Natasha realized the she forgot to mention one other thing she misses from England in her little essay.
It is not an obvious point either: Charity shops.
Where we lived in Southeast London, seemingly every other town had at least one of these, selling everything from second-hand clothes to souvenirs to books and CDs. What’s one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, indeed. We bought various and sundry from such shops; for instance, a good portion of my model house collection or the good-as-new gym pants that Becky has since been beating the crap out of for a couple of years now. Just browsing such a shop very nearly approximates going to a flee market, which is something we always find interesting and worthwhile.
We donated as well. A pair of nice shoes that did not exactly fit and was nonreturnable could probably be sold on eBay, but there is an obvious level of satisfaction of seeing them priced at £20 in the charity shop window one day, gone the next day, and knowing that the proceeds benefited a specific cause. A few other accessories and articles of clothing hopefully also found new owners and contributed to some good things along the way.
There is no doubt that people do sell their old stuff on eBay in the UK. Occurrences of “garage sales”, though, were almost undetectable in our experience in the three years there. People instead donate what they no longer need or use, and not in the form of depositing old clothes into a dumpster-like collection box. Rather, they go to a local charity shop, more likely than not staffed with volunteers who reside within the same community, which helps make the shop an ever more trustworthy channel.
If this concept exists in the States, it is barely noticeable. We know of one charity shop within driving distance from our residence in New Jersey, but Natasha has never been much impressed with their inventory. A friend in North Carolina says that she also knows of a similar shop where she lives. Instead, we see garage sales all over the place; you get the feeling of [nearly] giving your stuff away from those, I suppose, even feeling “charitable” in the process.
Anyhow, this is not a big expat insight in any shape of form, just one of those subtle little differences of living in a different country that we suddenly recall with fondness…