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Thursday, 29 March, 2001, 09:30 GMT 10:30 UK
Blighty or blighted: Who wants to live in Britain?
American author Bill Bryson has decided to quit the US and is returning to the UK to live for the second time.
Famous for his witty travel writing, including Notes From a Small Island and The Lost Continent, he believes Britain has "a buzz."
He said about Britain: "I even admire things that don't work well, like the railways and the NHS."
With the recent foot-and-mouth crisis, BSE, the cold weather, the NHS and an incompetent railway network - why would anyone want to live in the UK? Is Blighty where your heart is, or is living in the UK blighted?
This debate is now closed. Your comments:
Britain will always be home to me but the incentive to return and live remains low. Compared to the average living standards and weather in places like Australia and Japan, Britain has no appeal. There is also the issue of different cultural attitudes. Other nations just don't seem to live in the past as much as the UK. I think the time has come for Britain to welcome and encourage change.
Suzanne McMillan, Japan (originally from N. Ireland.)
The single factor that is ruining Britain is the decline in morals and social values of each successive generation. The irony is that there is so much to be proud of here. On a recent trip to Canada I was struck by how friendly, helpful and courteous people were, and it reminded me of the positive approach to life that my grandparents' generation had. This is what today's generation has lost and too much emphasis is placed on materialism, money and competition to the detriment of everything else.
I am a Brit, living in Kansas, USA. Stop whining! The ONLY thing that is better for me here is that I am paid around 50% more salary to do the same job I did in the UK. I cannot pretend that I hate it here...the locals are friendly in a dopey sort of way and I don't miss Britain's over-crowding or weather. BUT unless you live in one of a tiny handful of large American cities, the whole of the rest of the country is incredibly boring! There is almost no public transport, no free-healthcare, nothing to do after 9pm except heavy-drinking, unbelievably awful TV and radio, no variety in music or culture, violent crime - oh, I could go on and on! I miss London, the lights, the buzz, the pubs, the football, the theatre, TV, good music, being able to have a decent conversation with a stranger and lots more. If you lot want to whine, go ahead, and move over here to see what you would miss, but I'm coming home!
I have lived in the USA for many years, also the UK. The difference between them is attitude - here people don't run their country down no matter what! Brits have always complained about their lot. Americans look always up and not down. If you're poor here, it's your own fault, is the attitude. Taxes are low and the government is cutting them again but don't look for handouts. People that break the law go to jail pretty quickly. But schools are unsafe and the gun is everywhere, so all must be considered. If Brits came here, they would all leave the next week and get back to that embattled isle. My question to those whining Brits is this - we all have choices and you can live legally in fifteen countries, so why stay?
England is where my heart is, I know that there are a lot of things wrong at this time, but we just bounce back to prove everybody wrong! I have been here in the US for over seven years and people here do not understand my patriotism for my country or my family, plus most of them (God bless them) do not still understand me! They still think I am Australian!
I recently moved to Singapore for employment reasons, and to be honest - it's a big relief to be away from the UK! Before I left, I used the railways - what was a one and half hour journey to London (pre Hatfield), turned into a 3-hour journey. Petrol had just gone up, again, and foot-and-mouth was just breaking out. There was an article in the Strait Times last week - "BLAME BRITAIN FOR FMD" - you can't blame them for thinking this way. People are blaming Britain when they see so little is being done! I, for one, do not want to return for a long time. I can't help feeling sad and embarrassed when other nations think we are so inefficient.
The UK - with the fourth largest economy and by far the best non-public services (such as television, radio, telecommunications etc) in the world - is by no means a 'Third World' country. A lot of people have compared the UK to France, a country with a heavily corrupt government, lower values and standards, and a smaller and vastly troubled economy. Britain has had a hard time, but as the pendulum swings one way, so it swings another and Britain will soon enough have its day. All I ask of my countrymen is their loyalty towards Brightly and for them to really appreciate what this great country has.
I live near the crystal clear waters of Port Stephens north of Sydney with its dolphins and diving after leaving England 10 years ago. If I won lotto, I wouldn't hesitate to buy a place near London in which to live for several months of the year. No country has it all and even the top 10 countries have serious downsides. There is no point in Americans prattling on about not expecting poor service when hardly a week goes by without kids being gunned down at school. Germany has some very serious racial problems to deal with. And the same applies to everywhere including my new homeland. I find it easy to relate to Bill Bryson's thinking - dry wit, a pint, White Hart Lane and the BBC. Where's my lotto money?
Wouldn't it be great if all the people who whinge and moan about the UK would move abroad (along with the majority of the news media people, who have such a negative mentality) and leave this great country to those who enjoy living here.
