Expat Life

Things You Might Not Find in England

When you are studying abroad in the UK you usually don’t have to worry about any of these as most are provided by the University.  However, if you’re coming to the UK to settle then you need to really think about the following: How are you going to keep warm?  Where the f*&% are all your clothes going to go?

Maybe these problems were just applicable to me.  And it’s obvious by now I’m a weather snob.

Do not get angry when you can’t find the following things:

Flat Sheets- from my experience very, very few people have flat sheets.  This has included, Sam, his family, all 5 of my former housemates, their families, hotels, B&Bs, etc.  Basically no one.  You can buy flat sheets in home stores but they are ridiculously over-priced.  If you want one, bring it from home!

Comforters- You will rarely find a comforter in the UK. Instead it’s all about the duvet.  This isn’t a very important swap as they are quintessentially the same thing. I did spend I significant amount of time looking for one before I gave up and bought a duvet instead.

Closets- Most houses and apartments in London will not have closets as we think of them in America.  Most will have wardrobes instead. (From Ikea.) If you are extremely lucky, you will have a coat closet somewhere.  Your clothes will learn to live in drawers instead.  Your shoes will learn to live under the bed.

(This is for two people to share? Somebody pinch me.)

Radiators that work- Maybe I’ve just had bad luck with housing, but even in homes with double glazing the radiators do not seem to adequately heat the space.  I’m a lady that is accustom to central heating.  It’s the thing I miss most about my home in America- warm air blowing out of vents. In one house it got so cold that our olive oil FROZE in the kitchen overnight. (This is not typical* I hope!).  Things to invest in: A space heater, lots of hot water bottles, extra blankets, lots of sweaters and socks.

Sam is always saying, “It’ll be fine after I bleed the radiators.” He does so and that tends to make it approximately 1 degree warmer.

Separate dryers- I remember the good ‘ole days where my clothes would come out of the dryer fluffy, warm and soft.  Most people in the UK don’t own a dryer. Washing machines usually have a drying function but that doesn’t actually get your clothes dry.  Plus it takes about 5 hours and takes loads of electricity. So everyone hangs their clothes out to dry on drying racks instead.  Which is very nice and environmentally friendly but that also means in the middle of the cold, cold winter it may take 2 days for thick clothing like jeans to dry.  And fluffy towels? Forget about them. Learn to embrace feeling like you’re getting a full-body exfoliation whenever you dry yourself off.

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  • Maggie

    When I studied abroad we were not housed by the university, so I experienced all of this. Luckily I was used to the Duvet thing and flat sheet thing, I guess my family was just unintentionally very English when it came to bedding.
    But the Wardrobes. Oh the Wardrobes. I had one that size that THREE of us shared. All hell.
    Also I hated the dryers. Nothing ever got dry! Even if I hung it out, the moisture in the air always kept it wet.
    Despite those things, I still miss London like crazy!!

    • Did RB set you up with housing suggestions? If not, how did you live?!? xx

  • washing machines and dryers all in one? sounds weird!! i wonder why they don’t have dryers?! space issues?

    • Mostly because of space! Dish washers are a rarity to. Also Sam threw out, “and we aren’t as lazy as Americans” so then I punched him. xx

  • Dryers are the one thing that I really miss about the US. I honestly love it in England but if you want me to have to complain about one thing…that would be it. I miss dryers.

    In our last flat we had a very tiny washing machine that did the drying like you stated, but it was so small that we could really only put an outfit in it and a towel and that would be it. With two adults and two boys, I feel we never get the laundry all done ever. I have two drying racks and they look unslightly, but i have to do laundry. We now live in a place that has radiators that actually work, or at least they work in most rooms, we have two that dont work. But i now dry my clothes on them and that has helped because our get really hot.

    but despite them getting really hot if its cold enough to have the radiators on (we have them on daily timers) its still going to be cold in our living room bc the sofa is on the opposite side of the room that the dryer is on.

    i just wish I could have all my laundry clean dry and put away, but honestly we are always in a cycle of dirty clothes, some clean and folded, some put away, and some just wet and hanging out for days to dry.

    I feel you.
    x

    bonnie rose | A compass Rose

    • Since it’s just the two of us, we put it off and off and then do it all on one day. On that day clothing will be hanging from every single surface. The shower, doors, windows, the sofa, tables. Everything. xx

  • Wow! I was unaware of all of this! Everyone needs closets! Plus, without all that nice closet space, where do you hang all your wet clothes?

