Hi everybody! We three ladies have been gone for a while with Christmas, New Years, and all the travelling we’ve done. I hope you had the merriest and happiest of holiday seasons! Here in the Wier family, we are definitely ringing in our new year with a bang. We have made our move to England and are currently all set up in our furnished apartment in Oxford. A lot of people have been asking how things are going for us, so today’s post is just an update on everything in our family.
Where to begin? It’s been a crazy few weeks. We moved out of our house in Texas in the middle of December and it was much more bittersweet than I had expected. We had wonderful neighbors (seriously…the kind you get once in a lifetime) and after 2 ½ years, we had started to become part of the community. After the movers came and took all of our things away, we loaded up like the Beverly Hillbillies and headed to my Mom and Dad’s in Kentucky for a couple of weeks to celebrate Christmas and New Years. It was the perfect stopping point. We were able to spend time with our friends and family and it was incredibly relaxing after the weeks and weeks of move prep we had been doing.
January 1st was move day. Declan woke us up at 5:30 that morning and it turned out to be a blessing in disguise since that’s when we got the notification that our first flight from Lexington to Chicago had been cancelled. Colin quickly got on the phone and we were able to rebook flights from Charleston, WV to Washington DC to Heathrow. It was a very long travel day, but I have to say that the boys both did great, considering how exhausted we all were. Colin and I didn’t get much sleep on the flight over, but the boys slept the whole way.
We were picked up by a driver and arrived at our apartment in Oxford around 1:00 PM on the 2nd and spent the evening unpacking our eight suitcases and four carry-on bags. We got more than a few odd stares in the airport, but were able to bring all of the boys’ Christmas gifts with us so that they would have plenty of toys to play with until all of our other things arrive at the end of January.
After we all slept between 12-14 hours Thursday night, we woke up on Friday and the real fun started! Colin picked up the rental car and successfully drove back to the apartment on the “wrong” side to pick us up. Then it was off to the grocery store. That was quite the experience. Did you know that the shopping carts go sideways here? In the US when you’re pushing your cart it goes forward and backward. Here, the wheels pivot and you can push it sideways, even spinning it in circles if you’d like. This is incredibly convenient, but it also means that it can get a little out of control if you aren’t careful. I almost lost the cart twice on our first trip out. It was difficult to find anything in the store as I’m not used to where things would be found on the shelves. The eggs, for example, were not refrigerated. This threw me, as I was looking for them in the refrigerated section. When you’re checking out here, there is a cashier sitting behind the register. She scans the food, but then you have to bag it yourself. I had been warned of this in advance, but I wasn’t prepared to find only three bags on the counter. I had $300 worth of groceries and three bags! I had to act like the American that I am and ask the cashier what to do about the bags. It turns out that as you use the bags on the counter, she reaches underneath and pulls out a few more for you. Good to know!
After finishing up at the grocery store, we drove out to meet our estate agent (realtor) and view a house. We were so pleasantly surprised. The house was amazing. It was very large, with plenty of space and exactly what we needed. However, it was 23 miles away from Colin’s work. With gas prices being so expensive here ($9.58 per gallon as of this morning), that’s a long haul for Colin to drive everyday. It is also a good possibility that there will be more houses built just behind the house while we’re living there, meaning lots of noise to contend with during construction.
Following that, we drove back to Headington, the part of Oxford where our apartment is located, and were able to set up our bank accounts. I’ve heard over and over that this would be difficult since we don’t yet have a permanent address, but thankfully, it was not. Within an hour, we were all set up and the boys had charmed all the ladies at the bank.
Saturday morning, Ashley came over with her family and we finally got to meet Chris! That was really nice as we’ve felt like we’ve known him forever already. They watched the boys for us while we went with the estate agent and viewed six more houses. We found our number one pick and immediately put an offer on it. It’s less than two miles from Colin’s work , a mile and a half from any shopping we could want, and two miles from what will hopefully be Ian’s school. We are hoping to know something definite by this evening. When we came home, the kids were all happily playing and Chris and Ashley didn’t seem to be pulling their hair out, so we all ordered pizza and hung out for a few hours. It is so wonderful to have family nearby and was like bringing a piece of home to us.