With all its woes, believe it or not, the UK is still one of the few places in the world where one can still have a peace of mind. At least one can go out in the daytime and can expect to come back at night without being shot at by rebels, soldiers, opposing ethnic groups, or being stopped by the secret police, so on and so forth. The British people should see the good aspects of their life instead of bitching about the bad. Those who complain about their life have obviously not seen how the other ninety-percent of the world is living.
The thing that strikes me most about living in Britain today is that quality of life depends very much upon which part of the country one lives in. We are very capital-centric - all the wealth of the country is concentrated within a very small radius. If London were a city-state such as Singapore, it would be the eighth richest nation on earth; and the rest of the country would be alongside Greece and Portugal. The question should be, is this sustainable? Plainly not, as we have millions of people migrating from the rest of the country to the South-East, further driving up house and job prices here and depressing them elsewhere.
I've totally given up on Britain and plan to emigrate to the United States. Everything's wrong with this country - from the latest disease crisis to the appalling state of the railways, and we're expected to pay through the nose for all this inadequate state of affairs. Britain? It's dead and buried.
I'll move back anytime. You really can't appreciate it until you've lived somewhere else. Where else can I live where I won't have to worry about how much money is in my chequebook when one of my kids is sick? Where else can my kids walk round to Grandmas house for a visit and be safe (not here in California). Where else can I afford to live near the beach in the same village as I grew up in? I miss many things about living in Britain, too many to list. There's good and bad to wherever you end up living. You have to find the good in where you are and enjoy life to the fullest, money isn't everything - family is. For all it's bad, Britain is a great place, you just have to look a little harder to find it some days.
It's only when you live abroad for long periods, as I do, that the heart stopping beauty of the British countryside comes home to you. It transcends mere words. I have travelled everywhere but London has a charm and a buzz (this is true) that is special, despite what anyone says. Glasgow, of all places, has a unique aura that is almost mystical. Our imperfectly running railways and NHS reflect that we are laid back, human and tolerant. We are not so full of ourselves that we can't have a laugh at our own expense.
Being in Hong Kong for 4 years has made me realise that Britain isn't that bad after all. I am not saying Hong Kong is bad, but Britain is free of major pollution or congestion, has a transparent government and the spread of wealth can be shared by the masses. On the whole, society is fairer. From my side of the fence I see Britain with low unemployment, a booming job market and strong economy. Bar BSE and foot-and-mouth disasters, which both occurred naturally, what is bad about Britain? Possibly the NHS shambles and the rail network? I'm sure in time and with investment these situations can be rectified. Britain deserves credit for promoting a multicultural society, equal rights, preserving of historical landmarks - the list is endless.
British catching the "American disease"... Prejudiced rubbish. As for the actual Talking Point Topic, the prevailing view from this side of the Atlantic seems to indicate Bill Bryson's actions are definitely an exception, rather than the rule. Americans are re-evaluating their travel plans to Europe, specifically avoiding the UK, and most frown when faced with the idea of going to the UK now, given the highlighted problems of BSE, foot-and-mouth, the weather, its high tax rates, troubled NHS, rapidly increasing crime, etc. All solvable problems, but their collective sum makes the UK seem unappealing.
Steffan Macmillan, Korea (ex UK)
The very negative comments on your board tend to have been placed by people who are living in the UK and considering moving elsewhere. As someone already on the "other side of the fence", I think people are too negative - and do not focus on some of the key positives of the UK. It is a remarkably free, outward looking and tolerant society. The financial reforms over the last 20 years have made the UK a beacon of competitiveness in a sea of state-controlled European gloom. True, the weather is bad and crime is too high but when you consider some of the negatives of other countries, the UK is not all that bad!
From a Latin American perspective, Britain is by far one of the best places to live. You might not have the best of everything, but on balance the quality of life is far more acceptable than in most countries, including Latin America as a whole. Unless you are one of the corrupt politicians or middle class here, expect to live in situations and encounter problems very few Britains could ever begin to imagine let alone appreciate or understand. All this talk about Britain being a Third World country is pure balderdash uttered by misinformed, dissatisfied, bitter people who would not enjoy life under any circumstances. At least in Britain there is a social safety net, rule of law, personal security and no fear of being kidnapped. Believe me, living in Britain "You've never had it so good!"
The only thing wrong with this country is the government. Blair promised a new beginning but has delivered nothing. Our great country is now more of a shambles than the last time Labour was in power.
I do not live in a dream world. I live in a nightmarish country where education has been undervalued and ignorance has been promoted, where the political elite has become so detached from the public that it employs advisers to find out what the public wants.
