According to Wikipedia, the Rat Race can be described as “a competitive struggle to get ahead financially or routinely” and “The term is commonly associated with an exhausting, repetitive lifestyle that leaves no time for relaxation or enjoyment”.
During the 1980s in Britain Margaret Thatcher (Conservative Prime Minister) tried to instil Americanism into British Society e.g. the pursuit of money as the Prime Motivator; her style of Government was called Thatcherism.
Thatcherism led to the birth of the YUPPIE (Young Upwardly-mobile Professional Person in Employment) in Britain; a young professional person working in the city. Yuppies certainly did live in the rat race, and they were generally mocked by the rest of British Society for being too showy (dramatic) e.g. with their Filofax being the iconic butt of British Humour.
The one good thing that has been attributed to the Yuppies was the raising of house prices in the more deprived housing areas in cities e.g. in their struggle to move ahead in the financial world and set a life style that would otherwise be beyond their means Yuppies were adept at buying cheap housing at the lower end of the housing market and modernise them; and in the process made housing in the neighbourhood more desirable.
However, the Yuppie era in Britain faded with the end of Thatcherism. These days in Britain the emphasis is on a better work/life balance (balancing your work with home life), which is encouraged by Governments and Employers alike; because of the huge physical and mental health benefits seen from having a workforce that’s well rested and less stressed out.
For example most people in the UK get up to six weeks paid leave (Vacation) per year (the legal minimum in the UK being 5.6 weeks paid leave per year). Also; an employee is legally entitle to request ‘flexible working’, although it’s up to each Company if and how they implement ‘flexible working’; but in practice most Companies in the UK do operate some form of ‘flexible working’ because of the benefits to them and because it also helps the employee to have a better ‘work/life’ balance.
Conversely, from the Social Forums, and what’s portrayed in American films and TV programmes, I get the distinct impression that most Americans are stuck in the Rat Race; slave to their employer with little time for a balanced home life. Americans being tied to their job because of the works medical health insurance schemes, too worried not to be at their boss’s beck and call for fear of being fired; and very little paid vacation (no legal minimum in the USA).
Therefore, I’m interested to hear how true the perception is (outside of the USA) that life in America is a ‘Rat Race’, or whether as an American you do live a reasonably good and stress free work/life balance. I’d also be interested to hear from other Europeans (and anyone else living outside of the USA) on whether they feel they live in the rat race or whether they live a more stress free life.
Yes, we live in a rat race in a concrete jungle, and too many accept it. Yet, I have raised above it and managed to happily balanced my life.
Good for you Castlepaloma.
Yep, whenever I see films and TV programmes of America where the skyscrapers dominate the landscape and horizon, I think of the concrete jungle and wonder how people can live and work in such an environment; it must be so stressful?
Apart from the ‘City of London’ (not to be confused with ‘London City’, or Greater London) we don’t generally have such tall buildings in the UK; most buildings in UK cities are no more than just a few story’s high, so you often see trees rather than concrete on the horizon of the urban landscape.
The ‘City of London’ is one mile square (financial centre) within London City, and surrounding London City are the suburbs e.g. Greater London.
These short videos below explain the unique status of the City of London (1 mile square):-
The (Secret) City of London, Part 1 (History):- https://youtu.be/LrObZ_HZZUc
The (Secret) City of London, Part 2 (Government):- https://youtu.be/z1ROpIKZe-c
Grew up in London Canada, Nick name Forest City. When I tell people I'm originally from London, they often say, well you lost your accent. We have the Thames river and many buildings and streets names the same as London England and I'm from a wasp family.
Made it big in Toronto, yet move to BC Canada for 15 years because needed grass under my feet rather than concrete. But had to move back to smokey city Toronto for the money.
Now I don't have to, green mountains and blue sea, all year round Colombia is perfect. Have the investors and retirement money to build a landbase substainable community. No more rat race, love to work at what I love, till the day I die
I never knew there was a London in Canada, so I had a look in Wikipedia (an interesting read); and while reading about London, Canada I discovered that the Canadian criteria for a settlement to be classified as a ‘city’ is radically different to the criteria in the UK.
I’m quite interested in how different countries define hamlet, village, town and city, because there is no universal definition; which can, at times, cause a lot of confusion and misunderstandings when corresponding with Americans e.g. I recently had an American ask me how far it was from the village I was holidaying in (in Cornwall) to the centre of the city (for the shops); I then had to explain that in the UK a village is a separate settlement (miles away from any other settlement) so in the UK there isn’t a city centre to a village e.g. in the UK villages, towns and cities are separate settlements in their own right, separated by countryside due to the Green Belt Policy.
The Green Belt Policy designed to prevent urban sprawl: https://youtu.be/p-zZZOf4P44
From reading about London, Canada, I was interested to learn that in Canada a settlement becomes a city when the population exceeds 10,000 inhabitants.
In the UK, the criteria has nothing to do with population size, and can be a little complex at times because it’s largely based on over 1,200 years of historic tradition. I don’t know how many settlements there are in the UK; although there are just 69 Cities, with thousands of towns and 10’s of thousands of villages. About 16.5% of the British population lives in villages and 1.1% live in Hamlets; with the rest of the population living in either towns or cities.
In simplistic terms, a general guide in the UK for defining a Hamlet, Village, Town or City is:
• A Hamlet is just a handful of houses with no church.
• A Village is a settlement with a church but no Market.
• A Town is a settlement with a Market (Town Market).
• A City is a settlement with a Cathedral or University.
I don’t know the smallest village in the UK, but one of the
Largest Villages in UK is Bradford, South Yorkshire: Population 17,100 people.
