If you've been reading my blog for a while,
you know I LOVE living in this country

It is so beautiful and so interesting
- filled with history and culture galore -

But what does it feel like to live here?

via Wikipedia

It has taken a while to get a visceral sense
of the size and population of England

England is roughly the size of Louisiana,
and one would need five Englands to fill the state of Texas

This shows the whole UK, not just England
via Sarmonster

It takes appropriately 45 hours to drive the US from coast to coast

In Europe, you cannot drive 45 hours in a straight line and still be on the same continent

Starting from the closest European point to England (Calais, France)
you could be in Beirut, Lebanon in 45 driving hours

Moscow is only a 26 hour drive from Calais
(only 19 more hours to go for the equivalent of the US drive)

via GoogleMaps

In contrast, I can be almost anywhere in England within 5 or 6 hours
(if traffic cooperates)

Anyway, you get my point
But not so fast...

Fill up Louisiana with all the people in California (the most populated state),
and then fill it with half those people again
You've almost reached the 1,054 person per square mile in England

This leads to an intricate web of roads to maneuver daily
and a large infrastructure in place to serve the population

Not only is the population more dense in England,
but the things to do and see is fantastically dense too

So this feels different than America

Population per square kilometer (2006 data)
via Wikipedia 

Generally speaking, the English can visit their families by car or train
It is easier to see childhood friends when they are just a drive away

In contrast, many Americans fly to visit friends and family
which makes reunions less frequent

And because we live on an island,
every time we fly, we are traveling to a foreign country

Flying to a foreign country entails border control lines upon arrival
followed by passport, visa, and paperwork checks when we return to the UK

It can feel like we live on a cultural island from the rest of Europe as well,
as English is the official language only in the UK and Ireland

Mainstream film, television and music
generally come from within the country and the US,
not from Europe

Although the UK is part of the European Union,
they retain their own currency

So it feels like we live on an island in a number of ways

Languages in Europe
via Wikipedia

Stick with me for a few more observations :) ...

American news has an equal dose of local and national headlines
while English media tends to cover more nationwide stories than local tidbits
As a result, I don't feel I really know what's going on in my local community

And while American epicenters for politics, finance, fashion and entertainment
are spread between Washington DC, New York and Los Angeles,

London is the heartbeat of the country in all of these industries
(making it such an AMAZING city!)

And when I say 'country',
I may be referring to England or the United Kingdom
(for England is a country within a country)

Another oddity is
there are two governing bodies at work here:
the United Kingdom and the European Union

Living in a country with a constitutional monarchy has been interesting
It actually seems quite efficient to share
the dance of international relations between the Queen and Prime Minister

The Queen is the face of good public relations for the UK;
meanwhile, the Prime Minister tackles the hard political issues at home and abroad

I can't avoid mentioning that taxes and the cost of living are very high,
making it harder to save money here than in the US

With higher taxes comes a larger government presence
which provides health care for all and generous welfare for many

The government design still feels very foreign to me,
and I admit I still find it confusing as to how it works legislatively

Interactive map shows US with 35% marginal tax rate and UK with 50%
See more via TurboTax

Of course I knew about England's famous wet weather before we moved here
And to be honest, it hasn't been that bad
(although this year has been breaking records)

There are so many different types of rain to experience
that it doesn't get monotonous
- fine and misty, scattered showers with 'sunny spells', occasional hard downpour -

Thunder and lightening rarely occur

England averages only 33 inches of annual rainfall
while Scotland & Wales receive much more (mostly in blue)
 via MetOffice

The English have an expression
'Just get on with it'
which goes hand in hand with a rainy life

Most events carry on, regardless of rain or shine
In fact, you plan for rain
with a backup plan if it is sunny and warm

But it was the winter darkness I had not prepared for mentally
Sharing the same latitude with Kiev (Ukraine) and Krakow (Poland),
the sun rises late (8:06 am)
and sets so early (3:51 pm) in the winter

But the reward is very sweet with
LLLOOOONNNGGG days of daylight in the summer
(over 16.5 hours)

And thanks to the Gulf Stream,
England is warmer than other countries sitting on the same latitude

With warm-ish summers and mild winters,
temperatures do not fluctuate a lot between seasons
It is almost always sweater weather

The mild wet weather creates the perfect recipe
for the most glorious gardens and greenery you'll find anywhere

A map of public gardens approximately 2 hours from London
via Britain's Finest

While the trees lose their leaves in wintertime,
the grass and hedges stay green all year
which brightens up the dreary days

The mild winters bring early springtime,
and daffodils are starting to bloom now

And that feels very happy :)