Britain may be a great country in which to live if you are one of those people with enough money, power and status to insure, protect and distance yourself from the worst of life in Britain. If you haven't got them, you'll need luck because you can work hard all your life and still end up with nothing in "buzzing" Britain.
I have lived in Canada for 26 years. I still refer to the UK as "home". I have been back to visit on numerous occasions. I believe the UK to be crowded, run-down and very small but it will always be "home" to me. Rule Britannia.
Criticisms, like those presented by Mr Adrian Mann, are what is really wrong with this country. Britain is a democratic society, its people are in the 8% of the world's wealthiest. We have free health care, we have public transport, we have a free pre-university education system, we have benefits for everything from disability to parenting and we are the world's fourth richest country, and are in political terms, far more influential globally. If, as people like Mr Mann claim, Britain is so bad, perhaps they could explain why so many people still want to come and live and work here? Although I am sorry for the bigotry Mr Mann's wife has encountered, such behaviour is by no means representative of the whole of British society. It is not the norm and it is not tolerated by sensible people. As an aside I'd like to know how he works out we lost World War II? We have a great nation, and in spite of its current problems, it is a nation of which we should, on the whole, be proud!
Many people moan about how high taxes are. Do any of them realise that the UK has one of the lowest tax burdens in the world and certainly the lowest in Europe? That is why we have unsatisfactory public services - people cannot have their cake and eat it. All those comments about "Third World Britain" - I don't get it. Only today I read an article about the Information Society Index (mobiles, Internet, new economy) - Britain was ranked sixth in the world and France wasn't even in the top twenty. Britons moan too much. We may have inefficient railways but public services can always be improved - it's a damn sight harder to make a dull country interesting.
I lived for a year in Germany, but came back in 1995. After the last 6 years, I'm seriously considering leaving again. I can't ever remember a time when people here have been so greedy, self-obsessed, insular, xenophobic, miserable and apathetic. I've had serious problems with every part of ordinary life - telephones, tax, health service, council, police. I'm afraid I don't like the grey, wet and miserable weather or football or warm beer. And I certainly don't appreciate being ripped off for everything, or having my wife - who is German - insulted, ignored and abused by people who still think we're fighting the Second World War (which, incidentally, we lost). I'm English born and bred, and I'm ashamed to say I feel let down and betrayed by my fellow countrymen.
Phil W, UK
Part of the problem with Britain is that there are too many people like Brian W who think that nothing should ever change and the old way's the best way. Just because something's been done for hundreds of years doesn't make it right! We need to accept firstly that we can't force the world to do things our way all the time any more, and secondly that sometimes other people do things better (and in my mind that includes metrication.) If we can ever accept this then we will be well on our way to a more civilised country at ease with itself.
I've travelled the world and the only thing that really pulls me back to the UK is my family. The thing that I never miss is the UK weather, especially winters - dark, damp, dismal, dreary, dull. In comparison with others, we are definitely going backwards. How could Tony be proud of only achieving 19th in the world league of health care? It certainly seems that we have a political culture here that neuters any effective political action. Unlike other contributors, who advocate spending more taxes would remedy the problems, I think it would only follow the rest of the cash into the "black hole" and we'd be no better off. But I like the people, and British humour is light-years beyond the rest of the world.
There are a great many things I like about Britain. I have had the opportunity to move to both Australia and America but chose not to. I do, however, want to move to southern France - beautiful countryside, great weather, non-right wing government, uncongested roads and lots of history. If England wasn't so congested and expensive I'd probably stay. That and if all under 18s were electronically tagged with a 7pm curfew rigidly enforced! The worst thing about Britain is it's selfish, aggressive, yahoo youngsters.
I have lived in six countries on three continents so I consider myself well qualified to have an opinion in this matter. Britain is not worse than other places. Britain is not better than other places. Britain is normal!
Every place I've lived has had its ups and downs, that is what adds to the charm of living there. How boring life would be in a place where everything was perfect and there weren't any surprises!
The only thing I think I'd change about living here is the attitude that a lot of Britons have regarding Europe. Britain is not better or worse than Europe, it's OK to love your country, but don't let that love ruin your chances to appreciate all the beauty in the rest of Europe.
The grass is always greener on the other side. Let me just tell you that as a Brit living in Belgium. Belgian bureaucracy is far worse, Belgian public transport is not much better, Brussels has none of the get up and go dynamism of London or other UK cities. It is a dirty, grey city and needs major investment. We Brits do need to get our act together to improve our public services, but basically the country is in a pretty good state. If you don't like something, change it, don't just moan! In my view, the sooner we relish our Europen present and stop looking back at our imperial past, the better.
