Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Things I miss about Blighty

Being abroad, you get a lot of time to think about what life was like living in the motherland.  You start missing some aspects of life a lot and others not so much.  While writing my last blog entry, I started contemplating what makes England so special to me.  Don't get me wrong, there are an awful lot of things that could certainly be improved but I for one count my lucky stars that I was brought up in the land of tea and biscuits.  So, let me tell you what I miss about home.

1)  Family, friends and the cats

Of course these aren't unique to England but I'd be lying if I said they aren't the first thing that I miss about being overseas.  I've never found it particularly difficult to make friends or relate to other people but I've found that in the world of EFL it's very easy to get to know people on a superficial level rather than having a deep and meaningful friendship.  There are few people who I'll end up staying in contact once they leave Vietnam which is perfectly understandable as most EFL teachers want to stay in one country for a maximum of two years before they move on to pastures new.  This isn't to say I haven't made some amazing friends, I have, but if I have any problems the first people I'll speak to are those at home, who I've known most of my life, who understand me and my inadequacies. 

Family is obviously essential to everyone's lives.  Although I'm from not the most communicative (i.e. not great at keeping in-touch) of families, I know that if anything untoward was to happen, they'd fully support me and help me through whatever the situation is.  I also know they share my happiness and I'm deeply proud of all of them, even if I don't tell them that often.  That to my mind, is what family is, a group of people who care for one another, share the positive and negative times in a comforting yet not overbearing way.  One of my deepest regrets is that my family couldn't come across for my wedding, but it just wasn't feasible, logical or practical for them to fly over.  Now that I have started a family of my own, I've come to appreciate my siblings, parents and the role that my grandparents have played throughout my life.  So for everything, my heartfelt thanks and sorry for any times I've let you down.

Finally, I can't finish talking about family without mentioning our cats, Sootika and Clumsy.  Two amazing felines, though I'm not sure mum and dad will agree!  They're coming into their 13/14th year of their lives so they've done well.  They generally don't leave the house, sleep, demand food at inconvenient hours of the morning and disturb you when you're trying to work but deep down, I know that we wouldn't change them for the world!  I'm still working on Hanh to let me have a cat but she's still holding out.......for now!

 Ok enough of the sappiness!

2)  The weather

Now this might surprise you, but you guys back at home have no idea how good you've got in terms of the weather!  You really don't!  In Saigon there are two types of day.  The first is hot in the morning, humid through the middle of the day and then it stays hot until the next day.  The second, during rainy season, is humid in the morning, extremely humid in the middle of the day, heavy rain/thunderstorms in the late afternoon/early evening to finish being humid.  Everyday feels the same, there are no seasons and the amount of daylight is pretty much the same all year round.

In England, it is different.  The winter is usually cold, windy with the occasional snow shower or drizzle and overcast skies.  The spring has pleasant temperature, refreshing breeze with the odd shower.  The days become longer, the flowers start to bloom, the fields are a lush green and everyone feels happier.  The summers are nice, not too hot, but warm enough to find thousands of people crowding the small areas of sand on the beaches.  Yes, there is rain sometimes, but it's not as bad as some people make out.  Well, at least on the south coast anyway.  Finally, the autumn.  The days start to shorten, the leaves turn a golden-brown colour and start to fall, the temperatures start to dip and the winds and frequency of showers start to pick up.

For me, the changing amount of daylight is huge!  It makes me enjoy the summer months more and seeing nature changing before your eyes is something you only really appreciate when you're in a country where it simply never alters.  As the temperatures are always pleasant, I never felt tired or drained like I do in the wall of heat I encounter everyday in Vietnam.  The monsoon rains in Vietnam can be extremely hazardous and flash-floods aren't uncommon.  Therefore, I'd take the seasonal weather in the UK any day of the week!

3)  The cup of tea

Nothing beats a nice cuppa tea!  Here, it's very difficult to find good tea bags as about only 2 shops stock them and then it's hit or miss if they have any left.  Therefore, I've been patiently waiting on deliveries of PG Tips and Tetley from people traveling back home to see their families.  Even with good tea bags, it doesn't taste the same here.  This is because the quality of milk in Vietnam is nowhere near as good (to my taste) as milk at home.  Therefore taste of tea here is inferior.  That being said, I'll take a cup of PG with bad milk over any Lipton yellow tea any day of the week!  For more

4)  The food

According to my students, English food isn't famous worldwide because it's boring.  Well that's one opinion, but I'll respectfully disagree.  Although Saigon is blessed with restaurants from all over the world, especially some great Indian and Korean eateries, I really miss decent English food.  Yes, there are some places which do a reasonable job at traditional English cuisine, but there's usually something missing.  For example, finding a good Sunday Roast Dinner is difficult.  The vegetables are usually overcooked, the gravy too runny and the Yorkshire Puddings are too soggy inside.  The English Breakfast is usually disappointing as the quality of sausages and bacon is generally low.  More importantly, English desserts are difficult to find!  I haven't found anywhere that serves good custard and fruit crumble, steam pudding and trifle is impossible to find!  I miss mash potato on the top of pies, I long for fish and proper potato cut chips and just thinking about these foods is leaving a massive hole in my stomach!  I can't wait to come back in 3 weeks to gorge and feast on some of the afore mentioned! 

 5)  Paying for things Electronically

Vietnam is very much a cash society.  Most locals carry large wedges of money around in their pockets and transactions are settled in notes.  In contrast, Korea and the UK are largely card orientated.  Therefore I've got into the habit of not carrying cash and paying for everything on my debit card.  This means I'm often short on cash when I go out in Nam.  Even though more bars and shops have card machines nowadays, they often don't work or the operatives simply don't know how to use them properly.  Also, late at night the ATM's frequently display the ever annoying message of 'Out of service - Sorry for any inconvenience', knowing full well it's extremely inconvenient as I'm there to get money because I have no money yet I can't access any!!!!  As I'm wary of pickpockets, I don't like carrying large amounts of money, so I'm caught in a catch 22, risk getting money stolen or being left short at the end of a night out.  Things in this regard, are so much easier at home!

So here are some of the things I miss.  I expect some people in both England and Vietnam will disagree with me, but these are merely my thoughts.  Of course there are negatives about Blighty, but I'll leave them for another day as I'm in a mood of 'positivity' (if that's even a word!)


  1. I am all for this blog! And totally agree with you! Coming from a different part of the world myself New Zealand and England share many of these mentioned. It is not until you leave your homeland that really start to look and appreciate the natural beauty of things and the great food! Very well written Mark and now I am left with a massive hole in my stomach :P

  2. Well, I have spent the winter in England, and I can tell you...
    Sun set at 3.30pm is the pits.
    Having said that it doesn't get dark until 8.30 now.
    As for the weather, well the Nam really is like living in a sauna which ever way you look at it. :)