Thursday 27 October 2016

50 shades of Green - What we miss about living in the UK

One of the things I miss the most about living in the UK, is the colour green. They say the grass is always greener on the other side. For family and friends in the UK, they think the grass must be greener for us because we live in a foreign country, but I can tell you, the grass is definitely greener where you are.

We left the UK in January 2011, it had been a white Christmas. We moved to South Africa and marvelled at how big the sky was, the sun and how much open space there was, how the horizon seemed so much further away. but we couldn't enjoy the open space, the countryside, stop for picnics on the side of the road or go for walks. This was South Africa, it just wasn't safe, whether it was due to security or the wildlife, we just couldn't wander around. The river were polluted and open water would mean crocodiles and hippos and long grass meant snakes and other dangerous animals, you just really wouldn't want to encounter. We lived on a golf course, with a river running through and as idyllic as it sounds, it was surrounded by security, brick walls and barbed wired fences, with the constant hum of the electric fences. We did however spend most of the year outdoors, in the garden, eating outside in restaurants, even though they were in security areas.

In contrast, Dubai is just beige, the sun shines 24/7, for 4 months of the year it is too hot to sit outside, to enjoy the outdoor life, to work in the garden, to even swim in the sea or sit on the beach which is only 1km from our villa. We still have the same constant hum, but it's from the air conditioning units, you just can't live without.

It's only been in the past year when we've visited the UK, that we've realised just how green and beautiful it is, how much character the tiny villages have, the endless hanging baskets full of colour hanging in the pub car parks, the old buildings, the castles, the beauty of the high street, the individual stores, the markets and coffee shops. The freedom to park and walk outside, around a town, down side streets, chatting to random strangers.

We didn't appreciate it all when we lived there, we moaned about the roadworks, the state of repairs needed to the local parks, the lack of facilities, amenities, the queueing, the length of time it took to get things done, the cost of parking, fuel, food in the supermarkets.

When we embarked on big adventure abroad, we spent the first few months like we were on holiday, both in South Africa and Dubai, we first stayed in hotels, everything was new, we explored places we could only have dreamed of visiting, but like with all things the excitement wore off, we ran out of places to visit, our lives became mundane, we were living there, we have jobs, washing, ironing, commute to work, bills to pay, it soon became the same as living in the UK. I mean how many times do you visit the local church to marvel at the architecture? or the park to look at the flowers and have a picnic? There are only so many times you can visit the World's tallest building or go on a safari, at the end of the day, you don't have anymore time in the week or anymore money in your pocket to pay for all these things.

Over the past year 12 months we've had two trips back to the UK, not just to visit family, but to have a holiday. I've also travelled back to South Africa twice on my own to do the same thing. Last year in the UK, we visited Yorkshire, stayed in a B&B, went for long walks, wandered around markets, had sunday lunch in the pub and enjoyed driving around. We've been to the sea side, ate fish and chips on a harbour wall, walked along sandy and pebbled beaches, eaten ice cream and just generally pleased ourselves. We've done the tourist stuff in London, Bath, Manchester and other cities, we've wandered around local towns and villages, popping into churches and stopping in tea rooms. We've walked the Malvern Hills, ambled along the river side, had picnics. All the things we didn't do so much of when we lived in the UK, because it was on our doorstep, it was just there. Pretty much how we live in Dubai, how we lived in South Africa.

Family and friends come to visit us from the UK, they come on holiday to places they wouldn't normally visit, due to the costs involved, but now they have somewhere to stay, a tour guide, they save money because they don't have to eat out in restaurants every night, pay for taxis to get around. Well it's the same for us when we visit the UK, it's different from our day to day lives, it's a holiday of a life time for us also.

The plane is always packed as we fly into manchester, Birmingham or London, it's not just full of expats visiting home, it's full of people off on their annual holidays, having worked hard all year and saved up for this trip. We strike up a conversation, they say how lucky we are to be from the UK, we tell them about all the places they should visit, outside of London, if they have time.

Although the UK will be home again for us both one day and we'll be doing the same things there as we currently do here, work, commute, housework etc, for us right now it's the ideal holiday location, where we can experience the weather, the changing seasons and just appreciate how beautiful it all is.

Enjoying the cooler weather, wrapping up warm, using an umbrella, enjoying the rain.

Even the road side verges are pretty.

Driving down country lanes.

 And catching buses into town.

 Enjoying the shopping experience of being somewhere different.

 Stopping off for coffees, eating fish and chips and visiting the pub.

 Staying in unique B&B's

Ambling around the Docks.

 Visiting cities.

Taking photos of all the tourist destinations.

Walking around London.

 Wandering around market towns.

Popping into a local church.

Visiting Stately Homes.

Stopping in a grave yard to sit down and have a chat.

 Taking a short cut through the train station, because it's Victorian and beautifully maintained.

Even a level crossing is a novelty for us to see.

 Open air concerts in the towns.

 The scenery, the views, the parks.

Even in the middle of London there is greenery.

 Marvelling at the variety of colour.

Enjoying a rainbow

Did you recognise any of the places we visited on our travels?

Last week I Hydrated some Hydrangeas and you can see below what a huge difference it made to them. I also forced roses to drink by emerging them in hot water and that too made a difference to the life of the blooms.


  1. Where ever I have lived, I often learned more and saw more when friends and family visited. I would take them to local sights. It is a sad truth.

    1. yep it's always the way, as we moved around the uk as kids we only went to see the sights when we went back to visit

  2. This is such a good reminder of how we take things for granted that are on our doorstep Suzanne - thank you.

    There's such an extreme contrast between Dubai and here in terms and I find the expat lifestyle fascinating, there's so many elements to it that I just haven't thought about before x

    1. Living away from the UK has certainly made us value it more, in terms of our freedom and the diversity as well as the greenery and colourful landscape

  3. The things you take for granted as a local.

    Love these pictures