Rebecca Southwell, UK
Britain is a country to be proud of, but why do the UK media and journalists continually write negative articles about the UK and circulate them to the foreign press.
Is there a special college of journalism in the UK that breeds negativity?
When a countries press continually tells the world "we are negative" then the world will say yes you are a negative lot !
You really don't know how lucky you are to live in the country you do.
It is sad that so many of the comments on this page only find money, taxes and alcohol, the way to compare Britain to other countries. To me this just demonstrates what is wrong with Britain, the identity of self by material possession which fosters greed and the "me me" society. We all have the power to take responsibility for where we live and if we do not like something we could change it but then Britain has always preferred moaning down the pub over a pint of cheap beer anyway and this mentality will send in our graves. The government has forgotten how to say no or take responsibility for itself. I returned from abroad as I missed the scenery there is nowhere like the British countryside. But then that is sentimentality.
I returned to the UK after eighteen years in South Africa as my daughter was eight and education was an issue there. After a year in the UK (Chichester) we left in disgust at what Britain has become. The children are revolting, precocious rude brats who drive their teachers to drink.
Rich Vose, California, USA
I can't think of England as being worse (or better) than a great deal of other places. I lived in Suffolk for two and a half years, and I thought it was rather nice. My biggest gripe at the time was the public transportation, but compared to the US, it wasn't bad at all. I've also lived in the Netherlands, and the trains there were wonderful. However, all of life is not just travel, so there are other things to consider as well. The cost of medical care in the US is ridiculous, as compared with the UK and Holland, but the cost of living is lower and housing is generally affordable. (just try to buy a detached home in Utrecht - good luck.)
On the whole, I never could understand why Brits were so downbeat about their country. There appeared to be opportunities enough and the overall standard of living was rather nice. I'd trade it for the "Third World" any day.
I've been away from the UK for the past year. I've been to South America, New Zealand, am currently in Oz and will also be going to South Africa. I've seen the most amazing places but the only place where I would actually want to settle is New Zealand. It's a very laid-back life, a beautiful country and the people are fantastic. There are certainly things that I miss about home, notably, the humour, the BBC, pubs, Radio 1 and Boots.
Being abroad definitely makes you appreciate the UK more and you realise that no place is perfect. However, one major failing is our superior attitude towards others - why can't we see other European countries as partners instead of constantly thinking we're better than everyone else. Oh and the glory days of the Empire are over, so get over it!
The main thing we need to do is just relax a little and enjoy life - it's too short, enjoy it while you can!
I moved to Australia when I was in my late teens and have worked, gained my tertiary education, purchased my own home and flourished here for over twenty years. I also have been offered the opportunity to live and work in Britain several times and although happy to visit have never felt safe and fulfilled there. I think when Brits talk about the lack of "culture" in other countries especially Australia, what they may be missing is the sense of hierarchy and class distinction that I feel Britain still likes to claim as some kind of natural and right order. (Which it is not). I was lucky, I literally fell in love with the landscape of Australia and although, yes, British countryside can be lovely you have to be fairly well-heeled and mobile to enjoy it.
I miss the variety of fruit and blooms and the weather and the sea in Australia when I am in Britain but most of all I now find that the different way that Brits socialise, the guarded way of keeping "one self to ones self" in Britain is isolating and leaves me wanting to talk with fellow Australians to get a sensible take on events. Do I miss Britain? I miss the icons the West End and certainly Marks and Sparks, Cox's orange pippin apples and East End humour but not the class structure, aggression, poverty and masses of people all stranded on broken-down public transport and I am always glad to get away from the somewhat insular snobbery that occurs in certain parts of British society.
How about all of you move to Detroit? Try no trains or buses, no health care, no safety, and you even get taxed by the city too! From my window I can see vacant land (in a major US city) and even more abandoned buildings and cars. Put racism (city is black, suburbs are white), lack of education (most don't even have a secondary education), corruption by the government and police (a council man convicted of beating his wife gets to keep his job, and a cop who has killed three and shot six more is still on the job). Britain has got to be at least a second world country compared to what I live in.
I was in Philadelphia US last weekend for four days.
Coming from London UK I was stunned.
After a 20 minute drive from the airport, I go to my hotel near the centre of town at 2pm.
I walked 15 minutes to a wonderful jazz bar, received excellent service in an uncrowded atmosphere.
I got buses readily and always had a seat.
The streets were cleaner than the City of London, the people a lot more relaxed, I saw no boozing, I could have drank until 2am if Id wanted to, but few people do.
London is a mess, it is overcrowded, dirty, aggressive, congested and unwelcoming.
Its also damned expensive!
I rest my case.