Smallest Town in UK is Aghory, Northern Ireland: Population 50 people.
Smallest Town in England is Fordwich, Kent: Population 381 people.
One of the largest Towns in UK is Reading, Berkshire: Population 232,662 people.
Smallest City in UK is St, Davids, Pembrokeshire, Wales: Population 1,841 people.
London is obviously the largest City with a population of over 8 million; the second largest City in UK is Birmingham, with a population of just over 1 million.
Funny UK is more than double the population of Canada. Toronto has over 5 million and 2 cities are around 2 million and three cities around a million. Canadian perfer to be more crowded than the British. About 90℅ of Canadian population lives 120 km from the American boarder. You can imagine the vast untouched land in central and northern Canada area. With the longest seashores and freshwater than any country in the world.
Yep, double the population in a quarter of the space; UK population of 65.64 million in an area of 242,495 km², compared to Canada’s population of 36.29 million in an area of 9.985 million km².
However, what may surprise a lot of people (outside of Europe) is that 93% of the UK is countryside, with only 7% being urban; and even then over 50% of the urban area is ‘greenspace’; so we don't feel overcrowded in the UK.
I got the impression that the population in northern Canada is more sparse than southern Canada because of the cold climate, but I didn’t appreciate that most Canadians lived close to the American boarder, or realised how crowded your urban areas are.
London (the Capital of England), with a population of over 8 million is by far the biggest city in the UK; it’s busy, but it’s not over crowded, nothing like Manhattan in the USA e.g. plenty of greenspace.
All the other cities in the UK are much smaller e.g. Birmingham being the 2nd largest city with a population of just over a million. The city I live in (the largest city in South West England) has a population of just 535,907 people (just over half a million); the nearest city to Bristol is Wells, with a population of just 10,536.
Yes, apart from London, the population in the UK is quite well dispersed:-
• Population in England: 53 million
• Population in Wales: 3 million
• Population in Northern Ireland: 1.8 million
• Population in Scotland: 5.3 million
I think one of the reasons we are not so centralised around urban areas as America or Canada is the sophisticated network of passenger rail in the UK, which reaches into just about every corner of rural Britain. Albeit some of the train stations are so remote that they don’t get many passengers, but the service still runs.
The Most Remote Railway Station in the UK (Corrour Railway Station in Scotland): https://youtu.be/p53ECuJFtD0
Britain’s Least Used Railway Stations (Shippa Hill, South East England; just 12 passengers per year): https://youtu.be/01AJAWHNd5o
"However, what may surprise a lot of people (outside of Europe) is that 93% of the UK is countryside, with only 7% being urban; and even then over 50% of the urban area is ‘greenspace’; so we don't feel overcrowded in the UK."
LOL It's all in the perception! My state, Idaho, is just under the size of the UK, but with only 1/30th the population. Thousands of sq km without roads, towns or homes.
That was about the ONLY thing I didn't like on our Scotland/England trip; that we were hardly ever out of sight of a farm, town or dwelling. People everywhere! And we never got into the truly metropolitan areas of southern England. Edinborough, Glasgow, NewCastle, York - the smaller cities is all.
Beautiful, beautiful country, but so crowded!
I perfer country living than city living. If most UK citizens had more of the country style living, my hat off to them.
I rather like my suburban location.
But I absolutely love being able to drive an hour or two and be nearly outside human habitation. At my age chopping a winter's worth of firewood doesn't appeal, and neither does digging a new septic pit every couple of years. But I love being able to go there for a day or a week.
But I don't think most UK citizens have country style living; that a large percentage of the country is rural does NOT indicate that a large percentage of the people are. It only takes one large city to create lots of relatively empty space.
Yep wilderness, valid point, it does take only one large city to create lots of relatively empty space e.g. London with over 8 million inhabitants (5.3% of the population).
Technically, you are right (to a point) that most UK citizens don’t have a country style living e.g. 54% of the UK population live in cities (35.4 million).
However, almost half the population (46%) do live in a rural or semi-rural setting:-
• 28.4% of the UK population live in towns (18.6 million)
• 16.5% of the UK population live in villages (10.8 million), and
• 1.1% of the UK population live in Hamlets (over 722,000 people). A Hamlet is just a few houses e.g. four houses, and often miles away from the nearest village.
Although I was born in Bristol I grew up in Uley (a small sleepy village nestled in the hills in the Cotswolds, Gloucestershire, south west England), so I do know from first-hand experience of what it’s like to live in the countryside.
Uley Village in the Cotswolds, Gloucestershire: https://youtu.be/D2Uh-k-6cIk
Besides, what many Americans don’t know, or can’t appreciate, is that in the UK our towns and cities are surrounded by the ‘Green Belt’ specifically to prevent urban sprawl. Consequently, the vast majority of people living in cities are just a half hour drive from the countryside.
Although I live 5 miles from the city centre of Bristol, a 10 minutes’ drive and we’re in the countryside; a one or two hours’ drive (as you suggest you like) and we can be at one of dozens of choice locations that’s miles away from civilization e.g. the Cotswolds Hills are only 28 miles away from where we live; and the Mendip Hills just 18 miles.
The Mendip Hills, Somerset (just 18 miles from the city of Bristol): https://youtu.be/1FAlHP6WBNg
I agree wilderness, it is all in the perception; it is refreshing to hear from an American who recognises that America has thousands of square miles of open space. I’m so used to corresponding with Americans who live in the metropolitan areas of America who’s constantly berating America’s high population density, and the Developers who are always seeking new land for development e.g. urban sprawl.
