Steve, Janelle and their adorable brood of 5 kids moved from Wheaton, IL to the English countryside!! Janelle is an awesome cook, home educator, and Steve, an auditor at a bank. We chatted recently and I wanted to share with you some of their amazing experiences and not so amazing ones. Grab your coffee and join us!
Shalice: So Janelle, you did what SO many families would only dream of doing: moving your whole family to Europe and making it look educational and dare I say, fun? It is truly remarkable!
That leads me to the first question . . . .
The obvious question, how is it living in England with 5 kids?
Janelle: England has been an amazing experience for all of us and I’m so glad we took the leap! It has been so different in a lot of ways, and that’s been part of the fun, because the way it has been different is unique to England and not something we would experience if we had moved simply to another State.
Shalice: What is the easiest and hardest part about living abroad?
Janelle: The easiest part has been all the travel. That has been beyond fun. And England is relatively small as a whole so everything is accessible by car, which is definitely the easiest way for our large family to travel. We also live in the country, where cows, sheep, and single, hedge-lined lanes surround our house and the beauty almost knocks you off your feet. Covid-19 has curbed our travel for the moment, which has been hard, but getting to enjoy daily walks in this amazingly beautiful area has been a true blessing. Initially, the hardest part was the first 6 weeks–bank accounts! a car! a house!–and then just setting up our house. Now the hardest part has been not being able to find a good church, for there simply aren’t many at all. Anywhere. And given that the kids are all homeschooled here, the lack of any sort of social life has been rough. Looking back, it’s interesting to think about how we built community in America vs. how the English do community. Granted, we live in small little village in Shropshire, which is almost on the border of Wales in the Midlands, so I can hardly speak to England in general. Just what we’ve experienced in our little village.
Shalice: I know you live in a little town. I mention the name of it to my English friends and they haven’t even heard of it. But I’ve seen pictures and I know for sure my kids would love it because they love large green spaces, sheep and cows. Tell us about your town in England?
Janelle: One thing we’ve found interesting about England is that it really is all countryside! The entire country is countryside. But not countryside that you would find in America. It is definitely distinctly English. For instance, we live in country, where everything is one lane, farms abound, and cows often wake us up in the morning when they are visiting the field next to our house. But we are also only 5 miles from two different towns. And I feel like that is very much the norm here. You can be in the country, but then in town 10 minutes later. Our little village has a church built in the 1200’s and a community center, where they host movies and have tea during events (that, by the way, is a stereotype for a reason. No matter the event, there is always tea). Our little church hosted a women’s singing group this past fall, I think they were Army wives maybe? And at one point, everybody in the (mostly elderly) audience was singing along to a song from days past. Honest, I felt like I was in a scene from Call of the Midwives.
Shalice: Favorite things about England?
Janelle: It is unbelievably beautiful!! And within the one island, there are so many forms of beauty, from the rugged beauty of Wales, to the romantic and soft beauty of the Lake District, to the jaw dropping seascapes of Cornwall. And there is history everywhere you turn, which I absolutely love. Between English Heritage, the non-profit that maintains crumbling castles and ruins, and the National Trust, the non-profit that maintains manors, estates, and country houses (ie, palatial wonders seen in Pride and Prejudice for instance), there is always somewhere to visit. And every National Trust house has a cafe with tea and scones. So. You never have to know what it is like to sight-see without being refreshed with tea and scones. We also have not yet encountered a mosquito. That is almost on par with the history.
Shalice: Worst things about England?
Janelle: Terrible customer service! No, really, we were warned about it and it’s absolutely true. If you are lucky enough to get a person, and that is rare indeed, they simply don’t care or can’t do anything to help you. Also, the much higher taxes were an adjustment. Steve keeps saying that every American should live abroad for a period of time simply to understand and appreciate what we have in America.
Shalice: What do you miss most about America?
Janelle: The food!!! I think the kids will mention a place to eat in America at least a week. And Target. Can you even imagine life without Target? It’s rough.
Shalice: What will be the first thing you do when you move back?
Janelle: It’s a toss up between Smashburger and Chick-fil-A because it’s always about food at our house. Personally, I’m going shopping. The shopping here, unless you live in London, leaves a lot to be desired.
Shalice: Worst surprise?
Janelle: Having to wait an entire MONTH for internet service to be installed, and then finding out that libraries and coffee shops close at 6pm. When you have online students who have all afternoon/evening classes due to being 6 hours ahead, no internet and closed shops made for a rough month.
Shalice: Best surprise?
Janelle: Roundabouts!! We LOVE them. You never have to stop, unless there’s really heavy traffic, and it makes driving so much more enjoyable.