There are many reasons why people would want to live in Britain - but as a prosperous, outward-looking engineer with a career ahead of me, I just can't think of any that apply to me - especially now that I have found a source of Branston Pickle!
I was born and grew up in South Africa - a country of immense complexity, tragedy and ultimately hope and renewal. England has many virtues but sadly these have not been passed to a younger generation of Britons. The biggest problem England faces is the narrow self-interest of the middle classes and the absolute obsession with money, fame and trivia which permeates the airwaves and newspaper columns. For every negative though there must be an upside and it is this. The English remain, on balance, a thoroughly decent, fair minded and tolerant people who will claim back their country from the twin gods of greed and selfishness.
Britain certainly has plenty of problems, but lots of other countries do too. One of the good things about Britain is that we have the freedom to grumble about all these problems without fear of being imprisoned or beaten - or worse - for voicing our opinions.
I was born in India and came to England in my late teens. I have also travelled all across Europe and the USA. There is no such place that is perfect in every way on this earth. But we all dream of Utopia, it is this search of perfection I think, which makes us constantly look elsewhere for something we don't have. I love living in England.
The list of reasons is too long but here are a few. The English are on the whole fair minded, non-interfering and honest people. The governments are constantly in touch with the public mood and are taken to account if they falter. There is complete freedom of speech, thought and action. The media on the whole is honest, probing, fair and truthful, without any political influence. The countryside is beautiful, there is nothing anywhere to match the British landscape, the changing seasons and my garden!
And last but not least, there is no one in the world, who can boast the same qualities as an English gentleman has. Polite, understated, modest and with a dry sense of humour. While accepting there is no Utopia, I will and have settled for England, and I love it.
Max Stringer, Singapore
Yes, Britain is a great place but it fails to reach its potential. Self-interest, short termism and a culture of doing everything on the cheap rather than going for quality leave us all with very poor value for the taxes we pay.
But is it really so much better in other countries? I doubt it.
Britain, despite its recent problems, is still a great place to live. Living in London is great fun, and the atmosphere here and in the rest of the country is very light and humorous. The problems it has will be worked out in the short term, and having seen much of the world, I can't see where is better, at least for me. The technology and infrastructure is pretty good, and the tax burden isn't too bad, and although the railways and NHS need some work, they haven't let me down too much. In fact many countries like the U.S. don't really have passenger railways or an NHS, so unless you can afford to keep your car in a city and pay for private healthcare, its a rough deal.
However, I think we should accept that we have a place in the EU and embrace it more, rather than long for our more independent past. There are many social and technological lessons we can learn from countries like Germany and the Netherlands, especially regarding personal freedoms and maturity.
As Bill Bryson said, "I wouldn't argue that Britain is the best place in the world, but it's the place that best suits me."
What has the UK to offer? Mud, litter, vandalism, debt, high taxation, job insecurity, erosion of civil liberties, blame culture, nanny state, politicians who believe they are improving quality of life and government policies that are constantly trying to cure rather than prevent. Yes, people are still trying to enter the UK legally and illegally. Compared to some countries life is far better here but this has led to complacency. We are losing ground to other nations and our arrogance is speeding up our decline.
Train and underground services are expensive and horrible. NHS on its knees. Very expensive house and costly mortgage. British (but French speaking) wife. What am I doing here? Work is the answer. For the same work (analyst programmer), I am paid 50% to 100% more here than in France. Should the work situation change badly here, I'll probably move back there.
While I can't understand French people enthusiastic reaction when I tell them I live in London, I do like a number of things over here. The cultural life, mainly. The West End, the BBC (TV and radio) are things that make it worthwhile to live here.
I feel proud to be British. We may not be the best at everything We don't have the best facilities, infrastructure, government, police, education system, health service or whatever else some of you would like to have a pop at in the world. We do however have a great history, influence throughout the world, a generally good standard of living, freedom to do as we please, and a government that shifts the blame when it cocks up, regularly. Well you can't have everything. We might not be the best at sport but you'll be hard pushed to find another country in the world who take part in and do well at so many diverse activities. I love to travel and intend to visit as many countries as I can over the coming years and experience the good and bad things that they have to offer but I know I'll always return to and will look forward to my home and the people who live here.
Yes, Britain does have problems that need addressing the NHS, transport etc. However I feel that the biggest problem in its image is the way the media seems to out of its way to portray the country negatively. I feel this is especially true in England. While the images of Scotland and Wales seem to be portrayed positively with England the opposite is true.
