One year in the UK

I can hardly believe it myself but last week marked one full year for us in the UK!  Lots has happened since arriving obviously … our time in Pembrokeshire, then buying a house here in Cardiff and getting a new job.  Lots going on!

I’ll post a couple of pics of the house progress first but I’ve been dying to write a post on how life here in the UK compares with life in NZ.  Just a pic of the backyard first — that was before:


And this is after…


Just kidding.  That’s inside the walls at Cardiff Castle in the center of town.  This is the new backyard:


It’s still not huge but it looks way tidier.  Yay!  And the other bit of work being done on the house is in the kitchen.  Finally that silly random bit of the wall has been taken out and everything is now plastered.  So we will paint first thing in the New Year and then the new cabinets can be installed.  And hopefully that will be the end of the DIY for a little while.


Right.  So now onto more interesting topics.  Some New Zealand friends are very curious to know how the UK compares to New Zealand.  I’ve always been interested in cultural differences too so am happy to share my experiences.  But before anyone gets mad at me, let me first point out that the comments I share here are hardly a representative sample — and I’ve only been in Cardiff now for four months, so it’s still early days.

First things first — and a very British place to start — the weather in Cardiff has been HORRIBLE recently.  By horrible I mean the sun has shone for probably no more than 15 hours in the entire month of November — and ten of those were while I was at work.  Apparently we are “paying for” the nice weather we had in September and October, which, arguably, was quite nice for the autumn.  But as you may have seen on the news, many parts of Britain are flooding right now and that’s because it’s been raining pretty much since the end of October.  So while the wind in Wellington sometimes (often?) drove me mad, it certainly never depressed me as much as the wet, damp and dark of a Welsh November.  (Thank goodness one can buy Vitamin D in tablet form!)

Moving on.  The good news is that the houses (or at least our house!) in Britain are much better insulated than those in Wellington.  We have central heating and the back side of the house is double glazed so we are very comfortable inside.  Sometimes we are caught off guard with how cold it is outside which made me realise that in Wellington, we had a reasonable sense for the outside temperature even when we were inside our house…  whereas here we are so sheltered from the outdoors that we now often walk outside sorely under-dressed for the conditions.  I must admit the cold southerly drafts are not something I miss about Wellington.

So the top two expat issues have now been covered… onto the cultural differences stuff.  I can easily say that the Welsh are some of the friendliest, chattiest people I have ever met anywhere on the face of the earth!  They are so open to having a chat — in the park, in the corner shop, on the bus, anywhere.  They loving chatting and having a laugh.  I also find the Welsh accent absolutely hilarious!  So overall, while I found Kiwis pretty nice (except once they got behind a steering wheel), I find the average New Zealander more reserved than the average Welsh person.

That all said, I won’t be the first to observe that the Kiwis are (unsurprisingly) more laid back and relaxed about things than the British.  Although I was born and bred in one of the more uptight and impatient areas of the world, I can tell that some of that relaxed Kiwi mentality has rubbed off so I am finding the British a little bit pedantic at times.  And while I do like to maintain high quality standards, I catch myself internally questioning, “why on earth are you putting so much effort into that when it clearly makes no practical difference?”.  Is that Kiwi?

You can see I am having a small identity crisis. (WHO AM I?!!?)  Indeed coming to the UK has made that a very interesting question because everyone automatically assumes I am an American.  I am an American, obviously, but I don’t feel very American by now.  But to the British ear, I sound very American, which is a little exasperating at times because I am starting to notice a very strange relationship between the US and the UK.  The British seem to admire some aspects of American-ness but simultaneously look down on others.  They definitely think Americans sound dumb… which doesn’t help my cause.  But I’m also starting to get the feeling that the British, or perhaps just the English (?), look down on everyone, not just the Americans.  (Do they?  More observation required on this subject.)

In any case, it’s weird being taken for an American when deep down I feel like a… Wellingtonian.  Yes folks, the hardest part about this year has been realising just how much Wellington had become home for me.  I miss so much about Wellington!  I miss the views from our house in Houghton Bay…

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I miss the harbour.  I miss riding my bike to work (and nearly being killed by psychotic bus drivers!).  I miss complaining about Celia Wade-Brown and all her stupid traffic lights on Courtenay Place.  I miss going to ballet class at the St. James.  I miss cycling past the Beehive.  I miss getting really drunk at Hashigo Zake.  I miss the Embassy theatre.  I miss the Boulcott Street Bistro.  I miss Lyall Bay beach and well, the entire south coast.  Even nudie beach I miss!

But most of all I miss all your familiar faces.  I really do.  Without you guys I feel like I am in the middle of nowhere 🙁

I had better stop before I get too emotional about all of this.  Long story short, there’s pros and cons to every place on the face of the earth and if I focus on all the things I miss about Wellington I will most certainly be miserable here in Wales.  So thank you all for the moral support over the past year and thanks too for all the visits — it’s been so nice to have so many visitors from far away (and from nearby!).

That’s all for now everyone.  I hope to write more frequently but I’m finding work and mummy-hood very exhausting indeed.  Happy holidays if I don’t catch up with you before then.


PS I didn’t feel this fit into my rant about things I missed from Wellington so I will just add here that I also really miss these volcanoes:

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