Six Things This Brit Doesn’t Miss About the UK


“Does anyone have an extra pence? Anyone, anyone?” (TPL)

Like many Brits in America, I wax lyrical about the Mother Country, but there’s a growing list of things I don’t miss from Blighty.

Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica)
Although they’re apparently also native to the U.S., in my two plus decades here I’ve never come across one. British nettles are like stealth missiles; one minute you’re frolicking on a country lane (or picking your way through muddy puddles) and the next you’re wondering what that tingly feeling on your left leg is. The tingly feeling swiftly morphs into angry red bumps that itch beyond description and have been known to drive grown men to tears. Having children who are unfamiliar with them, walks in the English countryside usually result in me shouting like a fishwife, swiftly followed by a desperate hunt for dock leaves, which are supposed to be found next to nettles and are rumored to relieve the agony. It would probably help if I knew what a dock leaf looked like.

Dodgy summers
Last year the two-week English summer occurred in mid-March. Unfortunately I was there in June and, apart from two days at the very end, it was rainy and about 60 Fahrenheit for the entire duration. I’m sorry, I should be used to it, but it’s very disappointing to shell out for flights for the family and then have to spend the entire month rearranging plans, staying indoors and shivering on “long country walks.” I feel even sorrier for everyone who is stuck in the U.K. in the years with no discernible summer.

Gas (petrol) prices
Everyone’s complaining about gas prices in the U.S. but they’re not quite as steep as in the U.K.  (The U.S. average is currently $3.50 per gallon, compared to $5.50 in the UK.) Like many expats, when I go back to Blighty, I spend most of my time racing around the country visiting friends and family. Unless I can get some sort of internet deal, trains are prohibitively expensive for a family of five. It used to be far more cost effective to rent a car and get around like that, but I now find myself pricing out the mileage and fuel prices for comparison with flying and railing. And when I do fill the car up, I literally stand with my jaw on my chest watching the price on the pump.

I live in Chicago where there are many bars and much drinking; indeed I complain loudly about the “rebel-rousers” who think nothing of shouting and singing at high decibels right outside my bedroom window at two in the morning. However, although binge-drinking is rumored to be alive and well on college campuses here, there just isn’t the weekly scene of young adults puking their guts up on street corners, getting into fights, ending up in emergency rooms and generally placing a huge strain on police and hospital resources. Yup, I don’t miss that drink-till-you-can’t-stand-up mentality.

Pay toilet 
I won’t miss having to take out a second mortgage to use public loos. OK, this one only registers when I’m at places like Waterloo Station in London. As a child, I can remember the penny slots in the doors of the local park loos, and paying 20p these days isn’t too bad, but when it’s 50p or more, you have three kids and you have to go through a turnstile and thus pay per person, it gets a tad expensive. (Even if you’re a parent with only one child who needs to go, you often have to take them all in, the alternative being to leave them on their own while you accompany the desperate child to the loo.)

BTW, if you’re looking for free public facilities in and around London, here’s the official government web site, complete with prices.

Sausage rolls
OK, liar liar, pants on fire, I love sausage rolls but am very glad they’re not readily available in the U.S. or I’d be the size of a house. Ditto pork pies, Scotch eggs and most varieties of Walkers crisps.

What don’t you miss?


Toni Hargis

Toni Summers Hargis is a British author who has lived in the USA since 1990. Toni blogs as Expat Mum and is the author of Rules, Britannia - An Insider's Guide to Life in the United Kingdom and The Stress-Free Guide to Studying in the States; A Step-by-Step Plan for International Students. She has made frequent appearances on radio and TV discussing US/UK matters.
View all posts by Toni Hargis.
  • Kitchen Cavalier

    The constant whining and the tabloid media :-)

  • MmeZeeZee

    Oh, if you want stinging nettle, you can come up here to Seattle and Portland. We have tons. It must thrive on rain.

  • Carole May

    I love sausage rolls but am very glad they’re not readily available in the U.S. or I’d be the size of a house. Ditto pork pies, Scotch eggs and most varieties of Walkers crisps.

    All of which can be ordered online, or check where you live. There are more and more shops opening up with English foods :)

    • Derek Barton

      My American wife who is very good in the kitchen usually makes me these kind of things for birthdays and Christmas following traditional as possible recipes…

  • Derek Barton

    Corny Christmas songs by Cliff Richard and the likes… I do not miss those!
    And Stag Beetles

    • Toni Hargis

      Argh. Stag beetles, I’d forgotten about them.

  • Adrian Pumphrey

    I don’t miss stinging nettles but I never heard of poison ivy before moving to the US. Far worse. And if you did get stung by nettles there was always the superhero dock leaf to help you out (although I’m convinced this is just a wives tale).