One such American, who lives in Rochester, New York State (who has never left American, except for Military Duty in Germany over 40 years ago), views the world from his perspective of living in New York State. Consequently he sees the world as being grossly overcrowded, and rapidly heading towards Armageddon; wars that will destroy the world as nations fight for limited resources and space (land) to feed and house their own expanding populations.
A quote from a recent email from this American:-
“The "cramped spaces" have two viewpoints:
#1: YES, the lower 48 ARE getting crowded. We have an IMBALANCED barbell with more folks on the "east side," than the "west side." MOST folks live with-IN 100 miles of some coast, save the NORTH COAST; both in the lower 48, and Alaska. Even the YOUNG from the interior states are migrating TO coastal states in search of better pastures.”
It’s this American, and American’s like him, who perceives Britain as being a little ‘New York State’ e.g. grossly overcrowded, with little open land left for development.
Trying to get through to him (and others like him) that, in spite the fact that Britain has a high population density, that Britain isn’t the concrete jungle he imagines has been a very long and frustrating uphill struggle.
View of Bristol from the air; just 2 miles from the City Centre (Bristol being the city where I live):- https://youtu.be/c7Bf7ZhfBZM
In our conversations he cited Manhattan as a prime example of how overcrowded America is (population density of Manhattan being 72,033 people per square mile) e.g. the traffic grid locks.
In reply I cited Islington (a London Borough) as being the most densely populated part of the UK (population density of Islington being just 41,000 people per square mile).
Daily Life in Islington (the most densely populated area in the UK):- https://youtu.be/z8SINW9mowI
Well, mainland America is getting crowded...if you value those millions of sq miles of open space. If you're happy with the average density of rural England, it is wide open (though one should recognize that there is a tremendous amount of space that is virtually uninhabitable).
It's all about perception and what is desired. But you're right - it is rather comical to hear a denizen of Manhattan cry about population density...as they contribute to it rather than move out.
I envy you the large amounts of green space...but would not trade if for the endless miles of real greenspace - space that may not see a human being for many months. Or even space that may have only 1 or 2 people living per 20 mile stretch of primary road. It might be different if I lived in a large city, far from that open land, but I don't.
Yep wilderness, it is all about perception and what is desired. I would love to see places like the Grand Canyon and Yellow Stone Park etc., but I’m not so sure I would like all the hours of driving to get there e.g. we can get to just about any remote, quiet beauty spot in England or Wales, that we desire, from where we live within just a few hours at most; and it’s what we are accustomed to.
So yes, being used to it, we are happy with the average density of rural England; although like you, we do love the quiet open spaces well away from civilisation, so when holidaying in the UK rather than just making a beeline for all the tourist hotspots my wife does loads of research in advance so that we can seek out the non-commercialised areas.
However, I wouldn’t say that there are “tremendous amounts of space that is virtually uninhabitable” in England; it’s more of a case that most of England is ‘protected’ land.
The various forms of ‘protected’ land in the UK, includes:-
Natural England (Government Department) responsibilities include:
• AONB (Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty)
• Environmentally Sensitive Areas
• Heritage Coast
• Nature Reserves (some of the Nature Reserves are also designated and maintained by other Government Bodies and Charities).
• SSSI (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) e.g. natural habitats to wildlife.
Conservation by Local Governments, other Government Departments and Charities etc. includes:-
• National Parks
• Forests in the UK: Maintained by The Forestry Commission (Government Department).
• Marine Nature Reserve (3 in total) e.g. UK Fishing Industry prohibited from fishing in these areas.
• Scheduled Monuments: Looked after by English Heritage, a Charity who owns over 400 historic buildings, monuments and sites spanning over 5,000 years of history.
• Area of Archaeological Importance.
• Areas of Archaeological Potential e.g. zones where it is known that buried archaeology is likely to exist, but not yet investigated; therefore zones where ‘Development’ is restricted.
• Conservation Areas: Urban Areas where Local Governments impose ‘strict’ planning laws to preserve the architecture of the area e.g. a 17th or 18th century Georgian Street scene, because of its historic value and beauty e.g. Royal Crescent in Bath.
• Listed Buildings, Buildings Listed by Historic England (Government Department) because of their Historical Value.
• Country Parks: Parks within urban areas that has a natural, rural atmosphere for visitors; over 250 Country Parks in England and Wales.
• Green Belt; to prevent urban sprawl.
• Nature Reserves
• Important Geological Sites; designated by Local Governments
Conservation Areas in the UK Designated by International Bodies:-
• Biosphere reserves (International Scientific Programme launched in 1971 by UNESCO).
• Ramser Sites (Conservation of Wetlands of International Importance).
• Special Areas of Conservation, and Special Protection Areas, designated by the EU.
• World Heritage Sites; sites of Heritage Interest designated by the UN.
Reclaimed Land in England
The Broads in Norfolk and Suffolk, South East England is a prime example of marshland reclaimed from the sea. Hundreds of years ago, when the marshlands in Norfolk and Suffolk was flooded by the sea due to rising sea levels the banks of the rivers were raised, and the area was drained with a network of drainage ditches and pumps to pump the water from the land back into the rivers and out to sea e.g. the land in the Broads is about 6 feet below sea level.
Initially it was windmills that operated the water pumps (the Victorians built hundreds of them along the river banks of the Broads); these days the pumps are all electric.
Berney Arms windmill, train station and pub in the Norfolk Broads (in middle of nowhere). There is no road to the pub, so the only access is walking 5 miles across marshland, by boat, or train. In 2016 1,126 passengers used the train service to Berney Arms: https://youtu.be/dzDLHHAXYCY
We have lots of "protected land" in the US, too; notably the wilderness areas where no roads or motor vehicles of any kind are allowed. Obviously not really suitable for tourism, although some do pack into it. Lots and lots of "national forests", but those often have small towns (villages? ) scattered through them even though you can't buy and build just anywhere. I think half my state is federal land.
