For one reason or another I haven’t been back to the UK for 3 years until recently. It was the longest time I hadn’t seen family or friends and although there were a few apprehensions about little things like food etc, I was excited about going back to the English summer – the best time of the year! I couldn’t wait to feel that London buzz and long summer nights I had craved for, for so long.
So, how did the trip go? It’s been 5 years since I moved to Australia and for those of you wondering what it’s like to go home to UK for the first time in a while, I started to make notes on all of the small but noticeable differences about Sydney and London which had never occurred to me before, until now. So here goes…
Amazing vegan airport food at Gatwick
One of the only things I was worried about was the quality and the accessibility of vegan food in UK. I’ve only been into healthy food for the last few years so I’d had no idea what the quality was going to be like. I was actually more than surprised at the vast number of vegan places out there and the quality of healthy food.
Pret was my go to place for vegan food on the go. With a number of options from a vegan sandwich to various salads, they surely had vegans catered for.
Vegan food on the go in London at Pret A Manger
I even found a pub menu was 70% vegan, something I’ve never seen in Sydney ever!!
Vegan lasagna at Earth & Stars Pub – Brighton
Yes there were a number of dodgy meals I did have and I did put on weight – I think it was from eating too many Pret sandwiches but overall, I was really impressed with the vegan options.
I also noticed there was a lot of organic food in UK. The supermarkets had so many options and was much better than Aus stores including a fantastic gluten free section.
How did the price differences fare up? Food cost about the same in both countries. Some meals I had in UK were over priced to what I would have paid in Sydney but generally it was about the same. Smoothies and Juice bars were really expensive though. I saw Boost has landed in England but charge over $10 for a small juice compared to our $6 in Australia. I previously thought Australian food cost way more so I was quite surprised by this.
There were way more Gay couples on reality TV in UK. Weirdly it was one of the first things I noticed and it made me realise I don’t think I’ve seen any gay couples or gay people on reality TV in Australia. I may well be wrong, but it’s definitely something that stood out for me.
Celebrities aren’t a huge deal on TV in UK. I saw countless celebrities being interviewed on daytime TV and it made me laugh because I could just imagine the weeks of trailers that we, the audience would have been be subjected to, waiting for a celebrity to appear on a prime time TV show. Seeing as Australia is on the other side of the world, it’s obvious celebrities don’t make that big trip over.
People are real on TV in England, and don’t talk dumb to it’s audience. It’s incredible how Australian TV really talks to it’s audience like they are very unintelligent. I also learnt more about what was going on in the world from watching one News program in UK than I have done in the last few years in Australia. It’s incredible what rubbish they think is appropriate to broadcast in Australia. British News is taken way more seriously as they talk about what is going on outside of London and miraculously, the UK as well!
3. The Weather
Ironically I loved the fact that it wasn’t bright in UK like it is in Australia. It was definitely one of the first things I noticed regardless of whether it was sunny or not. I could go outside on a sunny day and didn’t have to wear sunglasses. I also noticed it doesn’t down pour like it does in Sydney. I’m now used to side ways rain and crazy storms in Sydney but when it rained in England, it would only rain for half an hour or so, then clear up.
I did absolutely love the long summer nights – it’s something I have missed the most about England.
I also found the air in London was absolutely gross, and the first time I went back there, I really struggled. I found it really hot and my god; the underground was suffocating. I learnt my lesson and just wore lighter clothing no matter how hot it was during the day because as soon as I got into London it was suddenly really hot.
The traffic in England was terrible. I kept asking if it was always like that or whether it had recently got worse, seems like it was the latter. When going anywhere in the car, I had to add on loads of time. For example, going back to Heathrow should take 1 hour from my brother’s flat in Brighton, yet we had to put aside 4 hours in case of traffic on the M25.
I also found that people would walk out onto the street everywhere. It was a nightmare driving in Brighton and made me value that most wait for the green man crossing in Sydney.
Firstly, I couldn’t believe how many pubs there are in England. I spent time in Berkshire, London and Brighton and there were pubs everywhere!! I really noticed there’s a big culture around going to the pub in England and all I went into were beautiful and were packed every night of the week. I love how they all had their own character to them, something that Sydney just can’t seem to get right. And the hanging baskets outside the pub – so so beautiful! Walking through Covent Garden on a Friday night was one of the best feelings. It was around 7pm, a nice summer’s evening with blue skies and everyone was standing outside the pub drinking. I didn’t realise how much I had missed that energy a lot.
I met up with my charming, loud mates from university whilst I was there. We hadn’t seen each other together in 5 years and when we met up in the beer garden of a London pub, we had the best night. There was a group of people near us who were really drunk and they befriended us. This was something I found really surprising, I couldn’t believe a big group of men and women all 30+ years of age were coming over to our table asking us to join them in their night out. It was a funny night and when my mate took their photo for them, everyone was so loud, all I was thinking was how if that were in Sydney, every one of us would have been thrown out ages ago – all for having fun.
