Where franchises are concerned, you will perhaps be thanking (or cursing) God that there’s still T.G.I.Friday’s :). No Olive Garden, alas, but fast-food chains like McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, and KFC are so prevalent here that a British friend actually asked me once if we had the last two of those in the States (NO JOKING. It took some thought for her to realize that the “K” in “KFC” stood for Kentucky). Ah, and Chipotle has arrived! And for your coffee fix, Starbucks is just as widespread as in the U.S. of A. I continue to be dismayed that the rustic, Alaskin/Canadian-feeling Caribou Coffee has not arrived here, but am gobsmacked to find that the nearest one to London is in Dubai—it’s all over the Middle East! Seriously. Kuwait has 22 of them. C’mon, London! (To find where London does serve great coffee from its own local businesses, see my previous post, “An American Schmo + A Cup o’ Joe.”)
Even those restaurants not found in the U.S. have found their way into American-food-lovin’ hearts via venues that cater to American-style cuisine: Texas Embassy Cantina (tex-mex), Crazy Homies (Mexican) and its sister restaurants Lucky 7 (diner grub) and Tom’s Deli, Chilango (the Chipotle burrito equivalent started by a University of Illinois grad before Chipotle itself arrived), Bodean’s (BBQ), Belushi’s (burger joint), Chicago Rib Shack, and Henry J. Beans (bar and grill).
Even London’s prestigious West End gets infiltrated by American musicals like Jersey Boys, Million Dollar Quartet, Chicago, and Dirty Dancing, and you’ll definitely see the States representin’ on the telly (including those shows that, to be fair, derived from UK TV). I don’t want to take up the space listing all the American sitcoms and dramas aired nightly on TV here (especially on Comedy Central); let’s just say you’ll probably find whatever show you’re in love with at home here as well (unless it’s “Survivor.” Sorry, outta’ luck). The same applies to American films; the main adjustment as an expat is having to wait from a few weeks to a few months for movies and TV series alike to open in UK cinemas. We even had to wait longer for The King’s Speech! Outrage!
These are but a few examples of the comforts of home to be found in the United Kingdom if you’re moving to London from the United States. As I’ve said time and again, the differences from what you know in your homeland are something to enjoy and appreciate during your time living abroad, but we’re only human; as much as the rest of the world may diss it, we do come from a nation with its own culture, and that’s something to celebrate as well. So when you understandably need exposure to uniquely familiar American traditions like Thanksgiving or the Super Bowl, don’t feel bad or try to abstain—join forces with the multitude of others who have made the move and desire the same!