I chat to my friends most days. My husband says we'll run out of things to say to each other - he has a LOT to learn about women! But I often miss the face to face chat over a coffee. Most Brits prefer tea, I might add, but I'm not most Brits! It got me thinking about all the little things I miss.
I can't say I especially miss England, but I also don't feel the Netherlands is home. I don't actually like being an expat. The grass isn't always greener on the other side, as most people think! The reality is us expats still have to queue at the supermarket, we still have to wait days for a doctors appointment, and we don't spend all day on the beach getting a tan. It's normal life, just as it would be at home. But I find it's the smallest things that I miss the most. Friends are always there, albeit at the end of the phone, or even a short flight, or a days drive away.
I miss the silliest food items! Sometimes I feel I could give my right arm for a simple bacon butty! I can get English bacon here, but it means a two hour drive each way to the only expat shop in the country to sell fresh food and meat. Of course it's pricey too, and that isn't their fault as they have to make a profit. So, the silly food items I miss are an occasional treat only. Very occasional! It goes without saying a full English breakfast is also sorely missed!
I miss the English countryside. Hills especially! I can't lie, sometimes it's nice that this country is so flat. It's great for walking, and no wonder Dutchies cycle everywhere. But every time I go out with my camera, I'm at a loss of what to snap, and where to go. I miss those rolling hill landscapes, and how the light hits them. Nothing beats a brisk walk along the seafront, but a hike in the hills comes a close second!
This one is very high on my list of things I miss. Why, oh why is it almost impossible to find decent shoes/summer sandals here? Dutch women seem to think it's not only ok, but obviously fashionable to set foot out in public in Birkenstocks or Jesus Creepers, but I'm sorry, I just cannot get my head around joining integrating with that 'trend'. Dutch shoe shops (most European shops, I believe, not just Dutch) have truly nailed the winter boots. I wouldn't swap my Dutch boots for dull English black ones (poor quality too, I might add). After 9 years here, I don't think I've worn a single pair out yet - although I tell hubby I have as he's not as keen as I am about me buying more! But the shoes here are a different story. Some are so old fashioned, they belong in museums. No, I'm not on about the clogs
English Christmas! It might be Christmas all over the world, but unless you've lived abroad, you don't tend to think about how others celebrate it. I miss all the traditions, from turkey roast, to giving gifts to friends, sending cards to everyone you know, the smell of mince pies wafting through the house - I don't even like them, but I love the smell! Here, Christmas is celebrated strictly amongst close family only, and you don't send cards to anyone and everyone. Forget Secret Santas, or exchanging gifts with friends. St. Nicholas is bigger than Christmas here, but that's really just for young children. However, this one I can kind of get round. I do an English Christmas alternate years. So one year, we go to the in-laws on Christmas Day, and my turkey dinner is demoted to Boxing day. The following year we switch. I incorporate English traditions into the Dutch too, but somehow it never feels quite the same.
English manners! I know a lot of people accuse Americans of being fake. Closely followed by Brits! Whether Americans are being fake when they wish you a good day or not, I can't answer. But, the same is done here. If you buy something in a shop on a Friday afternoon, the cashier will bid you a good weekend. Often they'll bid you a good day at other times too. Us Brits will apologise if we bump in to someone. I can't answer for others, but if I bump in to someone, and I know it's my fault, or at least partially mine, I'll say sorry. That isn't fake. I am actually sorry! I didn't do it deliberately, and I hope I didn't hurt them, or spill something on them if they or I was carrying a hot drink or something. It's truly genuine. I swear, if somebody bumps into me, knocking my shopping out of my hands whilst I'm stood still, and they're looking down at their phone, instead of saying 'sorry', they'll glare at me, and walk around - like I made them walk in to me, and drop my shopping! I miss the please and thank you's too! Maybe the small circle I'm in here are just rude, or maybe that's normal, but it's rare to hear those polite words here. You will hear them said in a restaurant, bar, shop etc when being served, but not amongst friends. Dutch people are known for their directness, and are even proud of it, but it feels like people are very cold and blunt at times. And they call us 'fake!'
As I said at the start, these are all small things. There are many more too. I could be here all day listing them all. But the biggest is having a face to face chat with friends. We can, and do, do video calls from time to time, but it's not the same. Sometimes when you have a bad day, to just call round, or open the door to a friend and sit and have a cuppa and a chat - about anything and everything. It just puts the world to rights, and everything feels good again! What is it you miss the most if you live abroad? If you don't, what do you think you would miss the most?