But I meant actually "uninhabitable". The western third of the country is often too mountainous to live on - yes, you could get home via mule or horseback, but who wants to do that? People DO live in Hells Canyon (not far from me, and the deepest canyon in North America) - perhaps half a dozen in a 200 mile stretch. They get mail once per week via boat, at least when the water is navigable. Pure guess, but I'd bet a quarter of the country has no power grid within 100 miles or more. More than a few mountains permanently covered with snow. Deserts suitable only for snakes and lizards. Most of Alaska is just snow field. So technically habitable (people live in Antarctica, after all), but not practical at all.
I've been to the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, as well as several other national parks. Beautiful places, all of them. While they are sometimes far from "civilization" smaller towns are nearly always nearby; they exist on tourism. Arches National Park, Zion and Bryce all have towns within a couple of miles, although all are considerable distance (meaning 2-3 hundred miles) from a major city. Bus tours are available out of Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon - a day trip.
Sadly, many national parks are so popular that you can't take a car into them; the only option is to ride a bus service provided by the park. If you take a hike you will find hundreds of people on the same 5 mile trail. Lodging can be hard to find and requires reservations far in advance (camping near or in Yellowstone is available...with a years notice or more).
I understand, wilderness, I thought you were referring to Britain when you mentioned ‘uninhabitable’ land; so, yes, I understand you now. Likewise the western side of Britain is quite mountainous (albeit not on the same scale as the USA); in such conversations I always think of the film ‘Horton Hears a Who!’ with Britain being on such a smaller scale than the USA e.g. smaller houses, smaller cars, smaller roads, smaller landscape and smaller people etc.
It’s good to hear that you also have ‘national forests’, National Parks and the like. Yeah, we do also have places in Britain that’s popular with tourists where there are no roads (but on a much smaller scale to the USA) e.g. the ‘Public Rights of Way’; much of which crosses private land.
‘Public Rights of Way’ is a right under Common Law that dates back to the Medieval Period almost a 1,000 years ago; which was re-enforced in an Act of Parliament in 2000 by the Labour Government e.g. any public footpath that appears on any old or historic map (even if it crosses private land) is a ‘Public Right of Way’.
As briefly explained in the video below:-
Hiking England's Public Footpaths (An American video Production):- https://youtu.be/mdOpg7sZB4g
In England and Wales there’s about 140,000 miles of ‘Public Rights of Way’, and in Scotland another 9,300 miles.
For people who like the quiet life, away from traffic and civilisation, the mountains in the Lake District are a popular attraction; my old boss goes camping and hiking in the Lake District Mountains every spring and or autumn. And the Lake District, like the Mountains in the Highlands of Scotland is one of those places in Britain where you can hike all day without seeing anyone.
Wild Camping in The Lake District | My First Time: https://youtu.be/vEkE41l2N0s
Yep, you are lucky wilderness, living in a part of America with such a sparse population; with Idaho’s population density being just 19 people per square mile.
The least populated area in the UK is Eden, Cumbria, North West England; 827 square miles, of which 97.9% is greenspace, and with a population density of 64 people per square mile.
Aerial view of Eden (from the river source to the coast): https://youtu.be/nKxmjZVfVRA
I don’t know where you started your journey to Scotland from, or whether you drove or took a coach tour. But I’m guessing from your description and comments that you took a coach tour up the East Coast of England from York to Newcastle, and then onto the major populous areas of Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland; and that the coach trip was predominantly by motorway?
However, if you had driven yourself in a hired car or campervan (RV), and took the West Coast route to the Highlands of Scotland (even if it had been by motorway from London), once you’d passed the heavily populated area of the Midlands e.g. passed Birmingham, then your perception of Britain would have been entirely different e.g. the Yorkshire Moors, Yorkshire Dales, Lake District, and once in Scotland then the highlands, which are spectacular.
MAJESTIC SCOTLAND - A tour of the Scottish Highlands by Drone: https://youtu.be/veyZfjYxRu8
As regards the “truly metropolitan areas of southern England”, that’s only really London (population over 8 million), and even then 47% of London is classified as greenspace. Once you’re outside of London and into Kent, then you are in rural England famous for its hops fields.
And once in Kent (South East England) it’s not all main roads. When we’re on holiday in Kent and want to get places we frequently have to take country roads. There are not as anywhere near as many country roads in Kent as there are in Cornwall, but there are enough to make travelling around Kent interesting.
This footage was of one such country road in Kent (just 70 miles from the centre of London i.e. Westminster), filmed by our in-car camera while we were on Holiday in Kent earlier this year: https://youtu.be/tCvMlMp2o7o
We flew into Glasgow, then bus to Edinburgh. A 5 day coach tour south through NewCastle and York, back up the west side through the Lake District. Then a train tour north from Glasgow, staying at Crianlarich for 5 days, with several short bus tours to various small towns - a 7 day tour with something different every day.
Very, very much enjoyed the whole thing. We had several days in both Edinburgh and Glasgow on our own to look around, and enjoyed both tours, especially the coach - we had a really great guide there. Got to ride the "hogwarts express" as one of the trains, too.
Neither of us had ever been on a passenger train, so that was neat in and of itself, but the countryside and history were just fascinating. Stayed at the foot of Edinburgh Castle in a hostel and walked the Royal Mile for several days. Saw Hadrians wall and several abbeys and castles. Beautiful scenery, though that from the train was a disappointment (tracks closed in by trees/brush). A wonderful trip - probably the most interesting vacation we've ever taken. We just don't have that kind of history in the states; around me 100 years is ancient and even the east coast doesn't have but a few hundred years of history.
