14 February 2011

Giraffes on Parade

So I know a lot of people who read my blog either live in the UK, have lived or been to the UK or read a fuck load a bunch of other blogs about expats living in the UK. I want to just tell you, this post isn’t for you. This post covers things that a billion other blogs have lamented about before so this is neither original nor life changing. This post is basically for my dearest friend, Beth, who while certainly has traveled outside of the US before has never actually been to Europe. What I want Beth to do right now, if she’s reading, is to get up from her couch or desk or whatever and take a stroll into her bathroom and kitchen and take a good hard look. When she’s done, I want her to take another look and then give a kiss to her appliances. She’s a clean person so I’m pretty sure she won’t mind doing this.

By the way, I could have called this post “For Beth”, or “For Fuck’s Sake” or “Sometimes America actually gets it right” but I didn’t. Since I don’t actually have a title for this post quite yet, I’m tempted to call it “Giraffes on Parade” just to be silly. Yes, that’s definitely what I’ll do.

If you aren’t Beth and you’re still reading, chances are that the other blogs you have read have complained on and on about the bathroom\kitchen differences between the US and the UK. I would like to state for the record that it’s my fucking turn. In an effort to not be a complete Negative Nancy, I’ve included some good bits at the end because really, I do enjoy being here and am grateful to have the chance. However, complaining is 100 times more funny than being all Shiny Happy Heather, so the majority will be bitching.

Let’s start out with the bathroom since that’s where most of the pain comes from. Here is the bathroom, as innocent as you please:

Because of the angle, you might be thinking to yourself that I couldn’t manage to get the toilet in the frame. Let me assure you that I did not. There is no toilet in the bathroom. It’s a BATHroom, which means that it is only required to have a BATH. What I find funny is that Andy’s mum had some flooding issues last year and this whole bathroom needed to be replaced. There used to be a bidet in here. Notice there is no longer a bidet in here. That bidet could have easily been replaced with another toilet since the plumbing was in place. But no. A handy 3 drawer system went in its place instead. In case you are wondering, the toilet (water closet) is in another room just a few steps down the hall. That’s all fine and dandy but what does one do when one has their period (don’t mean to be all gross here but let’s talk practicalities)? When Ole Flo is in town and I am done taking a shower, I do this lovely sprint type maneuver from toweling off in the shower to getting my ass on the toilet as not to make a mess (if you know what I mean). Because there are other people in this house, if I were to have Ole Flo in town (which thank fuck I’m avoiding at the present…thank you baby!), I would have to be somewhat dressed to leave the bathroom to make it to the water closet which by that time a mess could have already occurred and I also run the risk of losing my spot in the bathroom. Seriously, if you have a toilet in the same room as your shower\bath, hug it. Hug it hard for me.

To the right, the bathroom.  To the left, the toilet.

Moving on.

While we are still in the bathroom, let’s talk about this sink situation:

You will notice that there are two taps. One is for Freezing Ice Water and the other is for Boil Some Ramen Noodles. The concept here, of course, is to use the plug and fill the sink with a combination of both as to get a lovely mixture of Slightly Warm to Soothe Your Soul water. But really, who has time for that? If it’s late at night and I’m doing my 3 in the morning bathroom run (thanks baby!) I’m not going to risk third degree burns and will just turn my hands into popsicles for a quick wash. During the day I’m more daring and will try to wash my hands with the boiling water hoping to be finished in the 4 seconds it takes for the water to reach that point. I have lost this battle a few times already. I also feel incredibly guilty for not adhering to the ‘sing “Happy Birthday” while you wash your hands to make sure that they are properly clean’ mantra. Oprah would have a fit.

One last detail about the bathroom and that’s the shower. Or I should say, the shower “door”:

That is the complete shower door. There are no shower curtains to fill the gap for where the shower door ends. I’m a big girl. I’m also pregnant. Even though I huddle under the shower, half of me is never quite covered by the shower door. The shower door also swings in and out. This means that on occasion, when I’m washing my hair and have soap in my eyes and can’t properly see, my elbow will knock against the door causing it to swing open slightly bringing a hefty amount of shampoo and water down the outside of the shower which makes my mother in law hate me for ruining her new floor. I’m just kidding, she doesn’t hate me. I don’t think. Yet.

With these three things, I must admit that getting ready in the morning is a bit stressful. It feels like a chore. I completely get why some Brits don’t shower every day…or even just once a week. It’s scary in there.

The last few things I want to show you aren’t really complaints. They are just differences that I thought Beth would get a kick out of. Oh wait…there is one complaint. No dryer. Since I’ve hashed that one to bits I’ll just post some photo evidence. Andy will need to thank me for cutting out the bit of the picture that has his underwear hanging on the radiator.

On to the differences:

That’s the electric plugs. There are two switches, one for each side of the plug. You have to “switch on” whichever plug you want to use. These are also the closest plugs we have to the bathroom (and they are in the bedroom) so I use these plugs with an extension cord to reach the mirror that is on the OTHER side of the bedroom to do my hair. Seriously Beth, give your bathroom a kiss.

