Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Scotland vs Arkansas

Obviously, living in another country has its pluses and minuses. There are good things about Arkansas and there are good things about Scotland. Neither one is better or worse than the other. Notice I'm saying "Arkansas" instead of "America" because I've only ever really lived in Arkansas so I can't really compare the whole country!

I could probably write an entire blog on just this one subject but I'll start here with a few posts. You never know where it'll lead me!

The most obvious difference is the accent. I've travelled here for years and I was used to the accent before we moved. I was, however, concerned about the children - would they struggle in school? Well, I should really learn to give them more credit - they've gotten along very well, indeed! In fact, after their first year, they sound like locals!

I have a theory about that. I once heard someone say, "You speak to be understood." I totally agree. The first thing that changed was everyone's vocabulary. I've heard my boys say things they'd never have inserted into their vocabulary in Arkansas. Things like "trousers" or "revision" (in reference to studying) or even "trainers" instead of tennis shoes. All these things slowly leaked into their Arkansan vocabulary, which was already vast in itself. Early on, I began noticing accent changes, especially in one of the twins.

Another thing is the weather. Wow - what a difference, too! The summers are mild enough that I can get outdoors! I have more colour in my skin than I ever did in Arkansas. I get outside at every opportunity to enjoy the fresh air, the sunshine, and just being outside. We live in Fife - one of the most beautiful parts of the central belt of Scotland. Mountains, the seaside, castles, fishing villages, and open countryside - all on our doorstep. Its so easy to find something to do!

We also have the NHS. There are plenty of people who complain about it and rightly so, but we've had nothing but great experiences with it. I don't mind paying money into it each month in my pay packet (which, by the way, is much less than I'd be paying for insurance that doesn't have anywhere near the same amount of care included!).

Getting paid monthly did take some getting used to, though. I was used to getting paid every two weeks. However, once I got used to it, I enjoyed it. It meant that all the bills came out at once, no need to keep up with due dates, etc. We have most of our bills set up to come out of our bank account automatically so we don't even have to worry about having to write a check (which they spell cheque here!) or make a call to pay with a card.

We also drive on the left here. That did take some adjustment on my first trip twelve years ago. However, it didn't take long for me to get it right and I've been doing it naturally ever since. I passed my test and got my UK driving licence last September. I did study for it and did take driving lessons beforehand - which saved my bacon! I passed the written test with 100% and I only had four very minor faults (you're allowed up to 15) on the practical part of my test. Since I've been driving for 20-ish years, I thought it would be just a case of signing up and taking the test. Well, not even close to that easy and I know people who had to take their practical several times before passing it. Its not cheap but once you've done it, that's it. You don't have to renew your license every four years and only have to update your photo every ten years. It is one of the most difficult tests to pass so once you get it, you can use it anywhere in the world!

Having to pay for a license to watch television was something a little strange, as well. We pay £135 a year for a TV license. They use that to keep people from having to watch so many ads on BBC. I enjoy watching a show without commercials but I'm not sure its worth £135 a year. You might think that it would be easy just not to pay the fee but they actually have vans that go through neighborhoods checking for TV signals. They have a list of households that have not paid for a TV license and if you're caught, you get stuck with a big fine. So we pay!

Petrol (instead of gasoline) is used to fuel most cars here, although there are some that run on diesel. Its advertised per litre, not per gallon, like it is in the States. Cars here are mostly standard shift (not automatic) and if you pass your test in an automatic, you're not allowed to drive a manual transmission car at all. They tend to get better gas mileage (for instance, I'm on a consistent 53+ miles a gallon in my car). Petrol (per gallon) at the moment is running around $8.25 a gallon. Ouch!

We heat our house with radiators instead of central heating. We don't have air conditioning and no screens on the windows. They call our radiators central heating but we don't have vents. A lot of the new houses being built are using under-floor heating on the bottom floors. Its expensive to install but in the long run it 1) reduces heating bills, and 2) frees up the wall space for furniture instead of radiators! We live in a house that was built in 1624. Its full of history and its a beautiful house. However, we don't have double glazing on our windows and we nearly froze to death last winter! We walked around with the heating on all day and sweaters and layers of clothes to keep warm! We do have a plan for this winter, though. We're going to put up plastic insulation on the windows that will mimic double glazed windows. Our house is listed so we can't install double glazed windows, which is a shame! I'm hoping to put down draft reducers under the doors, too. I hope that helps and we have a warmer winter this year than we did last year! Thirteen weeks with snow!! Yuck!

All the phone calls are toll calls, with the exception of 0800 calls. Those are usually reserved for companies who use them to get your money in other ways - like catalogs, etc. If I call my next door neighbour, I pay for the call. No incoming calls are charged - even on mobile phones (or cell phones). Which is great - because even if the boys don't have credit on their phones, I can call them and they can get the call. We use pay-as-you-go for the boys and we both have contract phones. I get up to 600 minutes and unlimited texts on mine and I think Peter has a similar package.

I think that should get us started. As I think of other differences, I will post them here. And of course, if you want to know about a specific difference, please ask! I think its fun to compare! =)

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