I am desperately trying to get out of the UK to work and live in another country within the EU. The main reasons for this are simple, and merely proof of how much damage can be done when traditional family and moral values have descended into the abyss are clear for all to see. The UK is fast becoming a culture of greed, selfishness, hatred and dishonesty. Pretty much the same way as those in the US. Why should I or anyone else have to go down the same road as those in the US?
It has now got to the stage where everyone is suing everyone for as much money as possible over tedious little things.
Materialism and obtaining the ultimate in materialism is what all seem out to get, no matter how they do it and no matter who gets hurt and how badly they do get hurt.
Respect in the UK?, there is none.
I travel extensively abroad on business. I have spent seven years living in three different foreign countries. I am always happy to return for my heart is in this country and always be despite incompetent politicians and whingers.
Joe Ryan - sorry mate but all your complaints about France apply here too. Britain's best asset is its religious tolerance, there's nothing quite like it elsewhere. Our government is largely incompetent, and not much less corrupt than elsewhere but at least they don't use their armed forces to dispose of inconvenient civilians at the drop of a hat.
It's not only tangible things that endear a country to its
people, but also such intangible elements such as the character
of its people, its outlook, traditions and customs. So while other
countries may have better railways, or less-infected livestock, or
better healthcare, I would say that Britain's greatest assets are
its people, history and culture, and it is this that endears many
people, British or not, to the UK.
I cannot believe some of the comments I have heard on this page. Britain remains one of the best places to live in the world. Our democracy is one of the most flexible and transparent political systems. What has foot-and-mouth got to do with how good it is to live in Britain - our agriculture is efficient, productive and our farmers work hard to provide quality goods. Nobody can ever know for sure what caused it - probably from imported meat. With no disrespect for other societies, ours, despite the great changes that have taken place over the decades, is still open, flexible and friendly. Yes, the NHS and the railways may have their problems, but Britain has a lot to offer and I, and the rest of us, should be proud of it.
There are undoubtedly great things about Blighty, like humour, pubs, seasons, history etc. I have lived in Western Australia for the past 10 years, it's a great lifestyle but it's lacks what England has to offer. But fortunately we can afford to live well here in Australia, the cost of living in the UK is far too high.
I am appalled by the comment from Janis in France that the UK is a Third World country. To suggest that the problems we have here equate to the problems experienced by ordinary people in countries experiencing extreme poverty would be laughable if it was not for the danger that some people may actually believe that life in the UK is as bad as it gets anywhere in the world. Perhaps Janis and those like her could stop whinging and experience somewhere where people really do have problem. How about a month in Gaza?
Britain has a lot to be proud of, but the problem is that the British can't make up their minds whether to be American or European. The British middle classes want something for nothing. They want to pay low taxes like the Americans, but receive high quality public services like the French or Germans.
Make up your minds! You can't pay American-style low tax without embracing American-style self-reliance and get-up-and-go. On the other hand, you can't have hospitals and trains as superb as the French without accepting higher tax.
When the selfish middle classes get off the fence, perhaps this will enable British politicians to make bold and coherent decisions without having to worry about what the popular press will say.
For decades, Britain has been the victim of its declining imperial past. No other country saw its actual or perceived greatness at the beginning of the 20th century decline so drastically to its considerably more modest position today. This has had a deep impact on the modern British psyche, both negative and positive. On the downside, this sense of slow decline has given us a jaded view of ourselves - as if we had been sapped of our collective self-esteem - and this is reflected in our decaying inner cities, railways and hospitals. On the other hand, it had bred a wicked sense of self-depreciation, tolerance and good humour. If you have the luxury of choice, you may choose to live in a country where the trains run on time, the taxes are low, the jeans are cheap, but you may have to compromise on the rather sterile, conservative, conformist society that tends to produce such efficiency.
Choose Britain and you'll be resigning yourself to hours on railway platforms, though at least you'll be among some of the wittiest, most open-minded and creative people on the planet! It all depends on what's important to you in life.
With only 10 years to go to retirement I am too old to emigrate, but I am starting to feel like a stranger in my own country. Our constitution has changed with devolution and the abolition of hereditary peerages, closer union with Europe hangs over our heads like the sword of Damocles, traditional weights and measures are being forced out of use, laws are being railroaded through Parliament by guillotine or the Parliament Acts.
The police have ceased to be our protectors but have become a blue light to look for in the rear view mirror, before speaking each utterance has to be checked for political correctness, parts of our cities have become ghettos, over-regulation has made business life almost impossible, taxes are up and disposable income is down, public services are collapsing, roads are pot-holed, we stagger from one crisis to another whilst being told that there is no crisis.
Need I go on?.