    • Country mouse, city mouse

      Stung by nettle? Pee on the area affected. The same goes for jelly fish. I’ve used the cure for both in my life and it works like a charm!

  • Heather Joy Molinari

    I have seen stinging nettles in the woods in Wisconsin, there were dock leafs close by too, I was quite surprised. Agree with you on everything, especially the weather.

  • gn

    The U.S. average is currently $3.50 per gallon, compared to $5.50 in the UK

    A US gallon of unleaded would cost $7.95 at UK prices. I think your calculations have gone wrong somewhere — perhaps you forgot to convert back to dollars. In any case, fuel is more than twice as expensive in the UK — entirely because of tax.

    • Toni Hargis

      Thanks for that. I was just in the middle of re-calculating, so you saved me that work! Even more depressing now though.

      • Pauline Wiles

        I believe a US gallon is a different quantity than a UK gallon. That might be some of the trouble. But yes, I’ve heard a rule of thumb before that petrol is twice the price.

  • gn

    * The climate, the climate, the climate.

    * Probably as a consequence of the climate and/or post-imperial syndrome:
    ** Excessive sarcasm
    ** Excessive pessimism

    * Everything closing early (I’m a night-owl, and even if you’re lucky enough to find a “24-hour supermarket” it will be closed in the early hours of Sunday morning)

    * Libel laws

    * (Almost) everything being centralized in London: politics, finance, media, business, culture, etc. The only obvious exception is football.

  • Almost American

    Wouldn’t have thought to put stinging nettles on that list, but the rest of it I agree with! I miss scotch eggs more than sausage rolls I think.

  • Paul From Sheep to Alligators

    I would add grumpy shopkeepers, uncooperative and contrary workers (I had to practically beg the bin men to take away the rubbish at my last place), and generally low customer service. I’m not arguing everyone should be some passive wage slave, but the world is a little better when people are nicer to each other.

  • Debio

    the weather, damp bathroom towels, appalling customer service, tax, NHS, PC culture, football, rights without responsibilities.

    Just as well I’m not there, really. :-)))

    • Rebecca H.

      If it weren’t for the reference to NHS, I’d assume you were talking about the US!
      Or maybe it’s just Washington State…

  • emmakaufmann

    I don’t really miss that ritual the more exhibitionistic males did when, at the first gasp of spring or bit of sunshine they’d all whip off their tops and lie around in the parks. Invariably by 5pm you’d walk around London and see all these bright red heads, chests and peeling shoulders!

  • Tina

    I don’t miss the snobby attitudes towards people who aren’t built like stick insects, or people who don’t feel they should conform to the latest fashion.

  • The Analyst

    Hearing anyone complain about gas prices reminds me of why I’m glad to be a bicyclist who lives in a fairly walkable neighbourhood.


    A Canadian

  • Louise

    Don’t feel sorry for us. I finally moved back after 20+ years in the US and I loved last summer. I am happiest putting on a jumper or a raincoat and going out for a long walk. I hated every minute of my New York summers and mainly spent them inside waiting for Fall. Then of course the winters were brutal, so I spent those digging snow and wishing for Spring. Today it’s 65 degrees which is about as warm as I like it – the sky is blue and I am watching the sheep in the fields from my office window. I can’t believe how little I appreciated this country when I lived here the first time. Now I’m back, I see everything anew. Magic!

  • therealguyfaux

    On another thread it was noted, why aren’t there as many ex-pats in San Francisco as in Los Angeles. The answer is that the summer in San Francisco is way too reminiscent of the summer in the UK (It gets up to 20 degrees maybe once a week, tops, if you’re lucky.)

    • gn

      But move 5 miles down the peninsula (or across the bay) and the climate is glorious.

      San Francisco is a microclimate all of its own.

      • therealguyfaux

        Well, if you go down the peninsula, the farther south the closer to Silicon Valley– and who can afford that? San Fran isn’t affordable, Marin isn’t, the East Bay may be, but then you’re in “Occupy”-ed Oakland aka “No-‘there’-there” and Berkeley, which have too many no-go blocks for the very few good ones.

        Hey, you pay through the nose, but it’s 25-odd degrees nine months out of the year (next to the Bay, anyhow), so you shouldn’t complain, yeah?

        • gn

          The peninsula is cheaper than most neighborhoods of SF, particularly if you consider cost per square foot. And there are some very nice neighborhoods in Oakland and Berkeley.

          The whole Bay Area is expensive: no argument there. But then it offers some very high-paying jobs.

          • therealguyfaux

            Well the farther north on the Peninsula you are, the closer to the Airport, so there you are. You take what you can get for the dosh you’ve got, I suppose. (And you know you’ve lived there too long when you start leaving the “U” out of “neighbo[u]rhood”)

  • AJ

    You forgot NHS