Thursday, 6 August 2015

Repatriating to the UK – Things that Surprise me:

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”
Miriam Adeney

There are so many things that we do subconsciously. Things that become part of our routine, our everyday lives. They are a seamless part of the fabric of our lives, and they are sometimes so simple that you don’t even notice them.

Until they disappear from under you. That’s been one of the strangest things about repatriating to the UK, the little day to day things that you completely don’t realise that you do.

Once they are taken away, and replaced with a new set of routines, you soon realise how much you were reliant on the familiarity of those routines and those simple moves you do over and over and over again.

It makes you feel like you are fumbling in the dark. You look like a bit of a moron as you try to go about in your home country acting like you’ve never been there before. Trust me, I’m getting some rather funny looks at the moment when I do something out of turn, something that is against the UK’s own ebb and flow.

Here are the things about the UK that surprised me:

Chip and Pin Machines:

In Dubai I had credit and debit cards that were still using signatures, no chip and pin. You handed your card over to the person on the till, who swiped it, and handed it back to you.

Have you tried handing over a chip and pin credit card to someone on a till in the UK? Try it, they’ll look at you like you’ve got two heads and point at the chip and pin machine, which is most likely right in front of your face.

I have done this at least twice a day for the last couple of weeks, and I just cannot seem to get it into my head. I did actually start explaining myself the last time I did it, but that just made the weird looks even weirder.


You need a prescription for just about everything useful in the UK. This, obviously, is a good thing, so that you can’t just go out and buy antibiotics everytime you get a cold, and develop resistances to said antibiotics.

However, when you live somewhere a bit more rural than city centre Manchester, it can get really frustrating.

When I eat too much gluten, my stomach makes it known that it is not very happy. I used to have buscopan on prescription (it’s an antispasmodic which helps to stop the stomach cramps) for use as and when I needed it, but I’ve not yet gotten round to seeing a doctor and getting a prescription for it.

Not being able to just go and find a late night chemist (these are also practically non existant here) and buy what you need is really weird when that’s exactly what you’ve been doing for the last four years.

If you really want to freak people out, go into a pharmacy and ask for something like birth control pills (which you also need a prescription for). Being eyed up like you are an active heroin user with needle marks across your face is mildly entertaining.

People Abiding by Traffic Laws:

And not just abiding by the law, but being considerate about other road users. People in the UK actually let you out from a side road, or into a queue of traffic, regardless of how big your car is.

They take turns. They smile sheepishly and wave in apology if they do something that resembles less than competent driving.

I haven’t been tailgated once. I haven’t had a single incident of someone driving like they were trying to sit in my backseat, whilst flashing their lights (which I couldn't see because they were hidden by my rear bumper) and beeping their horns, even though I couldn’t move over because the next lane was full of cars.

Driving is strangely peaceful. Dare I say it, almost relaxing.

Online Shopping actually works:

I love online shopping, adore it! Although admittedly I only used to use it for clothes shopping.

Supermarket shopping online…. I think I may have fallen in love with it. I ordered nappies and baby wipes and all manner of cleaning products and dry groceries (I’m a but OCD about picking my own fruits and vegetables) and it turned up at my door, sensibly packed in plastic bags and all ready to be slotted into my house.

The delivery guy was ten minutes early for the time slot I’d scheduled and he even offered to take them into the kitchen for me. Why would I ever go to the supermarket, with two kids in tow, ever again?

People think it’s hot!

This is the most perplexing. I am aware that I have acclimatised to the scorching heat of the desert, but even so, there isn’t a heat wave going on.

The lady who runs our holiday let told me that she’d switched the heating around so that it only came on in the evening, in fear of sweating us out of the house…. No need to fear, we are freezing! Even sleeping in the air con has nothing on sleeping in an exposed cottage in a rural location.

Desperately don’t know how to tell her that we NEED more heating, in June, when everyone is out in t-shirts and shorts, and I’m debating buying some thermal underwear.

My Body Hates Me:

 It's rising up in protest at every available opportunity. 

My hands are cracked and bleeding, because apparently it's too damn cold and wet. 

My feet are aching and also cracked, because it's too damn cold and wet. 

My legs are dry and flakey, because it's..... well, you can see the trend for yourselves. 

My body has adapted to the blistering heat and is not too happy about being back in the cold, not one bit. 

Copious amounts of E45 cream is helping, but not curing it. I think my body is just going to have to toughen up...gulp, now all I have to do is tell it!

The Water is Different:

In strange ways. Yes I know it's drinkable, and I know it's cold, but I was expecting that. 

I wasn't expecting that when I prepare Mister L's bottles, the formula powder doesn't mix well into the water. It sits on the surface and it takes a lot of work to get it to mix, even when it's warm. 

So that's my list of the things that I found weird when I first landed in the UK. What did you find weird about repatriating?