I passed my "Life in the UK" test and will soon (hopefully) become a dual citizen of the US and UK. I reflect on 12 years in Britain and offer some less obvious UK travel suggestions for you to enjoy.
Great post. I would definitely fail the citizenship test.
I discovered the difference in the meaning of ‘quite’ when working in the London office of a US company. When a popular colleague left, our American boss wrote that he had been ‘quite helpful’. We Brits were surprised at this lukewarm praise!
Not a great post…a PERFECT post! Great Friday reading and now I need to get back to the UK
Hi Brian - I really enjoyed this post. I was born and raised in Wales but left when I was 18, then I lived in a few places in the UK and abroad, and have now been in London the past 11 years. My wife is a New Zealand citizen and can now finally apply for her British passport after many stages of Visa applications and renewals. So I know what you’ve been through on the Visa situation and congrats for making it through the process. When my wife did the life in the UK test it was in some kind of Iranian cultural centre in Hammersmith which I found funny, but perhaps a nod to our shared ability to have religious leaders in our respective parliaments as you mention.
You’ve explored the UK quite well. I’m sure you will have done some of these trips as well, but some of my favourite trips outside London would be:
- Spend a day or two in Cardiff and then drive to St David’s to see the smallest city in the UK. Could stay or visit Pembrokeshire during the trip including a visit to Tenby.
- A long weekend in Bristol and Bath. With a detour to Wells and also see Glastonbury (outside of festival time). A drive through Cheddar Gorge is lovely too.
- York and Canterbury and both lovely cities and the star attractions would be the cathedrals. Even for those who don’t care about religion, the history in these places is quite phenomenal. If in York a trip to Harrogate, and Knaresborough would be worth it too.
Lovely trip tips! 💗
I loved this piece. My husband is a Brit, and one of my great pleasures in life is that I get to visit his two sons and their lovely families often. However, I cannot believe you didn’t mention Yorkshire in your travel guide. From the grand historical city of York to the charming Yorkshire Dales, I am privileged to go there often. I was even privileged to recover from my only case of Covid there (which I caught at a wedding in London), with nightly viewing of “All Creatures Great and Small” followed the next day by drives to view the locations from the isolation of my son-in-laws car. The people are great as well, but as my husband will tell you, “You can tell a Yorkshire man, but you can’t tell him much”.
This is absolutely delightful. I am (slightly) the other way round. I am half Nebraskan but have lived in the UK all my life. In 1966 I had a year at the University of Nebraska (where my mother learned medicine). I wanted to stay longer but I would have had to get an immigrant's visa which in turn would have given me the opportunity (or perhaps compelled me) to be called up for the Vietnam war. As I was not able to plead the existence of bone spurs in my feet, as was another young man just a year or so older than I was, I might not have been able to refuse. So I came back to England where I have remained ever since though we have made a few forays into the USA for work and family purposes.
Your comments on our (and now your) country are spot on. I am sure you are aware of the saying: "in the USA 100 years is a long time; in the UK 100 miles is a long way". Our house was built in 1593 and feels like it in winter when all the hot water bottles are brought out (my wife insists on two) or the dogs are invited onto the bed to provide warmth.
I would incidentally also have failed the test for sure. As an English lawyer I would still have failed the Scottish law question!
I love the Peak District, though sadly Ashbourne seems to have gone down hill. I see other readers are plugging their locations so I need to remind you of the delights of Norfolk. Well worth a visit. Full of footpaths, beautiful coastland and numerous ancient churches (we can see 4 of them from our field and collectively they probably are prayed in by no more than about 2 dozen people each Sunday!)
Oh and there is a little method in the madness of "pull" light switches in bathrooms. It is a way of preventing people getting electric shocks from touching electrical switches with wet hands. Remember, at double the voltage, our electricity is more scary than the stuff they have in the USA.
As an immigrant in Britain coming up to a decade now (and soon to be dual citizen too), I can relate to a lot of these issues!
The Life in the UK test is utterly absurd and has nothing to do with actually knowing relevant facts about what it is like to be a British citizen (otherwise they’d ask you to name the last winner of Strictly or 3 types of ale)...
The waving when you let a car pass is really interesting, I find myself doing that whenever I visit family and friends in Portugal and getting annoyed when the other driver doesn’t reciprocate hahah
A personal bugbear are toilets with separate hot and cold taps, still don’t understand the point of them and I think I l never will.
Yeah, as a Brit living in the US I got burnt by "quite". We were each completely astonished by the other's use of the qualifier. I would mention the Forest of Bowland and the hills between Clitheroe and Skipton - some of the loveliest countryside in England. The citizenship test sounds like a nightmare; I had to pass my US citizenship test this year and it was nothing like as difficult as that. The thing about 'middle-class' fascinates me; I have a hunch that 'working-class' became an unacceptable adjective in US public discourse in the past 30 years or so, but I still wonder, since 'middle-class' here is apparently the equivalent of 'working-class' in Britain (in economic terms), what do Americans call what I would call middle-class people? Ie people who are not struggling, but not wealthy?
Great post, as always. As a Brit return from 3 weeks in Florida I had minor cultural bends, but in reverse.
My wife is looking at doing the UK citizenship test. The questions are indeed ridiculous. Most UK residents would not pass the test. My wife's residency permit lapses if she is out of the country for 6 months. So she is thinking of doing the citizenship test, so we can leave the UK and still have the option to return!
BTW the UK education system does a very poor job at teaching people about citizenship. At school I did quadratic equations and learnt about the vikings, but never learn anything about how the UK political or justice system works. My 17 year old son tells me that this hasn't changed.
>To turn the light on in many bathrooms, you need not find a lightswitch, but a little string hanging from the ceiling, which you pull. Nobody knows why.
UK bathrooms used to have switches inside the bathroom. But people were worried about getting eletrocuted touching the switch with wet hands. Hence a (non-conducting) cord instead of a rocker switch. Switches have mostly moved to the outside of the bathroom now. I have no idea if anyone did ever electrocute themself pressing a rocker switch with wet hands.
>These “hot water bottles” are staples of British homes.
They were when I was a child. A lot of people use electric blankets now.
>I’m sure he still tells that story about the American idiot he once met
If you go into the travel guide profession I’ll sign up!
I Love the UK, for many of the reasons you write about, especially the manners and tea after walks😀. I’ve been toying with the idea to be there 1-2 years just to be able to see all there is to see. 10 years of visiting and I find more to put on my list not less. Thanks for the great post (really, they are all quite good (sorry, not sorry))and congratulations on your citizenship.
Sorry make that Northwest
Since you like pubs and historic sites, there is a pub Northeast of Bristol that, I was told, has been continuously in operation since the 7th century. Had I driven, I might be able to give you directions but I was a passenger so I wasn’t paying that much attention. All I can tell you is that I think it is in the area of Stoke Bishop. It is not in a town. It is in a field and it is not an historic site, it is just a local pub that has served a small clientele and their descendants for 1400 years. The only modernization is an outdoor privy that replaces the back yard which used to serve that function. The doors, bar, stairs, and tables were built for a citizenry much smaller than today’s so it looks like everyone is a little cramped in. Otherwise, it could be any other pub in the UK. I was there around 2004 and I can’t seem to locate it on Google Earth but I suspect it’s still there. Happy hunting!
Very enjoyable read. Thank you.