This is the fridge:

This is actually a pretty big refrigerator for the UK. The bottom half is the freezer bit and the top half is the regular fridge bit. It’s not uncommon for UK households to only have a fridge the size as the one below, which is what Andy’s mum only had before the flood. This also explains why many Brits go grocery shopping at least every other day as there is no room to do a mega shop:

Also very common this side of the world is the washing bucket in the sink. While the washing bucket makes absolutely no sense to me, it doesn’t really bother me so it’s not a complaint, more of “Huh?”:

For some fun stuff, here is the how the milk and juice is packaged:

Here’s what I’ve been eating for breakfast for the last 4 days. Sadly it is neither as sugary or as chocolately as its American sugar cereal counterparts but I guess that’s a good thing (grumble grumble):

And finally, what the UK got right:

Yes, that’s the automatic tea kettle. We have these in the States. Hell, we had one ourselves in California. The UK tea kettles are different though. They are magical. When I used to plug in our tea kettle in California, I could safely run a load of laundry before the kettle was ready. Not these UK versions. You plug this baby in and by the time you get a tea bag in your cup the kettle is ready. I’ve never seen water boil so fast in my life. I’m impressed. I’m so impressed I’m going to give it a kiss. And a hug even. Fuck, just burned myself. I never learn.


  1. Ah, this takes me back to when I first arrived. Washing machine in the kitchen?? I was all like, WTF?? Wait til you put a load of washing on then shut the door and find a sock that got left out. Yep - it has to wait until the next wash. No top loading machines here my friend!
    And yes, your fridge is actually kinda large for the UK. If you have a dishwasher, you are truly blessed.

  2. That fridge is enormous. You're very lucky. Do you have a dishwasher!?
    The thing that boggles my mind the most is the 1/4 or 3/4 shower door/shower curtain concept. The floor gets wet no matter what. Who ever came up with that brilliant idea should be shot.
    I miss mixer taps. It's really the little things in life, huh.

    You should come to our tiny town apartment someday. We could commiserate over chocolate milk, or, depending on the month, booze. Which would be preferable.

  3. VW - The washing machine thankfully is in the mud room but I've seen what you are talking about. I'm waiting for the day I accidentally stick a potato in the washing machine and have to wait the full cycle to get it out.

    To VW and Liz: Yes, there's a dishwasher. BUT, my mother in law doesn't use it. It still has the manuals stuck inside it in plastic. I...don't understand. But it's not my place to say any different. I'm still overwhelmed with trying to remember to switch off and unplug any electrical plugs that I might have used. Does everyone unplug the microwave and TV after using?

    Liz: Thank god you understand my pain with the shower. Andy just laughs at me. And yes, if I'm ever in Dublin consider it a date! But I will insist it be under booze conditions. ;-p

  4. Well, since I have have a post dedicated to me, I shall comment away. Where to start? I do love my bathroom and kitchen and will hug/kiss the things you miss.

    I can't imagine life without a toilet in the bathroom. I can only try to empathize with the Ole Flo situation as I completely get where you are coming from. My turn to be real...many times I poo and then take a shower. I would have to time my bowels a bit differently.

    I laughed when I saw the sink cuz I knew immediately what you were going to complain about. Even in the poor Carribean countries I have been to, they have one tap that mixes the temp for you.

    Only a half shower door?! What a mess/hassle that would be. Also, as I know what it takes for you to get your hair under control, you must have lots of extension cords in that place.

    Why no dryers? That seems silly to me. Especially in a country that has 4 seasons which at least half the time the weather would not cooperate with hanging the delicates outside to dry.

    I have seen bigger fridges in some college dorm rooms. :)

    I like the packaging differences. I'm sure there will be many more. I think Weetabix is the Kellogs out there. I have read many a baby post that talks about giving their kids Weetabix cereal.

    In the end, from the pictures, her house seems nice. From the kitchen sink picture, it looks like there is a nice garden patio area. It also looks clean and warm and that is all you can really ask for. Even if you have to hang your drawers on the radiator and scald/freeze your hands.

    Thanks for the post!


  5. Congratulations on making it over there. My husband and I dream of some day visiting or maybe even moving to England. It's a long way off, but it's our little dream.

    Just curious here. Do they have a power bar sort of thing with multiple outlets on it like we have here in the states? That could solve the issue of having to remember to turn switches back and forth.

    Also, if you wanted to, is it possible to get a larger refrigerator in England? or are they just not available there?

    I agree with BH; from the pictures, it seems like Andy's mum's house is really very nice :)


  6. BH: Glad you enjoyed your post! To answer your question, I don't know why they don't have dryers but I suspect it has something to with these being very old houses and there's no room for them. I think. It's just a guess. And yes, her house is very nice, especially after the flood remodel. :-)

    SS: From the ads I've seen, they do sell American sized fridges (and even name them as such) but again the question is if you actually have space for that size fridge in your kitchen.

    Yep, you can get power strips for multiple plugs but I'm still required to turn the switch to the power strip off when we're done using it. Fire danger I guess. Or something. ;-)

  7. I don't read blogs, well now I do. Was just searching for info on living in Liverpool and found the above - genius. Will have to bookmark and return to read some more. Glad you're impressed with our kettles, mine sounds like aircraft taking off.

  8. Kazgti: Glad you are enjoying this blog...or this post anyhow. Our kettle sounds like an aircraft too - or really, just a gigantic lava wave that will take out the city at any second.