On Sunday we drove into Oxford. It is a beautiful, old city that dates back to 900 AD and is home to the world-renowned Oxford University. We walked around the city for a bit and took some pictures and then headed back to the car to head off for a few more grocery items. When we got home, we had a much needed lazy afternoon and I cooked a real supper for the first time in what seems like ages.
So here we are. We’re all settled in and starting our new life in the UK. Colin is back at work this morning and me and the boys are settled back into our daily routine. It has been an exhausting month, really, and the relative normalcy is actually very welcome. It will get crazy again when all of our belongings arrive and we move into a house, but for now, we are enjoying learning our way around and just being together.
Below are a few fun items I’ll throw at you from the perspective of a brand new expat. 🙂
Things I Have Found Funny/Didn’t Expect.
The thermostats in our apartment are found in every room. Each room has a door, including the kitchen, living room, bedrooms, etc. so that you can set the heat for the rooms that you are using and you don’t have to worry as much about the other rooms. The oddest thing, though, is that our thermostats range from 1 to 10. We still aren’t sure what our “number” is. I thought these numbers might be the temperature in Celsius, but that’s not it because the range would only be from about 34 to 50 degrees. We’ve ended up turning them on about 2 in the main rooms and then sometimes opening a window to let more cool air in. It’s so hard to get the temperature right!
The boys are completely enthralled with the outlets here. Not only do they look different than what they’re used to, but they also have on/off switches on them. Once you plug something in, you have to turn the outlet on. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught Declan playing with these switches. I’m not sure if they are like that everywhere, or just in our apartment, but it’s a bit maddening!
A few notes on the bathrooms as we’ve been house hunting. The master bathrooms are usually not very big and they have no storage in them. I’m talking not even a medicine cabinet. And a double vanity, which is standard in most new houses in my area of the US, is extremely rare. The light switches to all of the bathrooms are outside the room and there are no electrical outlets in there either. All of our toiletries and hair products are currently parked in a set of plastic drawers right outside the bathroom. This is fine, but was definitely a bit of a shock when we got here!
Colin has been doing a great job with the driving. He’s even gotten really good at the notorious round-abouts that are so difficult to figure out. As we were driving home from viewing the house on Friday, however, we realized that we had a problem. We had no clue what the speed limit was! In the US, if you’re not sure, you can typically just keep driving and soon you’ll find a sign. Not here! We drove for miles and miles on what we would consider a highway and never saw the speed limit! We’ve since had Chris explain to us how it works. Apparently, there are “national speed limits” on certain types of roads and if nothing is posted, that’s what you follow. Good to know!
Most Annoying Thing
Laundry. Hands down. We have a very small washer/dryer in the kitchen. I expected this and immediately started washing when we got here. The dryer is kind of a joke and we have resorted to air drying everything. It’s working, but it means that I am going to be ironing Colin’s clothes every day until we move into a new house and can figure out a different solution. This is annoying, but I really expected it, and we’re living with it; just a minor inconvenience. 🙂
Best Thing So Far
The food! I’m not talking about restaurant food. Aside from ordering pizza (which was delicious), we haven’t eaten out yet. I’m just talking about the groceries. Plain old sandwich bread is SO much better here. It tastes like someone baked a loaf of bread, sliced it, and just put it in a bag. I love it to the point that I’m going to have to watch my intake. The meats and cheeses are just as good. It has all just been regular grocery store items that I would buy every week, but it tastes so fresh!
Okay. That’s a very long post. If you’ve stayed with me, I’m glad! Next week’s post will be less rambling and a more fun topic, I’m sure. I hope you all have a wonderful week!