My English Castle
Updated: Mar 21, 2018
"An Englishman's home is his castle," or more commonly back in the states "a man's home is his castle." I wanted to share with you some differences in my lifestyle that have changed as a result of living in an English household. Most are for the better in my opinion, but some pose challenges that I now live with every day and adjust for. Keep in mind some of this is not entirely common in an English household, and my comparison back in the states is not always common as well. Both are more on the upper middle class side than anything else.
Outlets - The outlets here have on and off switches, which is great for the environment. You have to switch it on showing the red part in order for the outlet to work. This is pretty standard throughout the country, even in hotels and touristy establishments.
UK plug vs. US plug - Pretty obvious one here, the UK plug is very large, 3-pronged and holds 240V at 50 Hz (US appliances are usually 120V at 60 Hz).
Toilet - Like most of Europe, we have the option of a long flush or a short flush. Saves a lot of water!
Towel dryer - There is a hot metal rack stemming from the ground to near the ceiling that is meant to hold towels so that they dry and stay warm. It is usually pretty hot, so touching it may sting a little, but not so hot that it is a hazard. I love this! Nothing better than my towels always being warm and dry for me.
Electric shower - There is a cord hanging from the ceiling with a red light that you must pull in order to turn on the shower. The red light glows when the shower is on. The difference here is that the shower uses electricity to heat up cold water instantly for your shower, so it can be used in any household no matter the plumbing situation (does not need hot water hookup). Saves energy and water. It also almost always comes as a hose as opposed to just an overhead shower, which I always prefer.
Extractors - Fans are common in bathrooms everywhere to fight against mold and mildew, but this one in particular has two so even better. One comes on with the light, but a second stronger one can be turned on with a tug of the cord.
Reset and test buttons on US plugs - My boyfriend pointed this one out to me because it confuses him when he goes over to the states. Lots of US plugs and outlets have red RESET and black TEST (can be other colors, but RESET is always red) buttons. These are found usually on outlets near water (kitchen, bathroom, etc.) or appliances that are commonly used in these parts of the house (hair dryers, coffee machines, etc.). The buttons indicate a failsafe to prevent electrical accidents and are meant as aides when ground faults (lose their electric current) occur. TEST makes sure it is working properly (only use this to check when it is already working, not after the fault occurs) and RESET is used after a fault to reactivate it.
Washer/dryer unit - The washer and dryer are one eco-friendly unit in the kitchen. While most mechanics are similar, the main challenge is how long it takes to complete loads. I am a very clean person who likes a clean household, so I do about 2-4 loads of laundry a week (clothes, bed sheets, towels, blankets, etc.). In the US, I could probably finish this with one washer unit and one dryer unit in 3-4 hours (38 minutes to wash and 45 min to dry). Here, it'll take days. Basically I run the wash and dry cycle that takes about 3 hours and then I have to hang dry everything for almost a full day to finish off the drying.
Water heater - The water heater in our place is exposed in the kitchen, but usually these are in cupboards hidden away like in the states.
Worktop part of sink - Most kitchen sinks have two parts: a bowl and a worktop. The bowl is the main part of the sink with the drain and depth to hold dishes. The worktop is something new to me; this is a ribbed part connected to the bowl where you are meant to wash vegetables and do other tasks that require washing. The idea is that the ribbed effect helps you drain the water directly into the bowl while you work. Since I rarely keep the bowl full, I like using this part to hold the dish drying rack. We don't have a dishwasher, so this is extremely helpful as I am always washing dishes.
Streamlined cable and internet services - Having Sky cable here is awesome! It feels completely streamlined with internet, smart tv apps and services, DVR capability and even Sky Cinema that allows you to watch hundreds of movies for free (my favorite - similar to having DIRECTV or On Demand). The US has this of course in some ways, but I am used to all the cable companies fighting so much that not one feels as inclusive as this one. Also, I am used to internet being terrible because all these cable companies fail to offer high-speed internet since they know you are trapped into using them depending on where you live and can screw you over.
Mail Slot - We have a mail slot in the front door that makes it easier and more secure to get your mail, as opposed to mail boxes in the states.
Radiators - We have centralized heating, but they come out of radiators scattered throughout the house as opposed to vents in the ceiling. There is pretty much one in every room. The one pictured below in our office is Castle's favorite, since we strategically placed his bed under it. He knocks out when the heating is on.
Conservatory - Lots of English households have conservatories for dining and entertaining. This is a separate room that usually extends towards the garden and is completely enclosed in windows. Beautiful, bright and open rooms you can dine in where you can see the seasons change. We do not have one unfortunately, so what you see below is a shed.
Trash and Recycling - This is of course different where you live, but the current waste pick-up schedule here is just barely sufficient for every day life. Both are collected biweekly on opposite weeks, so this week rubbish will be picked up and next week recycling will be picked up. While this is fine for now, when I moved in it was a nightmare. I had so many amazon orders and moving boxes that we actually just called a service to come pick up everything.
Mail or parcel delivery - This was a very pleasant surprise for me! If you are not home to receive a parcel, then it will either go to a nearby neighbor that signs for it or a local pick-up office (ours is really close). When it goes to a neighbor, the courier will leave a note in your mail slot saying the name and address of who has it. If your back porch or garden are easy access, sometimes they will try to place them in a safe spot there.
Amazon overuse of packaging - Since I use Amazon for everything, I couldn't help but notice that Amazon deliveries here have tried to keep the same size packaging no matter what you order. So if you order a bag of rice, they will put it in a large box with tons of packaging. If you order several things, they will put it in that same size box with less packaging. Probably makes it easier to have the same box for all, but it creates a lot of unnecessary waste with every little thing ordered. Amazon is pretty good about maximizing the boxes that best fit your delivery in Los Angeles.
British Pound (GBP) - Of course when you go abroad a major difference is the national currency. British currency comes in coins and bills like ours, however more coins are used than anything else. Pennies or pence come in 1, 2, 5, 10 or 20 coins. Pounds or "quid" come in 1 or 2 pound coins or 5, 10, 20, or 50 bills. The current exchange rate is 1£ (GBP) = $1.40 (USD).
Passports as ID - Most here use their passport or a driving license as identification, and they do not get these until they are 16 years of age. The main difference is there isn't a social security number, so your birth certificate just has your name, address and date pretty much. Also over 76% of the country have their passports so this as an ID is pretty normal, whereas only about 40% of US citizens have their passports and it isn't normal to use as an ID.
For the most part, the differences are good and even some of the challenges have helped me create a better lifestyle. Some have kicked bad habits or started up good ones. I am very happy to call this house my castle. Here is a rainbow that I see often since it always rains.