Living like a local in England
If you are looking to immerse yourself into the vibrant English culture and start living like a local, there are a few things you will want to know.
A little background
To understand England and the countries surrounding it requires reaching back into history. England means “Angle Land,” a reference to one of a group of tribes that came to the island around the time the Roman Empire was disintegrating. While there is some controversy around what the Angles did to the population of the island, the result was that they carved out the beginnings of the country of England. The indigenous Celts were displaced to Wales, Scotland, Ireland and other locations. For more, read “A Short History of England” by Simon Jenkins.
This history also helps explain all of the names that apply to England. England is the country that runs from the English Channel in the south to Scotland in the north and Wales in the west. Great Britain refers to England, Wales and Scotland which were unified under one government around 1700. The United Kingdom refers to those three countries plus Northern Ireland.
The U.K. is a parliamentarian democracy, with a monarch as the ceremonial head of state and a prime minister who runs the government. The prime minister is chosen from the political party that controls the most seats in the House of Commons, which is part of Parliament. Parliament, a body similar to the U.S. Congress, is made up of the House of Commons and House of Lords. Visit www.gov.uk.
Great British Pound (GBP). Typically, 1 pound equals about $1.60. The pound is divided into 100 pence.
Banking services are available at military bases in England, including savings and checking accounts, loans, debit/credit cards, online bill pay, currency exchange and British sterling accounts. You’ll need a sterling account for transactions off base, especially those associated with rent, utilities and other home service bills.
Community Bank, operated by Bank of America, has branches at RAFs Alconbury, Croughton, Lakenheath, Menwith Hill, Mildenhall and Molesworth.
Keesler Federal Credit Union has branches at RAFs Alconbury, Lakenheath and Mildenhall.
U.K.'s country code is 44. To dial the U.K. from another country, you would dial 0044 + the number. If the number begins with a zero, do not dial that when calling the U.K. from another country.
The DSN prefix for Europe is 314-xxx-xxxx. When dialing another DSN phone in Europe, you usually do not need to dial this prefix.
Most American electronics will not work if plugged directly into the wall. Some portable electronics will operate here — laptops, portable music players, cellphones, etc. — but devices like vacuum cleaners and microwaves may require a transformer or converter, which can be borrowed free of charge from the Furnishings Management Office (FMO). Electronics rated for 230V/50Hz are available on base from AAFES facilities.
England also has a different style of plug. Even if your device can handle the voltage, you will have to buy a plug adapter.
Cellphones, Internet and Television
Several cellphone companies provide service in the U.K., including O2, Vodaphone, T-Mobile and Virgin. For a quick comparison of the promotions being offered by major providers, visit www.uswitch.com.
A variety of Internet services is available, depending on where you live. Ask your Housing Management Office (HMO) for more information about options in your area.
English television programming is available through a number of providers, including Sky and American Forces Network Europe (AFN). AFN decoders can be purchased at your local Exchange but must be registered through myafn.dodmedia.osd.mil before use.
Certain U.S. wireless devices are illegal to use in England because they interfere with emergency phone calls. Using one of these devices can incur a steep fine. If uncertain, look for a “CE” label on the device, which means it is safe to use in England. For more information, go to www.mildenhall.af.mil.
England uses an odd mix of imperial and metric measurements. Weights will often be given in grams, and temperatures are measured in degrees Celsius; however, speeds are marked in miles per hour.
England is five hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. This can change for brief periods of time since the U.K. starts and ends Daylight Savings Time on different dates than the U.S.
Locally, most stores close around 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, though restaurants are an exception to this. Some stores stay open later one day a week.
England has weather similar to the Pacific Northwest in the U.S. Expect many overcast days. According to London’s official website, the closest weather station shows the average temperature is almost 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
England is generally a safe place to live. In fact, overall crime has been dropping in the country for years. Rules governing off-base behavior reflect this and are similar to those in the U.S. However, check with your unit supervisor when you arrive for more details.
Americans are sometimes targets for theft. Always lock your vehicle and home, and do not leave valuables where passersby can see them.