    • Anywhere and everywhere. Once my old housemate took up the entire living room for the weekend to stretch her sheets across from sofa to sofa to dry! xx

  • Laura H

    The first time I traveled abroad I was a little freaked out about not having a flat sheet (I pulled the bed apart looking for it), but then I went with the flow and was more prepared for the other times I have been back. Thanks for sharing info. Good to know for the next trip1

    • I did the EXACT SAME THING with the first bed I stayed in! The university was providing housing, and that included bedding and I thought the forgot some of mine! Oops! xx

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  • Cocalores

    European wardrobes, driers… oh, well, you can’t have everything! Somehow they aren’t a priority here. But I guess there are other things that make up for it 😉

    • Very true! 🙂 I just love the little differences. They’re the ones that I like to pretend to complain about to Sam and he can return the mock disgust at American things. xx

  • gladley

    Haha, yes. This is amusing. I feel that as a Brit I need to defend my country a bit.

    For a start, I always think of duvets as being a bit more hygenic than comforters.

    Also living in the USA now I am AMAZED how much Americans use dryers. Even in the summer when it’s 90 degrees outside and everything would dry in like two minutes if hung outside. Pet peeve.

    • d

      I thought the same once I moved to New Zealand and stopped using the dryer so much. However, in defense of the US, most places are really humid in summer, which is not helpful for drying clothes, and/or the air quality is crap.

      When we visit the US now, we tend to go back to drying our clothes, even if only on the lightest setting possible.

    • Hi Gladley, sorry my post wasn’t too offend at all! Those are just things Sam and I have banter about and laugh about when discussing homes and chores. Trust me, he quite adequately defends the British 🙂 I’ve learned to love the little idiosyncrasies between the two countries and I don’t compare them on a daily basis, but you have to sometimes for a laugh!

      Where I grew up in America you couldn’t dry things outside even in the extreme heat because a) there’s crazy pollen- cars turn yellow in the spring from the layers and you don’t want those allergens in bed with you! And b) it’s so humid that things can mold overnight. (I had that happen to multiple swimsuits and towels in the muggy Georgian summer.) xx

    • And D- you’re totally right! I’ve been lazy about taking clothes out of the washing machine (in America) in muggy summer heat and after a few hours you can start to smell them turn. A disgusting side-effect of a warm climate! xx

  • haha all so true. i did study abroad in london and then lived in a flat there after college for nearly a year. my room was pretty big, but i shared a 2 bedroom apartment with at least 2-3 other people at any given time. i had the tiniest wardrobe from ikea and my jeans/towels were always crunchy. i feel like i could’ve written this post haha.
    jackiejade.blogspot.com

    • I really don’t mind most things…but crunchy towels. No. No I say! xx

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  • Susie Mazur

    Ok as someone raised by Poles in England, what do you mean by a flat sheet??? And what is the difference between a comforter and a duvet? Please tell I am so intrigued!!

    • I always feel a bit stupid when I try to explain the flat sheet because I’m awful at it! After 3 years of me trying to explain, Sam still doesn’t really know what it is. That doesn’t say much for me as a descriptor!

      A flat sheet is like a fitted sheet but without the puckered sides to hold it to the bed. It goes on top of the fitted sheet and underneath the duvet. So then when you crawl into bed you sleep underneath the flat sheet. Basically it’s just one really thin extra layer and I think was invented as a way to reduce how often you have to wash your duvet since with a flat sheet on top of you the duvet doesn’t touch your skin.

      A comforter is exactly like a duvet but you cant separate the duvet and the duvet cover. They are sewn together. (I have to admit- that’s a bit of a stupid idea America!) xx

    • Tom Mills

      Flat sheets were common in the UK before duvets became the norm. Visit houses were the occupants don’t use duvets and you’ll find flat sheets. Likewise flatsheets in UK hotels are de rigeur.

  • d

    So many things that we have encountered in New Zealand are the same! Which totally makes sense, considering. We bought a house a couple of years ago and immediately had the walls insulated, then installed central heat. Best decision EVER.

    We brought all our linens, so haven’t noticed whether we could get a comforter or not, but flat sheets are not rare here. Closet space is very rare, though! We were lucky to buy a house with heaps of closets, even if they are all small ones.

  • I got the flat sheet surprised when I studied in Berlin and I was like ‘what is this sorcery?’ then I realised it was one less thing to get myself entangled in 🙂 I completely embraced it when I moved to the UK! and OMG I hate the combined washing machine/dryer! In St Andrews, I had one set of sheets and it took 2h to wash and then 6h in the machine to dry! 8h total – a whole day’s event! I just didn’t even try with my clothes and just hung them to dry for a few days lol

    • Oh man, I don’t even bother to use the dryer mode on the machine at all. It just doesn’t work. Everything just gets hung up around here, and on bedding day you can scarcely move for the duvet cover and sheets draped everywhere! x