Everything I realise I’ve missed about the UK coming home for Christmas from my year abroad
Spain might have the weather, but do they have the pubs?
If you go on a year abroad you’ll definitely find yourself missing certain things about your lovely home country among the hell fire of Brexit you might have been excited to leave behind. Obviously you’ll miss your friends, Hive, and Teviot nachos, but I’ve been thinking about the things that are standard and taken for granted about the UK.
Cheese – the staple of my diet, the love of my life. European cheese is great, and there are fewer things more delicious than some Brie and cranberry, a blob of melted Camembert, or a slice of Manchego. I’m not being a cheese philistine here, I’m really not, but I never realised how much I love cheddar cheese until having been on my year abroad and coming back for the holidays. You don’t want to make a toastie to sooth your disgusting hangover with some exotic and exciting cheese, only the comfort of cheddar will do. It may be boring, but it’s the best.
You’re in town, you want a drink, but you’ve not got too much spare money to waste because the exchange rate got worse again when you had to transfer last month’s rent over from pounds to euros and you spent a bit more than you should have done at the Christmas markets. The answer is always Spoons. The carpet is always patterned, the food is always just what you wanted, and the drinks are always reasonable, even if they stopped doing the pitchers of Long Island Iced Tea. Is there a more classic British institution?
I had never before found myself thinking about how much I appreciated Boots until I came back from my year abroad for the holidays. Boots literally stocks anything you could possibly need, all in one place, and is one of the most underrated shops on the British high street.
Boots is not just a pharmacist, it’s an amazing place where you can buy travel-sized toiletries handy for flights, find overpriced but good quality meal deals, and even get your edgy disposable camera photos developed. Other countries just lack this gem of a shop that I personally feel doesn’t get enough recognition.
In the UK we might have many faults, but one thing we definitely have going for us is that we absolutely know how to queue. Queuing is a necessity, enough said.
Another clichéd stereotype, another complete truth. Tea plays a key part in my daily life, and I can firmly say there is little better than a good cup of tea done the right way (if you put your milk in while the teabag is still in the mug to brew, please reassess everything). Had a bad day? Cup of tea. Got a hangover? Cup of tea. Need to procrastinate? Cup of tea. When I first moved, my flatmates told me they didn’t know it was normal to have tea with milk, so at least I feel good about the fact that I’m really providing them with the stereotypical British experience.
I was prepared and have a good stock of PG Tips and Yorkshire Tea in my flat in Madrid, but whether it’s the water or the milk or the warmer weather, it’s just not the same. Ordering tea in a café is just sad, because I have to ask for “black tea with a little bit of milk”, and sometimes they pour the milk in for me and I end up with tea the colour of literal dishwater. It’s cheaper and better to not even bother.
Britain is that really embarrassing friend at a party who turns up late, already smashed, with a cig behind their ear, clutching a 15 can multipack of Strongbow which has gone warm because they forgot to put it in the fridge. They stagger in, look around, and see their cool European friends judging them. They’re all sipping glasses of chilled white wine, which aren’t screw tops, and which they didn’t buy just because the bottle was on offer in Sainsburys for under a fiver. Britain doesn’t mind, Britain is having fun in their own way, and that’s why Britain is so loveable. There’s something so comforting about coming back to the UK and hearing the reassuringly Northern accents of a group of middle-aged women, who are getting drunk on the 17.46 from Manchester to Stoke-on-Trent on their way to a hen do. We’re a bit rough around the edges compared to our more sophisticated neighbours, but that’s what makes us so adorable.