Thanks for your detailed feedback, it does sound like a wonderful and well organised coach tour; and visiting some of the tourist hotspots too.
Yep, Britain is steeped in history, which can give rise to some quirky laws, traditions and customs; one of which recently bemused an American from Rochester, New York State, when I sent him a link to one of our holiday videos in Cornwall e.g. the protected status of Cornish Roads.
There are over 4,500 miles of Cornish Country Roads, and they are notoriously narrow (single track lanes for two way traffic). The response from the American in Rochester, NYS was that we should widen these roads.
I did try to explain to him that these roads are part of our National Heritage, and as such are ‘protected’ from ‘development’ (unless there is a good sound reason to upgrade a road). Many of the Cornish Roads date back over a 1,000 years and were the routes that linked the villages to each other and to the nearby Town Markets. They were often constructed by the farmers clearing their land of stones for agriculture use, and using the stones to build a low wall on both side of the road, and infilling the gaps in the stones with soil to create a bank. These stone banks soon became a habitat for flora and fauna, growing under the hedges, and have become a haven for wildlife.
Today, the Cornish roads are considered to be part of the ‘Outstanding Natural Beauty’ of the Cornish countryside, and as such are protected from development e.g. the part of Cornwall we was holidaying in is a designated ‘AONB’ (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), and as such is a ‘protected area’.
I get the impression from our conversations that you are more broadminded than the chap in Rochester, NYS, and therefore might better appreciate the importance of the AONB status, and the protection of Cornish Roads because of their historic and natural heritage value!
Below is the video that generated that long (quite heated) discussion with the American from Rochester, NYS; where he couldn’t see the historic value of the Cornish roads and felt that we should just modernise them.
If you want a good laugh, I have set the video to start at the point where we are confronted with a lorry (truck) coming in the opposite direction e.g. my wife is no good at reversing so in the end my son had to reverse the car several hundred yards back up the hill to allow the lorry to pass.
Driving from Lansallos village to Talland Beach in Cornwall: https://youtu.be/AkaokZCKX-I?t=988
LOL We never saw anything like that, but I WAS impressed with how narrow common roads were. I sat in the front of our bus (on the train tour) and it was a little scary to realize that our bus was considerably wider than half the road. Especially when we met another bus coming at us - we clipped mirrors that time!
In general, US roads are wider but that makes sense. Cars are larger, and I imagine trucks are too. My motorhome is 8'6" wide and most trucks today are as well. Add in mirrors and such and narrow roads are a very real concern. Speeds are higher as well (speed limit just out of town on the freeway is 80 mph) and that makes a difference as well.
80 mph seems quite a speed; but I guess is appropriate for the wide straight American roads.
The highest speed limit in the UK is the Motorways, at 70mph. For all other Roads in Rural Areas, including the Cornish Country Roads (unless otherwise marked) is the ‘National Speed Limit’; which is 60 mph. For Urban Areas (including villages), unless otherwise marked, the standard speed limit is 30 mph; except for ‘dual carriageways’ through cities which is 60 mph.
So in Cornwall for example, as you leave a village (driving on the narrow Cornish Roads) you’ll see the ‘National Speed Limit’ Road Sign (60mph), a black diagonal line on a white circle. Although in practice no one drives that fast on Cornish Roads (they would be an idiot to try).
Other encounters on our Cornish Holiday, where we had to squeeze pass each other included a tractor, a bus and an ambulance; it was a good job the ambulance didn’t have its blue lights on. The Bus was the most challenging, but thanks to the skilful manoeuvring of the bus driver he was able to slowly inch pass us, with just an inch or two to spare; which is quite entertaining to watch:-
When car meets bus between Liskeard and Looe on narrow Cornish Road: https://youtu.be/k3NrXr7WqYY
Although I think the most amusing occurrence was when my wife decided to look for parking in a small Cornish Fishing Village of Polruan (population 600) rather than following the signs for the public car park above the village e.g. the roads in the village was so narrow and steep that she almost got stuck at the bottom. The side roads in Polruan are less than 6 feet wide (as you will see if you watch the video below). The above incident is all the more amusing due to the ‘slow pace of life’ of the locals (in typical rural European style) e.g. the locals are in no hurry to move aside as my wife is trying to drive down into the village. Polruan is typical of many small Cornish coastal villages’ e.g. very narrow roads.
Challenges of Driving in a small Cornish Fishing Village: https://youtu.be/oZ83Teja79A
Weight Limit for Driving an RV in Europe on a Car Driving Licence
It sounds as if you have quite a big motorhome (by European standards). In the UK (and across Europe) the maximum weight of any vehicle you can drive on your car licence is 3.4 tons laden e.g. about 2.4 tons net weight. If you want to drive a motorhome any heavier in the UK you need to pass the driving test for an HGV (Heavy Goods Vehicle) for driving Lorries (trucks), or a PSV (Passenger Service Vehicle) Bus/Coach Driving Licence.
This is a very competitive society and yes, money in this capitalist culture is the prime motivator. The fact that it is the preminent one, makes one fear for the economic future everyday. Workers are expendable as circumstances making them obsolete appear everyday and management in the never ending task of cutting personnel costs are ruthless in its pursuit.
Amazon does motion studies to see how many times it's packing staff wastes time scratching their heads or going to the bathroom.
I will be accused of being socialist, but capitalism needs to be on a leash for it to work here properly A quality life for workers is inconsistent with the capitalist mantra. But, I lie on the left pole of American economics and politics and I sure that those that are more conservative will have a differing viewpoint.
