The 10 things I miss most from the UK

Whilst Brazil is a great place to live with many many positives, unsurprisingly, there are a number of things I miss from the UK.  Some of these are trivial, others less so, but after 4 years, and still missing them, I guess they must have some significance.  So here they are in no specific order.
Friends and Family
I think the reason for this is clear, so I wont say more.
Cricket and Rugby
Why cricket and rugby and not football?  I guess the answer is obvious – Brazilians (not all but most) love football so there is plenty to watch on TV, normally including 3 or 4 matches from the English Premier League each week.  However, it is impossible to watch cricket here.  I have to follow it on the internet, but thanks to Test Match Special on the radio via the internet, I was able to follow our re-taking of The Ashes!  A pity the one day series has been so bad.
Unlike cricket, there is some rugby on TV and Belo Horizonte even has its own team.  I found this out when I taught the club’s president for a while.  The TV has European club rugby matches on, but they are usually recorded and, therefore, not so interesting when you know the results.  It is also possible, on cable TV, to watch the French Six Nations matches, but only the French games.  Shame it has to be the French!

An old English beer

Warm beer

Who remembers Skol from the UK?  Well, here it is perhaps the most popular beer – enough said?  Seriously, Brazilian Skol is much better than our version, but virtually all the beers here are lagers/pilsners.  Whilst I like them, sometimes I really crave a draught 6X, London Pride, Old Speckled Hen or one of our delicious real ales.  It is possible to buy cans of some of these, but they are expensive and who likes canned beer?  There is a local German bar that serves draught Guinness which goes somewhat to soothing those pangs.
Television, especially the BBC
I still struggle with understanding Portuguese properly, so long for decent TV.  Yes, we get the US sitcoms, CNN and BBC World, but this isn’t the same as television in the UK.  Even when I was young and living in California, I missed British TV.  I guess it is cultural, but the American shows just don’t hit the spot.
By the way, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the BBC, BBC World is not the same. Sure it is the same company, but if I were to give the BBC in the UK 9 out of 10, I would give BBC World 1 out of 10!  Fortunately, I’ve recently discovered a way to watch the BBC.
Strong mature cheddar cheese
This is perhaps the one thing I miss the most.  Sure there is nice cheese here.  You can get most European cheeses, but the thing Brazilians call cheddar is the tasteless version that can be found in the USA.  If anyone ever visits, please bring me some!

A traditional British cheddar cheese

Other foods
As a very fussy eater, I can honestly say that Brazilian food is excellent.  I don’t like everything, but that goes for the UK as well.  However, the things I miss the most, in no particular order, are curry, Branston Pickle, Fish and Chips, Horseraddish sauce, Bovril, McVities Plain(Dark) Chocolate Digestives,and English mustard.   Who notices a bit of a pattern?  Yes, I like spicy, flavourful food and Brazilians tend to prefer plainer tastes such as rice and beans.
In Belo Horizonte there aren’t any ‘real’ seasons.  Sure there is the rainy season and the dry season. but the temperatures never get really cold, the trees don’t lose their leaves, the length of the day doesn’t change much.  Sometimes, I long for some cool weather but not the dreary, sunless winter months of Britain.
Cheap computers and components
Although it is possible to buy almost anything electrical in Brazil, the things are usually very expensive.  For example, I just bought an Apple iPhone and the cost of it (with a similar package to one in the UK) was approximately double. I paid R$1449 (roughly £490) for the mid-range one. This isn’t just for Apple products, but is particularly applicable for electronics companies who don’t have factories in Brazil or other South American countries.
Although I mention an expensive product, the same applies to laptops, desktops, video cards etc from other suppliers such as Dell and HP.
Outdoor activities

A view of Belo Horizonte from a road leading to one of the most affluent suburbs, Belvedere

Why outdoor activities when the weather is so much better than the UK?  The answer to this depends on the activity in question.

First, I like walking in the countryside and even around towns or cities.  Where we live in Belo Horizonte, it isn’t easy to walk for two principal reasons: security and topography.  Even though I haven’t personally witnessed any serious crime in Brazil, some of my students tell very unpleasant stories.  It is therefore considered unwise to walk in many areas both in and outside of the city.
The second reason is the topography.  Belo Horizonte (beautiful horizon is the translation) is a very hilly city.  So to walk anywhere here means, almost certainly, scaling small mountains which is good exercise but not quite the pleasant stroll that I prefer.  Of course this is specific to where we live.
The second outdoor activity I miss is gardening (please don’t laugh for those who saw my garden in Kingston).  As most people choose to live in flats, there is little chance to garden.  We have a small herb garden on our balcony, but this doesn’t count as the balcony is enclosed in glass.  We are thinking about buying a house in the future mainly for this reason.
Lastly, and yes I’ve started to struggle to think of 10 things, is:
Public transport
People in the UK, and I was one, complain about the public transport being late, dirty and many other things.  In Brazilian cities, the only significant public transport is buses.  These get really busy and hot apparently because they don’t have air-conditioning.  I say apparently because I’ve never actually tried them yet.  Imagine being on a bus full of people, some who may have been labouring all day, in direct sun with temperatures in the shade in the mid-thirties centigrade.  Suddenly, the British trains, tubes and buses don’t seem so bad.  The UK has an established public transport system, perhaps with room for improvement, but, in Brazil, there is little option other than using a car for those who can afford one.
Concluding, there isn’t so much missing in Brazil. Most things can be found with some effort, but there are those few things that I shall always miss.  Thankfully, the UK isn’t so far away.
In the future …

  • The 10 things I don’t miss about England
  • The best things in Brazil
  • The things I’d change in Brazil if I was President