It is 3 years to the day that I left the United States Air Force after serving 10 years for my country.
Anytime I meet someone new, British or American, within the first 10 questions I am asked, one that always pops up, "do I miss the States?"
Now I have a very unique perception of England than those of American families from the base. My husband is English and so a lot of the stuff that have become a part of my life that came with my marriage. Also my life changed a year before I separated, I found out I had a milk and soya allergy so that has impacted my life greatly. I lost over 45 pounds and have rediscovered my love for running and other sports.
The other day I was sitting in the pub with my husband and I was thinking that I like my life and there isn't much that I miss from the States except seeing my mom more but since being in the Air Force, I didn't see her much but we speak weekly on the phone.
You see I live in Cambridge in the house that my husband's grandmother used to live in and across the street from my in-laws. I cycle to work everyday, not only is it an environmentally friendly way to travel, it keeps me fit, its cheap and is the fastest way to get around and costs nothing to park!
I work at Cambridge University, I get weekends off (something I didn't always have in the military or Sweaty Betty). I work 8-4 (3.30 on Fridays). I get 42 days holiday (that includes bank holidays).
I belong to the Cam Sailing Club which my husband and his family have been members for many years. We spend our Sundays down there which is nice because I often think that in America, we do not have a time that we just relax.
There are so many free things to do here, I have become an expert on finding the cheapest way to go out and see the sights (thanks to Jane!). The museums are free and going for a walk in the park is free. Children don't require much, they will love just being with you. You can just for walk in the park or on the local footpath, entertainment doesn't have to be expensive. Its a change in the mindset. I love that life here is built to be active.
I recycle more than I have ever been able to in the US. They come and pick it up for you. When my family came over for our wedding, I showed them how much we recycle and now they make the special effort. I have a mini garden in my backyard. I am trying to see how much I can grow. I think I am just inspired by the strong women in WWII in Britain and all the crafty things that they did.
I have changed my shopping ways. I have changed my view on shopping and the need for stuff. Over a year ago, I started the "Lakenheath/Mildenhall Sale/Wanted" group on Facebook and it has over 2,400 members. As you know British homes don't have the storage space that American homes do. Instead of thinking, we need more house, I have taken the view, I need less stuff. I am happy with the amount of clothes I have and definitely cannot get any more without getting rid of other stuff. The first year I was out, Jon and I lived in what the British call a 'two up and two down'. This is a house that has 2 bedrooms over a living room and dinning room. I got rid of a lot of things in order to live there and now I am continually clean out the drawers and I think I do a carboot sale twice a year. Also working at Sweaty Betty, I have seen people with shopping addictions, I think I became one whilst I was there :). So I have enough to last me a lifetime. I have even taken to altering my clothes and fixing them rather than binning them.
I can't eat most of the 'American' food because of my allergy. This allergy has really made me aware of the stuff that is put in our food. The UK is very conscious of the chemicals being put in foods, they didn't allow blue Smarties for a while because of the chemicals used to make it blue. I have to make most things from scratch so no chocolate, cheese and milk. Now that I do this, I can't figure out why so many Americans use things like Hamburger Helper and other processed foods its so easy! I even make my own chicken nuggets. It doesn't take very long and I know what goes into it. I like that there are not so many drive thru restaurants. I know that us Americans love our fast foods but look what it is doing to our health and waistlines, is it worth it?
I love going to the theatre, horse races and concerts. We are in a great area for that with the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds, Newmarket Racecourse and the Corn Exchange and Arts Theatre in Cambridge.
I volunteer at the local Brownies. I like that part that I got from being in the USAF, the want to be involved and volunteering. Its amazing to see them grow in confidence!
Don't get me wrong, its not been easy for me. I had to get my visa(very expensive), find work (I was out of work for 3 months) and am still adjusting to the new lifestyle. It was hard to find work because I worked on aircrew survival items in the USAF but finally landed a temporary job at the NHS and have been doing okay since then. I had to get my drivers license so spent time and money doing lessons refreshing my memory on how to drive a stick. In the UK, if you take your test in an automatic, that is the only kind of car you can drive.
I hate queues, not sure why the British waste their time standing in line. The customer service could be better too but I have learned to be a better customer. If you go in with a smile, most people react positively to that and so that builds the foundation of better service but we can only do that one person at a time.
I have had to learn that the British are are not being rude, they are just reserved. It has taken me many years to become part of a group at the local sailing club, it just came from perseverance, remember we are not in the States. Its not wrong, its just different.
I don't like that you can't address an issue. The British would rather live with unacceptable behavior than address it and move on. They don't like to rock the boat.
In the end, I have all that I need here.