Well, what might you be surprised by when you arrive in the UK from West Africa? You might not be surprised to know that the architecture and the roads are really different and really striking is the way we build bridges over roads. One friend arriving from W.Africa a while back thought we were very religious as he thought our houses looked like churches.
In the UK, you have to go to a shop or a market to buy something, in West Africa, there would be street vendors along the side of the road. Other things that surprised another friend is the British relationship with animals, that we see our pets as human and she found it gross to see the British kissing their dogs (A Russian friend’s observation of the British is we are obsessed with going for walks with our dogs – true).
The other observation a friend made is that at least in cities in the UK you could live with your neighbours for ten years and never know who they are. This is true, I am quite friendly with neighbours in my block of flats in that I chat to several of them when we meet in the lift but although we have lived here for a long time together, I have no idea for many of them what their name is and have never visited them or they me.
This blog is all about the small details when you come to the UK that no one will think to tell you about. CL Murray writes very brilliantly here about finding the right cleaning products. My own tip for getting rid of mould is to buy kitchen cleaner with bleach and make sure you open the windows to air your place. Lots of our buildings are old and not designed for central heating etc..
On cleaning products
When I first arrived in the UK I was completely lost with all the new labels and household products, I had no idea what kind of cleaning products to choose. I was used to looking for the things I needed by brand as we do in North America. I found myself asking shop assistants for “Kleenex” not realising they called it “tissue” or that “band-aids” were actually plasters. The other issue was that I couldn’t find glass cleaner and kept searching for the equivalent of “windex” with no luck. My Mom suggested I use distilled vinegar but all I could find was malt vinegar which smells a bit like stinky feet (not the nicest thing to clean with). One of my Italian friends who I consider to be a neat freak helped me solve the mystery of that pesky limescale in the sink, bath and shower glass doors. He said he tried using many products to get things to shine again and then he found Dettol.
Since then, taps and sinks in our house have seemed brighter, our kettle even shines! But without that piece of information. I didn’t realize how important bleach was until I rented out several flats with dampness issues and getting rid of mould became a mission. We started noticing how terrible health, respiratory issues were linked to the build up of mould in our closet or lurking in the carpets and curtains, you’ve got to find the source of the damp. So I told myself I would be more vigilant when renting my next flat to make sure there were no funny smells or damp issues, there are companies that deal with this problem in the UK, not something I was used to living in Canadian homes with proper insulation, enough to keep you warm throughout the long winter months.