Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Gotta get back in time...

In many ways, our little stint here in the UK is like going back in time, not because the English are behind America (in most ways there not, in some ways they're ahead!), but because of the way we are going about it.

Reasons why it (sometimes) feels I've been warped back to 1955:

1. I walk alot, to most everywhere. Today's America is too spread out, lacks public transportation, has cheap gas, takes no care for pedestrians, etc., so that walking is not convenient nor necessary.

2. We buy our food and other stuff from small shops within walking distance of our house. Safeway and the like are mostly like American supermarkets, but tend to be smaller. There is no one place near our house that has everything we need (aka Wal-Mart). Of course, we're going to ASDA on Friday, the Wal-Mart owned biz here.

3. Our little black and white TV. As I've explained in earlier posts, we might be the only people over here who use a B&W TV, but its much cheaper on the TV tax.

4. Our house is over 100 years old... our entire block is... our entire neighborhood is. In fact, 100 years old is just getting broken in over here. I know people who've lived in 300 year old houses (and they weren't historic places).

5. The prices look like American prices from years ago. Let me explain. A candy bar might cost 30 pence or so. There was a time, in my younger years, when you could get a candy bar for 30 cents in America. So I say the price LOOKS like it did years ago. Bear in mind, 30 pence is about 55 cents or so (about what it costs in America now), and no candy bar would have cost 30 cents in 1955. I think you could buy a car for that in 1955. Of course, that was half a years income. Anyway... the numbers in the prices look like they're from 1988 America.

6. We have one telephone, one TV, and very little square footage. Admittedly, there is another phone jack upstairs, but we're too cheap to buy a phone that we'd have to leave over here in 6 months (phones are different in the UK). And the house is big enough for us (mostly because we left 99.86% of our stuff in America).

7. Its cold alot. It was probably cold alot in 1955.

8. Mary cooks from scratch. Why? Because its cheaper. There was a time when most Americans (and Brits) thought like that, but now most people would rather have the time and convenience than the money. Since she has time and we don't want to spend the money, Mary is learning to prepare meals that most of her contemporaries would never attempt.

9. Our health insurance, for all three of us, is only $50 a month. Its a well-known fact that the UK has free universal health care, but not for folks like us who will only be here 6 months. However, since there is not much competition in the medical field, prices are pretty reasonable (compared to the ridiculous costs in the U.S.). So we got insurance for about a 5th of what we pay in the U.S., and that is even with the skewed exchange rate. Don't get me wrong... I'm not convinced that America needs to use the UK model of healthcare. Here are a couple of reasons I can think of: (1) Because UK doctors make about 1/3 what American doctors do, its not as difficult to be a doctor over here and many of the brightest people go into more lucrative fields. (2) The waiting lists. When I say government run healthcare, I mean government run. Example: Say you need non-emergent hip surgery. Because there are only a few hospitals which perform that procedure in the UK, you get put on a waiting list for 6 months. Of course, you can probably manage with a little pain and plenty of medication, and then get your surgery. Why the wait? Imagine you are a surgeon, and have 4 surgeries scheduled in one day. However, the third surgery takes longer than expected and you don't finish until 4:00 pm. You go home at 5 pm, and the next surgery will take 1 1/2 hours. What do you do? I suspect that, because you will make the same amount of money whether you stay late an perform the surgery or you make the next patient wait until the next day, you opt for getting home on time. In America, you would probably perform the surgery taking solace in the fact that you just made $5k more. Thus, in the UK, everyone gets bumped back for this reason and that, and a long waiting list is not uncommon for non-emergencies. On the other hand... research has shown that the Brits live just as long as the Americans. Oh wait, I was writing about 1955, not the infernal medical system...

To conclude, sometimes I feel like Michael J. Fox in the suped-up Delorean. I hear you can get a flux-capacitor on Ebay pretty cheap these days.


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