Expat life comes with a lot of big changes, but none are as noticeable on a day-to-day basis as those oddly different aspects in your new house. As we approach out first year here I thought it would be fun to compile a list of things that we as Americans think are quirky home features but are actually really normal here in England. Some of them we’ve gotten used to or even begun to appreciate, and some make me really long for my American house.
Historically, taps were kept separate because hot water tanks were often kept in attics with thatched roofs and they were concerned about contamination from rodents or the like. So separate taps meant possibly contaminated hot water never mixed with clean, fresh cold water. Unfortunately…. while the concern for hot water tank contamination is gone… the separate hot and cold taps are still quite a common thing here in England. We are lucky to have what they call a “mixer tap” in our kitchen but both of our bathrooms still have separate taps. This makes for washing up in the morning and evening and interesting chore. The cold water is often VERY cold and the hot water, if left on for more than a bit, becomes VERY hot.
No Plugs in the Bathroom
Isn’t it great to curl, straighten or blow dry your hair in front of the bathroom mirror? Well, not in England! Fear of electric shock has lead to ZERO plugs in any bathroom. NONE! So there is no charging of your electric tooth brush, no heating curlers or curling irons and not even plugging in an Alexa to listen to music while you shower. The lack of plugs along with the separate taps in the bathroom make me REALLY miss my American bathroom.
Pull Cords for the bathroom light
Due to the same fear of electrocution, we don’t have light switches in bathrooms in England either. We have pull cords the extend from the ceiling. This doesn’t bother me as much as I find it kind of quirky and cute. At least we can put fun cord pulls on the ends of the strings and personalize the bathroom a little.
No Window Screens
It’s said that in England they don’t have mosquitos or other bugs transporting diseases the way we do in the states or in other parts of the world. Because of this, they don’t really think that window screens are a necessity. But…here in England it’s a necessity to open windows in summer time as they don’t really have AC here in houses. With no screens, we end up with so many visitors but I’ve learned to usher them back out again. Other than the bat… that was all on Tim. Some people have added temporary window screens to their houses, but with sash windows AND a 300 year old house, I think it’s best to just leave them as they have always been. We’ve learned to adapt.
Washing Machine in the Kitchen
This was, by far, one of the oddest things for me. When we were looking for a house here I wanted a house that had a utility room (what they call a laundry room) because I absolutely didn’t want a washing machine in my kitchen. However, when your dream house comes available and it ticks all the boxes other than utility room… you take it. Even in some modern new builds though, washing machines are still in the kitchen. I have no idea why this is but in all reality, it’s actually kind of convenient. I can switch over the laundry while I’m in the kitchen cleaning up or doing dishes.
While we’re on the subject of laundry, I’ll tell you about my condenser dryer. In the U.S. did you know the water drains from your dryer through a pipe it’s attached to? I didn’t. I mean… I have also never installed a dryer. I just let my husband deal with all of that. I knew there was a vent for air but I never knew there was anything for letting water out. I learned as much when we came here to England and we received a condenser dryer. Instead of being vented or drained outside the house, our dryer collects all the water into a little plastic drawer. Then after several loads of laundry, you have to empty the water drawer into the sink. This is also VERY convenient when the dryer is located next to the sink in the kitchen! Is this why they are in the kitchen?!
Teeny Tiny Fridges and Freezers
Did you ever have a dorm fridge in college? You know, the ones that fit nicely in your room but really only held a small box of left over pizza and a six pack (of soda!)? Well… English fridges are much larger than that. Picture two of those on top of each other and you’ll have the fridge freezer combo here. We’ve learned to use tetris like skills to get all of our food into the fridge. It’s usually most difficult mid-week when we have left overs AND a ton of new food for the rest of the week. The freezers here also only consist of drawers that don’t hold more than a few frozen meals. We freeze almost nothing now a days.
In the states, for a house to claim a room is a bedroom, a room HAS to have a closet. In England, a bedroom can be the SIZE of a closet and not have any storage. Wardrobes are the thing here, or if you’re fortunate enough to have an extra bedroom, you can just turn that into your own closet/dressing room. That’s what we did. The two main bedrooms in our house do have “small closets” though… into which one can not even hang a hangar. I keep the ironing board in one, that’s about all that fits. Yes… that’s the back wall you see in the image. The depth of the whole closet is about eight inches.
Ceiling Fans are not a thing
I know Joanna Gaines would be happy to hear this fact, since she always removes ceiling fans in her designs, but in reality, ceiling fans are so nice to have. They are a perfect way to cool down a whole room, especially when you don’t have AC. I assume they aren’t a thing here because of the antiquity of most of their buildings, but I think new builds should get on it. They are wonderful!
Skeleton Keys ARE still a thing
When we got the keys to our house, we realized that almost all of them were skeleton keys. And no, they weren’t all 300 years old. I’m talking new(ish)keys! We do of course have one awesome GIANT 300 year old skeleton key for the front door that I LOVE. But for most of the rest of the house, we have new locks that are still skeleton keys. I don’t think they are as common on new builds, but I like that they still make new locks with skeleton keys for houses that want to keep the authentic look.