Living in London can be incredible but there are some things that you can’t find or experience like anywhere else but Straya’.
Moving to London almost seems like an unofficial rite of passage for many young Australians, my younger self included. I was on and off living in London for under three years and developed a very tumultuous love, hate, but ultimately much-love relationship with Europe’s largest capital until I made my own Brexit, sigh. I now find myself on the other side of the flip coin, back in Australia and reminiscing about things I miss about London.
So it got me thinking, with all these things about London I miss – the nightlife, the spontaneity of events, Brick Lane bagels, neighbourhood street food markets, dare I even say, the Tube? – what else do like-minded Aussies calling London home miss about life in the motherland?
Besides the obvious of family, friends, vegemite (contentious on my end), I put the question to Australians currently living in London to name those home quirks they long for.
1. 7-11 Slurpees
Is this uniquely Strayan’? Of course not, but for Aussies in London, this icy drink for a few gold coins is one to froth over anytime back home. London maybe not so much, unless the sun was permanently out from the clouds and it made sense to sip on something cold while being, err, not so cold.
2. Waking up to magpie call
Forget the alarm, not when you can go back-to-basics being awoken to the sounds of a magpie or kookaburra or any other bird tweeting away as if singing a collective bird song. Yes, city living in Australia means residing in an urban menagerie.
London has upped its brunch game in recent years with avocado being a fixture on menus all over and breakfast becoming more than just the stereotypical ‘Full English’, but brunch still isn’t the social institution it is in Australia.
Close your eyes and take time to breathe in that fresh London air, oh wait, it doesn’t quite exist! Unfortunately, London is so heavily polluted that sometimes, its low air quality may have you blowing black nose bogies. Only Aussies in London know how nasty it can sometimes get on the nose.
5. Being able to chat to a checkout person
Us Aussies are known to be a friendly bunch and being able to chat to a check out person in a relaxed way while you buy your weekly shop can go a long way with a little ‘how’s it going mate?’ chitchat.
6. Subtropical storms
Bad weather can make for a good show. Many Aussies noted that they miss the smell of storms building up, with one Aussie expat Andrew colourfully revealing their delight with storm watching, “The lightning that crisscrosses to illuminate the sky as if we have angered the gods in some way. To the downpour that hits a hot road that initially turns into steam. Then the constant thunder and rain. I used to switch the TV off and just watch it.” Instead in the UK, you grow more accustomed to perpetual low clouds and a near-constant light drizzle.
7. Camping in a swag
Subtropical storms aren’t the only thing Andrew misses. “Camping in my swag with the soft glow and crackle of a campfire and looking up at the milky way and the mass of bright stars devoid of being tainted by artificial lights of the city.”
See above – oh wait, too much city light pollution!
9. Drive-thru bottle shops
Australia may not have many off-licence convenience stores as they do in the UK, but somehow, we can treat our on-the-go alcohol purchase similar to a Macca’s run.
10. Beef sausages
In the UK, you can get a whole-lotta pork on your fork, but when it comes to quintessential BBQ beef sausages, they seem to be a rarity on supermarket shelves. It has not gone noticed with Australians in London with many making sure they get their reef n’ beef (sausages) fix when visiting home.
11. Flat whites
Slowly but surely, the world is catching on to the Australian barista brainchild; the flat white
s. This Australian café fixture is missed by some expats however there are many Aussie outlets to get the homestyle, caffeinated fix in London albeit at a premium price often over £3!
12. Beaches with real sand
No, pebbles do not even come close to our pearl-white sand
y and beautiful , turquoise beaches. Margate and Brighton don’t even come close to Cottesloe or Bondi.
13. Chicken salt
Personally, this one absolutely mystifies me to this day. The Brits love their fish and chips, yet the they douse it in vinegar! Somehow the humble Australian kitchen staple, chicken salt, is yet to join their line-up of condiments. Surely, fish and chips shops in the UK need an intervention to be sprinkling a bit of chicken salt into their lives…and maybe a crabstick, Chiko roll and dim sims while they’re at it!
14. Free-to-air sport
The best things in life really do come free down under, and that includes seeing free to air sport on your TV without having to pay for a TV subscription – life goals.
15. The lack of yum cha availability
London’s Chinatown is almost the only place to get your yum cha (fun cha) fix in the capital. Back home, we’re used to nearby city neighbourhoods readily able to satisfy your yum cha fix with plenty of restaurants ready and waiting with a lazy susan loaded up with ample dumplings and green tea!
16. Cheap (and good) sushi
There are many chain takeout sushi joints in London; however, good sushi is hard to come by – and that is without going to an expensive restaurant. Nothing compares to the cheap, tasty and delicious sushi joints adorning every street corner in Aussie cities.
17. Laidback culture
Nope, you won’t find surfers boarding in London. Or find any beach vibes. But London’s city culture goes unmatched like nowhere else – just like our own unique laidback culture.