You lose your job, you can lose your house, the kid comes home from college, etc. While we have some temporary relief for the unemployed, it is certainly not in the style of Great Britain or even Canada. It is pretty unsettling to know that your entire existence hinges on whether the boss likes the color tie that you wear.
Yes, it is a rat race, with fewer rewards and spoils than ever before.
I am retired now, so life is stress free, and my improved health attests to that. I was a public employee because I had some protection from arbitrary private employers that pull the rug out from you at a critical moment without due cause. I chose that course deliberately for just such a reason.
Thanks Credence for you feedback. I too worked in the Public Sector (civil servant), and like you am now enjoying stress free retirement. Not that I ever considered myself to be in the rat race anyway because the civil service was one of the early adopters of ‘flexi working’ so that I could balance my work life with my home life; and for the last 5 years I worked from home 2 days a week anyway, which was a great bonus. As long as I put in the hours (37 hours a week average over 4 week period), and got the work done, then my employer was happy.
I chose the Public Sector for similar reasons to you e.g. greater job security; although the pay in the public sector was on average about 8% less than comparable work in the private sector. It’s not that private employers can sack you on a whim in the UK, because once you’ve worked for a Company for 2 years you are fully protected by ‘employment rights’, which in the UK makes it an extremely difficult and lengthy process for an employer to get rid of you. The greater risk working in the private sector is that Companies are subject to Market Forces and do sometimes go into Liquidation; although in the UK, for mergers and takeovers employees still have rights protected under TUPE law e.g. the new employer has to give the employees from the old Company (as minimum) the same pay & conditions and pension rights as they previously had.
Your comment about Amazon doing motion studies reminds me of Thatcherism in 1980s Britain when Margret Thatcher (Prime Minister) not only tried to ‘smash the Trade Unions’; and was successful in destroying the ‘coal mining union’ (the biggest and most powerful union in Britain at the time); and she also tried to encourage employers to do ‘Time and Motion’ Studies (similar to what Amazon is doing now), but it was deeply resisted by the Unions, so it never really came to anything. These days, in the UK, the employer does have certain rights to monitor work, but the employee also has certain rights, so it is balanced (which helps to make any monitoring more collaborative between employer and employee and less stressful on the employee).
For anyone who works in front of a computer screen all day (which is a lot of people these days), the current situation in Britain is that by law you can take as many short breaks as needed (to within reason). The law governing this right (under ergonomic) is the ‘Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992. The guidance in the law puts the onus on the employee because it’s only the employee who knows when they feel fatigued, has eye strain or headache from looking at the screen for too long, or their fingers, hands, wrist, arms, shoulder or back hurt from sitting at the desk and using the keyboard and mouse for too long.
Therefore, as everyone is different, the law doesn’t specify how often or for how long the breaks should be, but does cite an example (as guidance) of a 5 to 10 minute break every 50 or 60 minutes.
For anyone else, who doesn’t work in front of computers all day long, then in the UK they are subject to the standard Employment Laws for working hours and rest breaks; which are more specific in what they regulate. I’m not quite sure how these laws compare to the USA, or what happens in practice in the USA; but according to a UN study, the average American works about 250 hours more than a British worker, and 500 hours more than a German worker per year.
I saw many spitting image shows, learned about some British politicans and Thatcher was very funny and scary.
Haven't heard the term "Rat Race" in quite awhile, but I was in education and have been retired for many years.
I think I have a good balance. I work when I want to.
Hi Rochelle, yes I hadn’t heard the term myself since the 1980’s when our Conservative Prime Minister at the time (Margaret Thatcher) tried to instil Americanism into the British Culture. The Cultural shakeup gave rise to the YUPPIE era (Young Upwardly-mobile Professional People in Employment); but after Margaret Thatcher was forced to resign in 1992 the British Culture drifted back towards the old British Values and the YUPPIES faded into obscurity.
It was just that the term ‘rat race’ was mentioned in a recent forum and I got to wondering how much of a rat race it really is for the average American. From across the ‘pond’ we get the impression from the Media, Internet, American TV programmes and films that it is a ‘rat race’ for most people in America; but ‘impressions’ of another culture can so often be misleading.
I don’t know what your impression of Britain is, but (in the video below) this popular British TV ‘Reality Documentary Series’, which compares the lives of the top 10% richest with the bottom 10% poorest people in the UK (the two extremes) gives some insight.
Rich House, Poor House: - https://youtu.be/x2cKOT1uM8E
Being self-employed I guess I consider myself to be outside the rat-race in terms of career aspiration and material accumulation. But I still feel that I am in danger of getting caught up in the tide with the constant and immediate communication contributing to a never-ending to-do list. There is a perception in the UK though that the rat race is worse in the States, although I think we have it here too.
"There is a perception in the UK though that the rat race is worse in the States, although I think we have it here too."
That is the correct assessment, American tradition provides a sparse social safety net in times of a personal economic trauma. Great Britain and even Canada are far more generous about benefits for the unemployed.
Perception can be such a subjective thing; I guess the only way to get any real insight into different cultures is if you live in another country yourself, or know someone closely who has.
Our neighbours, two doors up from us are Chinese (both husband and wife are Professors at UWE (University of the West of England) doing research into holistic medicine); and I’ve learnt more about the Chinese people from them than I could ever learn from watching TV or the Internet. They were highly qualified in China, but immigrated to England specifically to have a second child.
Like you, our son is self-employed (a Professional Photographer), so I know what you mean Europfile.