We used to be referred over 60 years ago as a "patchwork nation"; neglecting things and trying to improvise to repair. The last 30 years has got worse, mainly because people nowadays are indifferent to their country and fellow countrymen and only care about themselves, their families and the value of their precious overpriced houses.
I live abroad and have a great time! The public transport is affordable - £28 for a all zone 1 month pass (beat that London), fuel is much cheaper (not that I need a car), the health service in Sweden is superb, and the air is noticeably cleaner.
But I do miss sitting in a pub drinking a decent pint of beer (and at a reasonable rate - Swedish alcohol taxes are horrific). I also miss the fun home has with the weather - a month ago Scotland got 10cm of snow and ground to a halt (we got 20cm and nobody noticed) and I definitely miss all the British television offerings. At least the UK shows current versions of the top shows, not 5 year-old reruns. But don't complain everyone back home, at least your income taxes are low.
The UK is my home and it is where I intend to stay for the rest of my life. Ex-pats often sneer and say that the quality of life is better abroad, but they out of touch with the situation on the ground. The UK could and would be a better place if the politicians actually did something which improved our lives rather than building huge domes and cosying up to foreign businessmen who want the passport but prefer to live elsewhere. The incompetence and arrogance of those who claim to represent us is a barrier to what could be achieved.
I hate to say this but I really don't see anything in this country to keep me here any more. As has already been pointed out, we have massive problems with our rail network, NHS, crime, our roads are poor and congested, there is too much pollution, we are taxed on our taxes. Now we have foot and mouth not to mention VCJD and pretty awful weather. I could go on but I think the message is clear. Britain no longer has the Great in it.
My wife and I have looked at the possibility of emigrating and there are quite a few countries out there that offer a far better deal than the UK.
While I will always regard Glasgow as home, I will probably never live there again. Life in the Netherlands is much nicer - better working practises, good standard of living, good state benefits for all and of course where I live now the pub stays open until 2am!
I left the UK when I was 16 to move here and it is probably the best gift my parents ever gave to me.
I agree with earlier comments that we are too concerned with money over quality of life in England. I have been living and working in Australia and have found it a much better work environment, people are more laid back about their work. They manage to get the work done without getting stressed or being rude to other people. If you walk around in the streets in Sydney you feel safe and welcome, strangers will happily strike up conversations with each other. On the other hand, people on the streets of London are positively rude. They either walk around in their own little world ignoring everyone, or go out of their way to express their anger at others.
We English need to calm down and take time out to enjoy life and be more friendly to each other.
We need to come together and be proud of what we have achieved as a nation, and generally just cheer up!
While I worked in Britain I came the conclusion that it must have been the most unhappy place on earth - nobody ever seemed to be smiling. Crime is a major concern, the standard of living is low, and the contrast between rich and poor is vast. National pride was confused with thuggery, and nobody has an inkling of faith in anything done by the government. On the plus, the sense of humour is the best in the world, and most people seem to be decent people deep down.
Those who smugly announce they are leaving the UK for new shores should cut back on the showing off and remember what they are leaving behind. After living abroad for more than 10 years (in 3 different countries), I am delighted to be back. Bill Bryson is right to even admire the things that do not always work. After being knocked down by a car overseas, even with local health insurance (which cost me dearly) I was still liable for the first two hundred pounds. To this day I am still involved in legal battle concerning compensation for these costs. And every day I paid tax to the US government whilst working there pained me to think of all the injustices I was indirectly supporting (death penalty, etc).
When the plane landed in Heathrow on my permanent return I let out a shout of joy and have never looked back.
Definitely blighted! We emigrated to Australia 2 years ago and although I wouldn't rule out coming back, it's not on the cards at the moment. As a midwife I am astounded at the level of service available to public patients over here. The hospital I am working in would be comparable to a private hospital in the UK in terms of level of staffing and facilities available. Considering the total population is around 17 million (that of London) I cannot understand how the NHS can be in the state that it is. My husband used to spend 3-4 hours a day in traffic jams on the M25, he can now cycle to work!
The work ethic is totally different over here with a definite emphasis on making the most of life (but not at the expense of others). Although Australia is often criticised for having no "culture" what the Brits really mean is social class, I find it totally refreshing that you can have a decent conversation over here without being judged by-what car do you drive? or what job do you do?
Standard of living is important but standard of life is everything!
I live in the UK mainly, but travel a lot and spend at least half of each year overseas for my work. What gets me is that British people expend more energy on complaining how "awful" it is to live here than doing anything about it! Foreigners also say the same things about Britain, but these opinions are driven, in the main, by whingeing Brits in print, on TV and on the radio! Before the country can improve we need to get some pride back in our nation. If you're unhappy with things, stop whingeing and do something about it!
