We have arrived in England’s green and pleasant land. A few weeks visiting friends, family, and relishing all those things about your home country that you really miss. With every year that Beijing continues to be my “home”, there are things that I desperately missed when I first arrived that I’m now used to doing without. I love sausages, and thought I would never survive without being able to cook a proper British banger. Luckily, there are a couple of entrepreneurs that now produce a pretty good version of the Cumberland. I used to struggle to find a decent cup of English Breakfast tea, but can now enjoy a good old cuppa in many cafes across the city. You can even get afternoon tea at some places, with dainty sandwiches, and freshly baked scones. There are of course still a couple of things that China hasn’t yet managed to import, replicate, or invent their own version of.
Boots the Chemist
The high street chemist Boots is almost as ubiquitous as the English pub. Quality cosmetics, everything possible that you would need for babies, medicines, creams, potions, and lotions. Established in 1849, by John Boot, it began as a family-run herbal medicine shop in Nottingham. Decades of growth, and diversification followed and today Boots has a store on every high street, in every department store, and airport terminal across the UK. Despite the march of huge supermarket chains, offering the same products, Brits remain (relatively) loyal to Boots. Watson’s at least goes some way to filling the void, but without a pharmacy, it’s just not the same.
London Taxi Drivers
Perhaps it is their unrivalled ability to talk about everything and anything. London’s iconic black cabs are recognized around the world as being the highest quality, and due to the impressive expertise of London taxi drivers they have the best local knowledge compared to any other city in the world. Unfortunately, they’re now fighting a losing battle against the likes of Uber, a real shame yet much the same as what’s happening in Beijing.
The English have a wonderful way of saying sorry even when something wasn’t their fault. If you bump into someone in the street, they’ll be the ones apologizing. If someone takes a little too long to pay at the check-out, they’ll start apologizing. If someone takes the last loaf of bread in the bakery, they’ll apologize. Of course not everyone in England today exhibits this level of politeness, but on the whole you know where you stand with English manners (usually in a queue).
Criss-crossing the English countryside there are mile and after mile of hedgerows: long rows of bushes sometimes with trees rising among them, and wild flowers blooming within them. They were planted to divide up the farmland and landscapes, and to act as barriers to prevent livestock from escaping from the fields. Two thirds of England has been continuously hedged for over a thousand years, with older hedgerows supporting an amazing diversity of plants and animals. Beijing has hedges, trees, and rose bushes alongside its major routes, but it’s all too cosmetic and is only kept alive with copious amounts of watering, not great when there’s such a shortage.
Sunday Pub Roasts
I still live in hope that someone will manage to replicate this in Beijing. Some venues think they have come close, but alas no. Only in England can you get thick slices of roast beef, huge Yorkshire puddings, and a mound of crunchy roast potatoes, all drenched in thick gravy. With pork you’ll get wonderfully crunchy crackling and tart apple sauce. All served up alongside a warm beer. Ok, so Beijing does manage to do the beer thing just right.
beijingkids Shunyi Correspondent Sally Wilson moved to Beijing in 2010 from the UK with her husband and son. Her daughter was born here in 2011 and both her kids keep her happily busy. In her spare time, Sally loves to stroll through Beijing’s hutongs and parks. She is a (most of the time) keen runner and loves reading: books, magazines, news, and celeb websites – anything really. Sally is also a bit of a foodie and loves trying out new restaurants.