14 surprising things about living in the UK

I had certain expectations in me about what “life in England” must be like. Now that I live in the UK, I can tell you that some of those expectations have been fulfilled (the Brits really love tea) and some disappointed (but they’re actually not that polite, sorry-not-sorry). However, there are a few little things about living here that have taken me completely by surprise.

The invasive species keeping me sane during lockdown

I remember my first sighting: swooping over my head in Richmond Park, a flash of green. What the… parrot?

It’s wild but it turns out that it’s true: London has parrots, likely released pets that found one another (though rumors abound) and then conquered the city’s green spaces. Apparently the natural habitat of these “ring-necked parakeets” isn’t different enough from London’s parks to discourage proliferation.

Covent Garden is not a garden.

A friend and I once spent at least forty-five minutes looking for the famous “Covent Garden”, walking back and forth across Covent Garden market in search of… an actual garden. For the uninitiated, Covent Garden is a neighborhood around a covered market…

This area of London is pretty and not too crowded, studded with great cafes and bakeries and restaurants and shops… here are some favorites.

My best of northwest (London)

I’ve lived on a big hill in northwest London for the last two years, first in Belsize Park and then partway between Hampstead and Golders Green. It’s a lovely part of town, bustling but peaceful, and a bit hoity-toity (but fortunately the views of the London skyline, and Hampstead Heath’s tangled, leafy expanse are both free).

From ceilidhs to baba ganoush, here are my favorite things to do and see and taste in northwest London…

Day hike: Aviemore to the Pools of Dee along the Lairig Ghru

“Summer on the high plateau can be delectable as honey; it can also be a roaring scourge,” Nan Shepherd wrote of the Cairngorms.

From purple heather to fat mountains, here’s an overview of my quick walk along part of the Lairig Ghru in Cairngorms National Park.

5-day wander: Inverness

Inverness, Scotland is a dynamic but cheerful and easygoing place to spend a few days, and an excellent base for pursuits of the outdoorsy and boozy variety.

Jolly good: 5 British expressions I love (and 3 I hate)

OK, so I laugh derisively whenever one of my coworkers, who’s basically an old Englishman trapped inside a young Englishman’s body, says “jolly good”… but secretly I find it a little endearing. British expressions are excellent day-to-day entertainment for this expat, and I’ve even adopted a few of them (with mixed results).

Here are just five of my favorites, with a more complete running list I’ll keep at the bottom of the page.