I find it so annoying when I see a headline saying "Who wants to live in Britain". Yes I agree that the foot-and-mouth breakout is getting out of hand, but its not the end of the world. People are still lining up in their thousands to come and live in England. You have to put things into perspective, many people around the world live in much harder conditions than we can even begin to imagine. Personally I would rather live in a fantastic country with an outbreak of foot-and-mouth than live in a country were I had to walk across a minefield to collect essential life-giving water. Think about it!
I agree with Bill Bryson. Britain does have a buzz, which I believe isn't matched by our neighbours. I lived in Germany for half a year and although I can speak the language I found life there rather dull. Britain has a wealth of history, culture and diversity. We are a conservative nation with a radical and alternative flair apparent in fashion, music and cinema. Our cities have plenty to offer including an exciting nightlife to suit all tastes. We have our problems, but I shall no doubt be staying in Blighty.
I know that many people would love to live in France (good food, wine, beautiful countryside) but the UK has plenty going for it. Respect for others (over here doors are slammed in your face; dogs are allowed to foul the footpaths; you risk your life each time you cross at a zebra crossing) and you don't have the overwhelming weight of a class of bureaucrats who stop work at the drop of a hat or at the suggestion that they might work a 35-hour week.
The UK is a Third World country. I am a sales exec living in France. We have 38 days holiday plus all the public holidays, greater job security, a superb health service and government-run electricity, telecoms and transport. That's the way it should be. I travel to the UK every month for work and I have a clause in my contract that should I fall ill or have an accident the company will immediately intervene so that I can be taken to hospital in France. No way would I darken the doorstep of a British hospital.
By the way, I forgot to mention state pensions here, 60% of the best average monthly salary of the best or last years of your career, whichever is greater. I could go on and on but I won't, it makes my blood boil!
I have just finished my work in Singapore (where I paid 15% income tax) and will return to live and work in Romania. The train service there works and runs on time, and the hospitals are even cleaner than the UK - and I'm not taxed out of existence.
To Labour, I say "Thanks for providing me with the incentive to view life in other countries. I know now that the grass really is greener outside Britain."
The British people deserve and have my sympathy.y.
There are already quite a few comments above from people who think Britain needs a lot of help, but have moved away. Yes the UK does have problems, but what country doesn't? If the people of the UK population just packed things in a left then the problems would never get solved.
People seem to want a solutions which takes a day to fix everything. That isn't possible! It takes a long time of planning and dedication. The UK is a great country and it is my home. I am proud to be British and I don't intend to give up.
We should stop criticising the UK for its problems, because at the end of the day its problems are our problems.
Given that all parties in Westminister are total self-interested , is it any wonder the country is in crisis. We need a Government that put the country first and personal profit second.
I left Britain to live and work in Germany four years ago: and I can't imagine ever going back! The British media/government/industry have done a thorough job of polluting much of what made British society great (and I don't mean the Empire or the elite who abused their own people - and others - for so long). I mean the decent, polite, friendly, modest and caring majority of the working and middle classes. Many of these old-fashioned virtues are now often portrayed as boring or weak. Too many Britons (probably still a minority, however) have succumbed to the lure of American-style greed and selfishness. Unfortunately, this ugly minority seem to dictate the way we are supposed to live.
Perhaps things aren't any better elsewhere (although my experiences in other European countries seem to indicate that they are) but it hurts more when you feel alienated in your own country. I didn't like the way things are going so I left!
After many years away from the
UK I'm returning later this year
for lashings of Premier League, decent
beer and public houses, predictably bad weather and a less boring, less sterile existence.
If your fed up of Britain your fed up of life, mate!
In the midst of such a crisis as the current foot-and-mouth uproar, and the previous petrol crisis, we should never forget all the positive contributions that Britain has made to the world, and the fact that compared to many other countries, we are still living very comfortably indeed.
I left Britain in 1976 a few years before
the "winter of discontent." I normally
visit my family twice a year and have
only one comment that things have
definitely improved in the last three
I have lived on three different continents and spent 11 of my 32 years in other countries, including South Africa and parts of the Middle East. I have travelled widely elsewhere. Britain remains the best country to live in by some distance. It isn't perfect but it is beautiful, tolerant, prosperous and rewarding.
The two worst things about living here are the climate, and the fact that as a nation we spend so much time introspectively punishing ourselves for the things we get wrong, instead of patting ourselves on the back for the huge number of things we still do better than anybody else.
The fact that so many people around the world are clamouring to get here suggests that we must be doing something right.
20 Mar 01 | Arts
Bryson's love affair with Britain
20 Nov 98 | Entertainment
Bryson pining for Britain
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