18. Bunnings sausage sizzle
For a small moment, this craving was satisfied with Bunnings opening its hardware house in the UK. Dedicated Aussies even made the pilgrimage to grab their much-missed snag however the classic shopfront sausage sizzle confused the Brits. I came to get hardware, but I got a sausage in a sandwich? Unfortunately, the fire went out as both Bunnings and its iconic sausage sizzle closed up shop in the UK but the fire still burns bright on weekends back home.
19. Quality fruit and vegetables without the excessive packaging
Buying fruits and vegetables should be without the round of pass the parcel with taking off the layers of plastic packaging. With saying that, dictated quantities rather than purchasing what you actually need should also be a thing.
20. Space to move
Nevermind worrying about having your own personal space back home, there’s plenty of it thanks to Australia’s low population density. Being able to walk on a clean footpath in a relaxed way and not having to fight over space also warrants for Aussies in London to get triggered with homesickness.
21. Party pies
Some expats admitted to longing for the quintessential party food of your childhood – party pies. Just the sheer convenience of throwing a pack of frozen party pies into the oven is dearly missed by Aussies clinging onto home party pleasers.
22. Water quality
Drinking water from the tap and having a shower in London versus doing the thing same back in Australia feels different – and that is because it is. Whereas Australia’s water is known to be soft, London’s water is hard, with a high limescale content that can leave your skin feeling dry and flakey.
A study by Tappwater reveals that London’s tap water derives from reservoirs collected upstream from River Thames and boreholes that bring up groundwater. Although safe to drink, issues with London’s water is that it contains a high level of calcium and magnesium compounds, making it hard and causing limescale. The water also may taste like chlorine as it is added to safeguard the water from being contaminated. It also may contain lead leaching from old pipes and microplastics.
23. Saying ‘thank you’ to the bus driver
There is no harm in shouting out thanks to the one at the wheel! This also goes with smiling and saying hello to a passerby without being looked at like you are from another planet.
24. $5 Domino value pizzas
A purple fiver can get you far, and that includes buying a cheap n’ cheesy feed without cutting coupons.
25. Beer gardens
London has its fair share of beer gardens (and they do them well), but some can be too packed or too rainy to enjoy with a pint in tow.
26. Good wine at reasonable prices
There was a time in my life whereas I would go to a spend no more than £5 on wine at my local London supermarket, Tesco. Thing is, this budget is limited with options, with some wines being subpar unlike at home where good, local wine can be cheered to on a shoestring budget after a quick trip to mega battleshop, Dan Murphy’s.
27. Laundry room
Who wants their dirty socks and undies strewn across the kitchen floor?
The UK has money-saver, clothing giant Primark and Australia has Kmart, a dollar-dazzler for every inch of the home. The similarities? You go in for one thing and come out with show bags of stuff.
29. Straight-forwardness of Australians
We tell it like it is.
Think of London’s parks like Australian beaches, when it is good weather, the masses will be swarming to get a spot and set up shop for the day to get their much-needed dose of Vitamin D.
Vitamin D spray and tablets are a thing over in the UK, especially in the winter months due to the lack of sun so when that sun does come out in London, that means the legs and arms (maybe the chest!) out at your local park.
31. Good bakeries
Brumby’s, Baker’s Delight and decent places to get your fresh baked carbs is what many Aussies in London miss. Personally, I am dumbstruck as to why the UK never seemed to import France’s bakery and patisserie perfection methods back on its own shores.
32. BBQ chicken
A convenient, last-minute dinner or picnic meal? The faithful crowd-pleaser supermarket BBQ chicken is missed by many Aussies in London.
Australia is a fly haven, whereas, in the UK, pesky flies don’t seem to be much of a thing. Having a trusty flyscreen can help close off the floodgates for insects in the home.
34. The sound of rain on a tin roof
35. Backyard cricket
Many backyards within London are not big enough to spin a ball like an amateur Shane Warne and hit the ball for a six without the ball going into the neighbour’s neighbour backyard…
36. Arnott’s Shapes
Arnott’s Shapes are the staple pantry snack to rule them all. In my skewed world of binge-eating Arnott’s Shapes, there are only two flavours: BBQ and pizza. Nevermind the rest.
37. Running and cycling trails
Aussies are known to be active and running, and cycling trails are missed city concourse with some expats.
38. Hills Hoist
Washing in London can be a pain. With cold weather and limited space, it may take days for your clothes to properly dry (unless it is perched on a wall heater).
Australia revolutionised how to dry clothes with the iconic Hill Hoist backyard clothesline. Some may debate that its uses have evolved in time, is the perfect backdrop to play a round of ‘goon of fortune’ in younger drinking. The ultimate double-use, Australian engineering feat!
Feature image: Benjamin Davies on Unsplash
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