Last year I retired from a job of 30 years. When I first took the job, I had not intended to stay because of the low pay. However, the good benefits, which included working for the most wonderful boss I'd ever had, were so good that I stayed on. I completed my degree and went on for a masters. We had periods of much overtime for which we received time and a half compensatory time. That was followed by long periods of slack, which enabled us to take vacations, go back to school, take care of sick relatives (in my case, a mother with cancer and a husband who was constantly facing surgery for one thing or another). My only complaint was the low salary that kept us living hand-to-mouth, since my husband was on disability.
Then our little state government agency merged with a big and very important bureaucratic agency. All of a sudden our division became their red-haired stepchild. The only good thing we could say about it was that our salaries had increased substantially. We were constantly watch, criticized and subjected to bad office politics. We became stressed out, cranky and suspicious of everything around us, even our wonderful boss suffered. While the drafting division still had down time to take their vacations and use their comp time, we found ourselves working all the time. Overtime was required and we had very little time we could use it. After five years, we realized that we were "owned by the company store" so to speak.
Meanwhile, my salary was growing and had tripled. My husband and I kept our simple lifestyle and put money in the bank. I worked 10 years past retirement age just to make up for the years I had been underpaid. But some of us were still making about $20,000 a year less than our counterparts in our sister department with comparable experience. Some of my division, including me, even suffered demotions but kept the same workload. After a couple of years I got my old title back. The final straw broke the camel's back when in 2017 I was demoted again because they didn't want to raise my salary (and a few of the others) to what the new government pay grade schedule set out. I gave my two week's notice and cleaned out my office. I've since heard that the governor intervened and made the administration give those good raises to the people who stayed on, but I'm glad I left. I have a good retirement anyway, and I don't need the stress and headache of today's political climate.
Wow, that’s quite a bumpy and stressful career path; and having to work 10 years beyond retirement age too.
As I write this it’s just been announced on the News that Uber Drivers in the UK are going on Strike today over ‘Pay and Conditions’. I don’t know if it was ever on the American News Media, but back in 2016 Uber lost a Major Court Case in the UK High Court (after a legal challenge by its own drivers under UK/EU Employments Laws). The High Court in the UK ruled that Uber Drivers are NOT self-employed but employees of Uber; meaning that in the UK Uber now has to pay all Uber Drivers the legal minimum wage and give them a minimum of 5.6 weeks paid leave (Vacation) a year, plus all the other legal rights under the Employment Protection Laws.
Following the ruling, the local government in London banned Uber (refused to renew their operator’s licence) on ethical grounds e.g. that Uber is an unscrupulous (unsuitable) employer. And across Europe, Uber has also been banned in Bulgaria, Denmark, Italy and Hungary, and face a ban by the Authorities in Finland, France, Spain and the Netherlands.
Arthur, you paint a glowing picture of how quality of life takes precedence over large incomes here in the U.K.. But it is not entirely accurate. Many people have to work two jobs to make ends meet and others work for minimum wage in the gig economy. We live in a society where many people are stuck in poverty.
Personally, after graduating from a full-time course as a mature university student, I spent my last twelve years in employment in what used to be described as a ‘portfolio career’ i.e. transferable skills employed in fixed-term local government contracts. It suited my temperament but most people prefer the certainty of a permanent job. My last contract before retirement involved a forty mile drive to a job that I loved, for thirty months. I retired on an adequate pension at the age of fifty eight.
I consider myself very fortunate that finding myself in the position of a single parent with two small children when I was over forty years of age I was able to undertake grant-funded higher education - which is no longer available to anyone who hopes to move on to a career with a good income.
One of my sons travels twenty miles to work by car (public transport would involve two bus rides,a long walk, and a journey of almost two hours) to a job that is both skilled and low paid. He spends a significant amount of his income running and maintaining a vehicle. He shares my home because he can’t afford to buy or rent property. This is not an unusual situation - many people in their twenties and thirties still live with parents because they can’t afford to leave.
As for generous paid leave - we can thank European Union employment regulations. It will be interesting to see how terms of employment play out in the next few years.
The quality of life that you describe as associated with low income is, unfortunately, a myth - in my opinion. The poor are always amongst us whilst the rich continue to get richer.
I love hearing from other countries, and it can be the simplest things that set me off. "One of my sons travels twenty miles to work by car". I don't think I've ever commuted LESS than 10-15 miles and usually 20 or better. One job (a few months) was 40 miles one way.
But my neighbor commuted 80 miles one way. Car expense was horrific - a new car every couple of years - and until he adjusted his work hours to the wee hours of the morning he had a 2-3 hour commute each way. 8 hours of work + 6 hours driving time every day! I wouldn't do it, but he was happy and earning a VERY good salary for the area he lived in.
I believe fuel is much more expensive here in England - and our roads are very congested. Add to these factors the damage that fossil fuels are doing to the environment and a long commute by car is less than ideal. My husband once had a job where a requirement to live within 10 miles of his place of employment was built into his contract. An OK policy for us as we were in a cheap rural location but it couldn't work for people who work in a large city like London.
When I was a child in the small town where I was brought up and to which I have returned almost everyone travelled to work locally by bicycle and cars were a rarity. Nowadays it’s sometimes hard to find a parking space in the town centre. Society isn’t going to hell in a hand cart - we are getting there by car.
Yes I think fuel is more expensive in the UK. It’s something like £1.27 per litre (you can correct me if I’m far out Glenis), which would make it about £5.77 per gallon e.g. $7.59 (on current exchange rate)? Perhaps wilderness could tell us how that compares with prices in the USA?
When we were first married we didn’t need a car because living in Bristol we could go everywhere we wanted (including work and holidays) by public transport. But when my wife was in her late 30’s (when our son was in Secondary school) she decided go back to work, but first decided to take a University 'BA Degree' in ‘Business Administration’ as a mature student, as a qualification to help her find a better paid job.