A loud night at the pub
I spoke to various people in England about the drinking culture in Sydney, about how it’s dying out because of the rules and the lock out ban. Everyone couldn’t believe it and all said; “going to the pub is all about having a laugh”. When I said you have to be civilised and quiet in the pub, they all looked at me like I was mad. It’s something that I hadn’t realised how much I have missed having fun with people. I have also missed the beer gardens. With the fantastic whether in Sydney, why can’t they have excellent beer gardens and allow you to drink outside of the pub like in London??!
The Only Way Is Essex or is that just your average Sydney person?!
Now the first thing I noticed was ironically how people dress in Sydney (ie people who think they are ‘cool’) actually dress and look like they are from the TV show, The Only Way Is Essex. I couldn’t believe the resemblance!! The fake tan, hair, boobs, fashion choices – all exactly the same!! Just replace the accents and it’s Sydney people down to a T!!! I didn’t see very much plastic surgery in England though, something that seems to be the norm in Sydney.
One trend my friends found absolutely hilarious is the Active Wear trend in Sydney (aka wearing your gym gear out with a full face of make-up and hair done for brunch/lunch anywhere really that doesn’t involve actually working out!! I know, I know.) They kept saying to me, “Don’t you mean sports-luxe?” No dear friends, no. It was amazing to see people actually dressing with individuality in England which was so refreshing. I always find it weird why Sydney people all want to look the same – same hair, same clothes, something that would be seen as sacrilege in London. It was also lovely to see women with awesome short haircuts in England.
Pretty much everyone I met whether it was in London or Brighton were absolutely lovely, something I really don’t remember at all and I was probably more than anything just lucky with my experience. To me there’s a true realness to British people and it made me realise I sometimes seem to struggle with Sydney people, I can’t work out whether they are being pretentious or genuine.
British people have a fantastic sense of humour, even our cab drivers to waiters were hilarious making jokes with us! I did however find myself getting impatient which I’m genuinely not at all in Sydney. I caught onto that London way of getting to places fast, doing things as quickly as possible, something that’s not needed in Sydney.
8. Cost of Everything
So, what was the difference when it came down to the cost of everything? For fashion I found Forever 21 very, very cheap. It’s insane they charge £35 for a dress in Australia that costs £10 in UK. I also found Zara was much cheaper, I bought a pair of shoes for £20 which I’d never find for the equivalent of $40 in Sydney.
I found water to be a lot cheaper, a big bottle was £1.50 which would cost £3 in Australia. Fuel on the other hand was really expensive in UK £1.10 a litre compared to Sydney’s current 50p. £60 to fill up compared to my usual of $40 (£20). My brother said 2 years ago it was even more expensive costing £85 to fill up. Now that’s mental! Cars though were really cheap. I saw a used convertible for £2000 ($4,000) something I’d never, ever see in Sydney and obviously I had to take a photo for you to see below!
A convertible for just £2,000
I loved lots of little things – London now has contactless (same as Paywave) yet you can also use your credit card like your oyster card (opal card in Sydney) and tap on and off on London tubes. How cool is that?
I also found the scanning devices in Supermarkets in UK absolutely fascinating. So you go round scanning all of your items so you know how much you are spending, then just scan at the end at a checkout and pay. Done. Mind absolutely blown!!
Trains were really expensive in England. £35 return from Brighton – London. That’s $70 for a one hour journey and something you wouldn’t ever dream of paying anywhere in NSW. My friend’s came down from Liverpool to London and said it cost £160 return during peak. That’s over $320 for a 2 hour journey. I couldn’t believe it!
9. Other random things I noticed
Another thing I noticed was how dirty it was in the cities in UK. From streets covered in chewing gum to more importantly the beach in Brighton was absolutely covered in rubbish, it was no wonder the sea was a dirty brown colour. I was really shocked by this and really appreciated that at least Australians know how to use a bin! A good thing is you now have to pay 5p for a bag in every single shop, something that even Australia hasn’t converted to as of yet.
I loved how much culture there is in the UK. When I first arrived in England I stayed in the most beautiful village and walked through some gates that were built in 1400. My mind was blown – something that old right there in the village. I loved the architecture, the access to amazing art galleries, museums, theatre shows and live music – it was everywhere. It’s something I definitely valued being back as Sydney just can’t even compare being only a couple of hundred years old and a city that isn’t about culture and the arts unfortunately.
I also noticed how people had resorted to e-cigarettes. So many people were chugging away, I had no idea what they were when I first saw them but hey if it’s working, then brilliant!
But what about the differences since coming back to Sydney?
First meal back in Sydney at Sadhana Kitchen, Bondi
I was really surprised of the things I learnt being back in England but what about when I came back to Sydney? Were there any changes for me? It’s very early days but so far people walk REALLY slowly (my impatience obviously hasn’t worn off yet!) and yes I can definitely confirm we are being ripped off royally from Zara and Forever 21. The first meal I had back on Aussie ground was amazing and the quality is way higher than in UK. TV on the other hand is beyond awful in Australia. It really highlighted that they really treat it’s audience like they are just plain stupid. It’s incredibly bright outside and freezing indoors at home.
Now if only I could bring the British people, the pubs and the buzz over to Sydney, it would be the perfect place! What things surprised you when you went back to England? Let me know in the comments below.
Thanks for reading