Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Habits - Houston Vs. Aberdeen

"We cannot change life! We can only change the way we live life. Any moment is the best moment, and any place is the best place." -- Tishan

I've been in Scotland for almost two years. I've really enjoyed the experience, and I've learned so many things that I will take back to Texas. It's funny how easily we get stuck in habits in life. Habits that we never think could or possibly should change. It's interesting to me now how little I thought of life outside of the USA (probably because I never imagined I'd have the opportunity to experience it). When I write "life" here, I suppose I am referring to daily common activities and how they differ between places. Don't get me wrong. I lived outside of Texas for a few years in graduate school. I lived in Minnesota and let me tell you... that was a big change from Texas. IT...WAS...COLD, but I loved it. :)  Here are some difference between my life in Houston and my life in Aberdeen that I've been thinking about lately :

First, I almost always carry shopping bags with me now. I did it occasionally in Texas, but now it's a habit. I even stuff a bag into my purse sometimes just in case I might stop somewhere. I don't just take reusable bags for groceries. I take them for all shopping. I didn't try very hard to do that in Texas.
Oh here's a big one! In Houston, when I needed groceries I would drive to ONE SHOP. I would then buy enough groceries to last 2-3 WEEKS at the ONE SHOP. Then, I'd have about 10 bags full to carry inside the house. I'd stuff items anywhere I could fit things throughout my kitchen consisting of a pantry and 12 cabinets. What was I doing? Preparing for the next zombie apocalypse? Here's how my grocery shopping was today (and is now always how it is): 

I drove to LIDL, remembering to put a pound in my pocket before leaving. At the store, I deposited my pound into a shopping cart (er.. trolley) so that I could "rent" one for my shopping (you get it back but man is it a pain the butt when you can't find a coin). A purchased ONE bag full of groceries there. Then, I drove to the butcher to get my meats. ONE bag there. Lastly, I drove to Sainsbury's to hopefully find the items on my list that were not at LIDL. I go to LIDL first because it's WAY less expensive than many other grocery stores. I used 1.5 bags there. I got exactly what I needed for meals to last until Friday. That's 5 DAYS folks. Then, I came home with my 3.5 bags and put things into the refrigerator and my TWO cabinets.

Looking back, I've realized how much unnecessary excess I was buying, and that I didn't try very hard to venture outside of mainstream supermarkets. I'm sure part of it was that I was working full time, commuting, and didn't want to fight traffic on the roads and down the aisles after work. Buying loads at a time was also a way to avoid having to go through that effort very often. Also, while farmer's markets were available, I had to drive for 30-45 minutes one way to get those local products. By the time I factored in time, the cost of gas, and the typically higher cost of local meats and produce, it just didn't seem worth the effort. I'll definitely do my research and make more of an effort when we are sent back to Texas.
In Houston, I could wash and dry HUGE loads of laundry in a few hours. Clothes came out of my gas, front-loading drier completely dry and wrinkle free. They'd go on the hangers or were folded. Done!

In Aberdeen, one load of clothes takes me all day from start to finish. The machines are smaller so I wash less at a time. Then, I take the clothes downstairs and outside to hang on the line, or I hang them all around the house if it's raining. If they are hanging inside the house, they usually aren't dry until the next day. When they are dry, I carry some downstairs to iron. I hate ironing. The rest go in the dryer for 20-30 minutes or are folded as they are. Honestly, after doing this for 2 years now, I prefer hanging the clothes to dry. They smell nice, and I'm not using any energy to dry them. I do pop a few things into the dryer for 30 minutes to soften them up. If I didn't do that, our towels would feel like sandpaper! Nobody wants that.
Going out to eat:
In Houston, if we wanted to go to a restaurant, we'd just pick one and show up. We'd ask how long we'd have to wait. Sometimes we'd get seated immediately. Other times, we'd have to wait. Waiting for 30-40 minutes to get seated was common. We rarely thought to make reservations. Many places won't even allow it. Oh, and servers will ask you if you need anything else and then bring the bill if you say no. Sometimes they bring the bill as soon as they bring your food! Subtlety was not always their strength. However, the good thing about it is that when you are ready to go, you have no problem getting the bill and getting out. The con to this is that you feel rushed or have to tell them to take the bill back because you want dessert.
In Aberdeen, we almost never go to a restaurant without calling to book a table, even for lunch during the week. The good thing about it is that we don't have to sit on a bench by the door for 45 minutes. We have our table, and they book enough time for you to enjoy yourself without feeling rushed. The bad inconvenient thing about it is that it's not always easy to just go somewhere on a whim and get a table. If people have booked all the tables, they will tell you they are booked for the next 2 hours and sometimes for the night to avoid rushing people. Moreover, while you are dining they won't bring you the bill until you ask. I prefer that unless I get one of those servers who you know is playing angry birds in the back. "Where the hell is our server? We've been finished for 30 minutes..."

Paying at a restaurant - Splitting the bill
So you've gone out to eat with a group of friends and you want to split the bill. In Houston, they often review or remember what you all had and will split the bill for you. I used to do it. You go to the computer, highlight the specific items on the bill, and click a button that says "Split" to separate them. Easy, right? Sometimes, they'll ask you to circle and initial the items each person wants to pay for so that they can split the bill. No problem usually. Want to pay with a credit card? Not an issue for most places, but they will take your credit card out of sight to a machine at a desk. I'm not comfortable giving my credit card to a stranger to take out of sight.
In Aberdeen, "There's no button for that." Yep. Splitting the bill here takes an act of Congress at most places. They either tell you that they can't do it, or you have to pull out your calculator to add up exactly what you owe. Then, you tell them how much in GBP you want to put on your card, and don't forget to add in the tip because most of their card machines won't add the tip separately. I can't tell you how many times we forgot that when we first moved here and ended up digging frantically through pockets to find change for a tip after! LOL. Unlike Texas, there is not an additional line to write in a tip on the credit card receipt that you sign. On a positive note, they bring the card machine to you, which is so much better than taking your card away. On another note, loads of places here don't accept credit cards.

So, we usually have to withdraw cash before dinner, which is a new habit we developed here. I know what some of you are thinking. Why is bringing cash an issue? We only receive a limited amount of Steve's salary in GBP while the rest is paid in US dollars to our US accounts. We are limited with our cash withdrawals. And.. who carries cash anymore?  I almost always have a little cash on me now. That's something I rarely carried in Houston, but it's always been a habit of Steve's. It's probably a good habit to have.

It's all good:
Really! It is what you make it, and often times I try to make new things fun. If I can't make it fun, I'll try to make it funny.


  1. Its interesting how Aberdeen compares to London:
    Shopping: same as Aberdeen except there is no driving - its walking or bussing :-)
    Laundry: same as Aberdeen
    Going out to eat: thank heavens most places here aren't as strict about needing reservations and allowing walk-ins. But there are also many more choices than Aberdeen.
    Paying the bill: thank heavens everywhere here accepts cards and "swipe" cards are not an issue at all. And thank heavens most restaurants include a 12.5% service in the bill\ (although that tip doesn't go directly to the server).

  2. Yeah, I guess there are some perks that come with a bigger city!


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