I think I always knew I wanted to live abroad. The slower pace suits me and I just feel like for once I am enjoying myself. I don't earn a lot of money compared to when I was in the USAF but I feel like I have so much more. This is not to say that I don't get frustrated sometimes because I do.

  All the Best!

American to Britain


  1. What is the Facebook group you mentioned? I just moved to Reading and I am looking for other local americans (outside London) to meet up with :) Im glad you love the UK so much - gives me hope I will too!

    1. This is it! If you can't get in, let me know, I will tell them!

    2. I hope you will love it as much as I do!


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