Posted by: anglopole | June 1, 2008

English houses

England is, one might think, relatively close to the continent of Europe and so should not be much different than other countries there. The most characteristic features differentiating England from the rest of EU are, to many people, her strong currency and left-hand traffic. Even the language does not seem to be owned by the British any more as it has been a lingua franca for decades now. However, England has much more surprises for all those visiting her!
Let’s have a closer look at the English houses. Surely, everyone knows that a house is an Englishman’s castle! 🙂 So, when you happen to be home alone in an English house, you may discover details that can irritate or, at least surprise you, as they are uncommon in, e.g. Polish buildings.



What about them? They are there, for sure, and more and more often double glazed, if you want to know. Yet, European tenants or owners of houses in England can forget about the spring cleaning of the windows, at least not on the outside…. Unlike in Poland they open to the outside! So, do not lean on them when they are not properly closed! ;p On the serious note, however, one has to be watching kids when they play near the windows, as it is so much easier for them to fall out….

While Poles love decorating their windows or balconies with freshly washed laundry, the English often have white, plastic pipes hanging our of their kitchen’s or bathroom’s windows. This is a tumble dryer vent pipe, a device which makes one’s life a lot easier in winter or when there is no garden where the clothes could dry on a rotary airer. However, for most Poles, those white plastic pipes swinging out of some windows here would surely be a curious sight ;p



When you enter a bathroom or toilet here in England you may be puzzled by a few features. The English seem to love strings hanging from their bathroom ceilings! Yes, you open a door, desperate for a pee and you quickly look for a switch on the wall to put the light on….. but, you end up petting the wall in vain, only to be hit by a wooden knob swinging on a string… Surely, an unaware Pole, like myself, wouldn’t guess that to switch the bathroom light on one needs to pull this string down! Well, once you’ve learnt it you feel relief as no more time needs to be wasted when visiting the bathroom. Life is not so easy, though. Other devices, like alarms, too can be switched on with a pull switch and so your intelligence will be tested in some places as you’ll be confused which string will activate what;p

Putting the light issue aside, what needs to be mentioned is the taps! Forget about washing your hands with warm water here, unless you have the patience to do it in washbasin rather than under running water! There usually are two separate taps here – one for cold and one for hot water. Given the choice, you go for the cold rather than boiling hot one and then become an addict of E45 cream for dry hands (applies to women, usually)! I know that Poles who have bought houses here started their refurbishing with fixing ONE tap in their bathrooms, toilets, etc.


They are referred to as wheelie bins (simply because they have wheels;p) and, usually, there are two of them for each household, but that can vary from county to county. One is a litter bin and the other is a recycling bin. Wow! Do I mean the rubbish has to be separated? Yes! Doing it is not something that comes naturally to most Poles, but it is a good habit to form! Especially that litter is collected once every fortnight! So, if not for the sake of saving the planet, then out of sheer common sense it is rather necessary to separate the rubbish, so that we have enough room for non-recyclable litter.

this is how you can organize the recyclable rubbish in the bin! 😉

The given examples show that life is made of little things and these little things can be as much a blessing for our daily routines as they can be so annoying that the list of our pet hates only gets longer…..

The moral of the story is: expect the unexpected anywhere and anytime! ;p




  1. I see you’re getting the hang of this blogging thing! Nice post.

    You’re not the first Pole I’ve seen confused in an English bathroom. Strings hanging from the ceiling to turn on the light and sometimes the hot water for the shower are bizarre when you think about it. There is a reason of course – to prevent wet hands coming into contact with electrical switches. Note, you will never see an uncovered electrical socket in an English bathroom either, I have about six in my Polish bathroom and it fills me with terror every time I think about the potential for casual electrocution.


  2. oh, what a nice surprise! I didn’t realize someone would read this my ‘masterpiece’ so soon! 🙂 Thanks, Island! Yeah, I myself have already got used to all these featers of English houses that are ‘funny’ for us Poles. Yet, I remember all too well how I switched the alarm on in a few places when I first came to the UK, just because I thought the string was the pull switch for light! At least, a few people had fun with my ‘close encounters’ with various devices! ;p
    Yeah, when you think of it, this whole string business in switches does make sense and is far safer than the regular wall ones!


  3. A propos electrical sockets, the British three square pin variety, in a box, attached firmly into the wall, is infinitely preferable to the two round pin continental type. It’s safer, often has an on/off rocker switch so you don’t have to pull appliances (such as mobile phone chargers etc) out of the wall when not in use.

    And to think the European Commission was toying with the idea of forcing Brits to adopt two-pin round sockets for the sake of harmonising the market! It should force continental households to adopt the British socket!


  4. Michael, I agree with you totally about the square pin variety of sockets is better:) The only frustrating thing is that you can’t freely import and export electrical equipement from the continent to the UK, without being bothered with getting a connecting socket to be able to use devices from eg. Poland here and vice versa.
    Otherwise, I don’t mind it at all!:)


  5. sockets? In the bathroom? You people are totally spoiled! They’re illegal in Sweden, and you need a special permit to install one.
    God how I miss tumble dryers, too…


    • kochana, poraza mnie to, o czym piszesz. poraza mnie wstecznosc ponad progresywnoscia i to samo z mentalnoscia.
      plastic pipes porazaja… jezusie, kraj polglowkow;p


      • No, Pani Klozetowa, uwazaj lepiej, bo ktos z tego kraju plastikowych rur moze Cie zbesztac! ;p


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