5 Things that shocked me about living in England

Moving to a different country is always a challenge, new people, new culture, new supermarkets. but when your coming from not only a different country but also a different continent and a different hemisphere even, the things you don’t think about tend to surprise you the most. I didn’t think New Zealand and England would be so different if I’m honest. Most white New Zealanders have ancestral roots here in the United Kingdom after all. it seems however they way our cultures have grown and changed and developed has made for some interesting differences. here is my list of 5 things in our travel so far that have shocked and surprised us.

1. Plastic in supermarkets

All the Plastic packaging around one packet of biscuits! I’m sure all I needed was the cardboard box!!

Now don’t get me wrong we have plastic in our supermarkets at home in New Zealand as well, but the quantities of it here and in some of the places we visited in Europe just BLEW OUR MINDS! Walking into a Supermarket for the first time and seeing isles and isles of pre-packaged meals, ‘fresh’ fruit and veges all in plastic. And simple things like packets of biscuits in recyclable cardboard box only to open it and find a plastic container inside the cardboard. It just seems to be everywhere here, even potatoes come in a plastic bag! We found a shrink wrapped coconut!
This to me is such a foreign idea, before we left NZ we were still buying our potatoes in five or ten kilo brown paper bags the only plastic is the handle. I haven’t yet found somewhere I can even buy 5 kilos of potatoes! Not to mention all the veges wrapped up in plastic that will sweat and go off so much faster!
To combat this plastic overload we have been actively choosing to buy products in sustainable and recyclable packaging where we can, and shopping at local markets where we can buy free flow fresh produce. So far Lidl and Aldi have been our top Supermarkets here in England and in Europe for cutting back on plastic and being able to find free flow fruit and veges.

2. Palm Oil

Following on from the sea of plastic is the destruction of the rain forest and in turn the rapid decline in orangutan numbers. With the likelihood of orangutans being extinct in the wild in less then 50 years! This point for the animal lover in me was the most distressing, the number of products that contain palm oil in England is alarming! For those of you that don’t know how palm oil plantations are affecting flora and fauna here is a video made by Greenpeace about the dirty palm oil trade.

As someone who was already conscious about palm oil I checked labels a bit at home, but coming to Europe and the Untied Kingdom I have had to become a label watching warrior! Almost every brand of chocolate and sweets, breakfast cereal, bread, muesli bars, potato chips (crisps) the list goes on. Finding products that don’t contain palm oil when your in a rush is a nightmare! The biggest difference is there are products in the UK that contain palm oil that in NZ and Australia that do not. for example; Cadbury chocolate bars in UK have Palm oil. In NZ Cadbury is palm oil free unless it cannot be avoided then only source’s from sustainable producers. It’s disappointing to see so many UK producers and consumers turning a blind eye to the effects of this product.

Does Cadbury use Palm Oil?

Cadbury chocolate Easter egg from Australia (right) vs a plain Cadbury chocolate block from the United Kingdom (left).

3. 101 uses for string

Farmers in England LOVE their string. As kiwi farmers are to number 8 wire, English are to string. It’s everywhere, being used for everything! Even some things I didn’t think were possible for it to be used for! From tying gates, sheep, sheep to gates, flashing’s to roofs, latching gates, plugging holes and occasionally its intended use of tying up bales of hay or straw. There always seems to be an abundance of this versatile material about. However I think I will stick to the New Zealand style fixed cattle handling yards over aluminum temporary yards tied with.. you guessed it MORE STRING!

4. The Right To Roam

Something as a farm hand I was warned about first coming to England is ‘The right to roam’ which in short means that private land is largely not very private. For more info click the link below.

https://www.gov.uk/right-of-way-open-access-land/use-your-right-to-roam

The Right to roam is a double edged knife for a travelling shepherd; As a traveler its an amazing idea that I can walk across almost all of England and see the beautiful wildlife, the numerous hedgerows, the windswept moorland and untamed coastlines. On the other hand I’m a shepherd. And I’m a shepherd largely because I prefer the company of dogs and sheep over people. So with an population increase from 4.5 million to 66 million in a very similar land size. And then having every Tom, Dick, Harriet and their dog able to walk wherever the sheep and or cows happen to be, is basically a huge pain in the left but-cheek. This mainly comes down to a large divide between city and country folk, and a lack of knowledge about dog control around livestock i.e. don’t let Milly chase the fluffy white things. and don’t stand in the middle of my mob of sheep taking a photo when I’m trying to take them through the gate… Also CLOSE THE GATE!
On top of that there’s is a great number of people that the love animals a lot! But unfortunately don’t really know a lot about livestock, and so their version of being helpful equates to something that is not very helpful.
Such as; Seeing a lamb that has been ‘placed’ by mumma sheep all on its own, and then picking it up and taking it home with them because they believe it has been abandoned. Only to have mumma sheep come back half an hour later and freak out because her lambs gone. Which then results in said sheep coming in with no lambs at weaning time, and in turn ending up on the truck to the slaughter house because she was a bad mother and didn’t raise a lamb. Also this is Theft! And bringing the lamb back later can be worse because then mumma sheep doesn’t recognize the lamb as hers anymore because it smells funny and the lamb does actually get abandoned!… And then eaten by foxes.

5. EVERYTHING IS SOOOOO CLOSE!

With a dramatic jump in population numbers, so to is the dramatic jump in services and availability of, well, everything! Coming from living 40 mins drive from anything, (like there was no pub for 40 minutes drive one way.) The number of places we can go here in such a small amount of time is fantastic! We have our first ever gym memberships because the gym is only 10 minutes drive from the farm! You can drive/train/bus for 2 hours and have been through sooo many different towns and villages. Which of course as a budget adventurer is fantastic as there is so many things to do and see all without having to spend to much on travel! Unfortunately this also means its a lot easier to go buy food and drink which is why we need the gym membership. However a major upside of the increase in availability of things for me is the large number of ‘free from’ ranges of food. I’m lactose intolerant and finding alternatives in the United Kingdom has been really easy!

The center of London is only just over an hours drive from Leighton Buzzard!

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14 comments

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