However, to cut down on travelling time so as to spend more time at home with her family, and have more time at home to study, she decided to take driving lessons and get a car; which has since proved useful, especially for holidays, but when I want to nip down to the city centre I still tend to use the public transport rather than cadge a lift from my wife.
When I was working I used to cycle to work during the summer months because the cycle track (a disused railway line) runs all the way into the centre of the city, and being just a few hundred yards away from where we live, was rather convenient.
Car Free Cycling (Cycling the Bath to Bristol Railway Path): https://youtu.be/sVqSpItWGyA
This is a most stimulating discourse, Arthur,I learn so much about what is going on over there from your comments. Gasoline, at least here in Florida is about $2.67 a gallon. So, yes, indeed, fuel costs are considerably less.
Hi Glenis, thanks for your contribution, which is much appreciated.
It wasn’t my intention to be so positive of UK life, I’m so used to corresponding with Americans (especially from the northern States e.g. NYS) who are always over pessimistic about the world, that I tend to over compensate for their pessimism when writing back to them by being more positive than perhaps I should be; but that’s no excuse, I should and could give a more balanced view.
However, the quality of life I described as associated with low income isn’t a myth, as I shall endeavour to ‘qualify’ below:-
My intention in the forum, when I formulated the question, wasn’t to compare the harsh realities of life (especially for the low paid), because we all know that life isn’t easy; but rather, whether people (including the higher paid) feel they live in the ‘rat race’ (a slave to their job) or whether they feel they have a ‘good work/home life balance’. You can be poor and spend a lot of time with your family and be happy; and conversely you can be rich yet hardly ever see your family because you spend most of your time working.
I was rather fortunate in that I worked in the Public Sector with good working conditions and a good pension (able to retire at 55); but compared to comparable jobs in the Private Sector, the pay wasn’t that great. However, having less pay in a reasonably secure job with a good work/life balance, so that I could spend more time with my family, was more important to me than seeking work where I could earn more but spend less time with my family.
I am classified as ‘Lower Middle Class’, but I have more of an affinity with the Working Class than others of my Social Status. When we decided to move up the property ladder from a two bedroom terraced house to a three bedroom semi-detached, we opted to buy an ex-Council House for three main reasons.
The first reason was that we didn’t fancy living in a posh house in west Bristol (the posh side of Bristol) and live amongst a load of snobs. My wife’s sister and her husband (upper middle class) moved from that area to the Wirral (the posh side of Liverpool) when the husband got his promotion; and we didn’t like the people in the area they were moving from e.g. they tended to be too snobbish, so we would never have fitted in.
The second reason was that at the time, due to the stigma attached to owning an ex-Council House they were about 10% cheaper than comparable housing in the area where we wanted to live; East Bristol, which is the lower end of the housing market, and where the working class tends to live. Albeit, about 50% of the houses on the Council Estate where we live are now privately owned, and that stigma of owning an ex-Council House has now evaporated, so they fetch as much as any other comparable house in the area.
The third reason was that we would be surrounded by people that we get on well with e.g. the unemployed and the low paid.
Consequently, because of where we live, and because of whom we choose to socialise with, virtually all our friends are in the bottom 10% of the Social Spectrum. The only close friend we have who isn’t is my old boss (now retired), who himself has (along with his wife) chosen to live in the cheaper end of the housing market (East Bristol) and live amongst the working class, rather than use his wealth to live a life of luxury in a posh house in West Bristol.
I know life is harsh for the poor, especially when they are reliant on benefits to survive (as many of our friends are); but I admire their resolve, and from our experience they are always so hospitable and cheerful, even when they fall on hard times. And it doesn’t matter how hard it gets for them, they always put family and friends first, and the stresses of work is less important to them e.g. once they get home, they don’t worry about work, they just want to get on with life with their family and friends.
In contrast, my wife’s sister and her husband always seem to be moaning about money and never really seem to be contented; and now their kids are grown up, seem to care less about their kids than the people we socialise with e.g. the less well off.
Because of my skill set e.g. DIY, Gardening, and ICT etc., I quite often do favours for friends, and in return, when I need a favour they’re more than happy to return the favour. Also, it’s not uncommon for me to be asked to help out an elderly relative or friend of one of our friends (a friend of a friend), and in such circumstances there is an expectation on their part of payment for my time. But when it comes to payment for my help I’m always embarrassed because I know they can’t afford to pay for my time, so I usually stress to them that just making them happy is more than payment enough. However, they always insist on giving me something (so that they can feel that they are not abusing my time), and invariably they either offer me a bottle of cheap wine, or thrust a £20 note in my hand (insisting that I take it); and I feel obliged to, because I know that if I didn’t it would offend them.
In contrast, when, on occasions, I’ve done a favour for people who are quite wealthy, they have been less appreciative and although they usually give me more money for my time, it’s not handed over from their heart like it is with people who can less afford my time.
Therefore, from my experience, although the lower paid have a more financially stressful life because they don’t always have the money to pay the bills, and may have to work hard to make ends meet; they almost always stay cheerful about it, and they certainly do have a ‘quality of life’ that I admire e.g. their ‘wealth’ comes from their heart, not their pocket.
Whereas the few wealthy people I know seem to worry about money and work too much; and don’t chill out enough.
And finally, I agree, many of the good working conditions we enjoy in the UK (including the generous paid leave) are EU Laws. I was one of the half of the British population who voted to Remain in the EU, and in my opinion, leaving it will be the biggest mistake any British Government has ever made.
I hope this puts my views into perspective!
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