All about Manchester Christmas Markets- naughty and nice!

Reviews of 3 Christmas Markets in Manchester.

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I have managed to visit 3 different Christmas markets this year in Manchester- Northern Greater Makers Market, Manchester Christmas Market and the Vegan Market.

The first of them all was the Northern Greater Makers Market. A small cosy market right by the main road in Deansgate. Main things they sell are crafts (which is amazing). I cannot say how much I enjoy walking around in crafts markets and shops getting inspired by creative people. This market I loved especially because I noticed so many things that were related to recycling, sustainability and nature. All the things I love and care about. You can find incredible gifts, ideas and ways to recycle.

From food side they had homemade cakes with 3 vegan options. I didn’t see anything else vegan, though, besides a street food truck. They also had different local cheeses, sausages and sweets. Unfortunately, from drinks alley they had only hard liquer, mainly gins and vodkas. And I am not fan of either of them. The bottles looked amazing, though! Great as a gift.

All the people in the market where so nice and didn’t mind me gadding about with a camera. They also didn’t mind giving me a little background about the products when asking. Made me feel like a part of a community.

The second market was the big Christmas Market on Albert Square. It has obviously bigger variety of shops and products which is not necessarily a good thing. As soon as you walked in, the smell of sausages was overwhelming. Made me super hungry but might be off-putting for vegetarians, for sure.

It was also busier so walking one way or the other took time as people tend to just stop in the middle of the road and…. I don’t know, enjoy their coffee? So it didn’t feel half as nice as the other one.

Another thing I noticed was that the shops where unorganised and you jumped from cheese to plates and from jewellery to sweets. Was a bit disturbing as I wasn’t really interested in any of the animal products. But it’s not the main issue for sure. But when really looking for something specific, can be confusing.

A super awesome surprise was to see that in every hot drink shop they were giving out mugs instead of plastic cups. How cool is that. You had to pay like 1-3 quid as a deposit, got it back before leaving the market and without all this unnecessary trash! Well done!

So when in the previous market everything was handmade and crafts then in this one I noticed at least 3-4 shops with some stupid Made-in-China crap (no offence). Why? Just why? There are so many awesome local companies and they let people to buy the space in the market to sell crap. Just why? Usually it has nothing even to do with Christmas. Just some cheap crap. That got me mad! Can people just try to not think only about money during this time of the year?!

Another odd thing I noticed was how many French, Dutch, German products were available compared to local, English stuff. Again… why? If I go abroad for Christmas and visit a market there I would expect and hope to buy something local. If I want to buy a German sausage, I will go to Germany. Okay?! Give me some British products, for god’s sake! Fortunately among all this… not so interesting stuff they also had some really nice local stuff- leather and wooden bowls/trays, wooden ties, clay mugs (which where very similar to the ones I got for my birthday!!!!), handmade jewellery, Manchester t-shirts, coasters and signs.

And last but not least Vegan Christmas Market. Unfortunately, that was only 1 weekend in Manchester but I believe there are similar ones on different weekends in other cities. Unlike the pervious 2, this one has an entrance fee of 3 pounds. Now, as I had to pay 3 quid, I went there to come back with some vegan cake. Now, guess what was the one thing I didn’t find. ¬†Yep! Vegan damn cake!

It was in a hotel which means it was soooooooo crowded inside. It was almost impossible to move around free. As soon as you walked in, the crowds led you the way. You could find anything from homemade juice to vegan leather bags but no vegan chocolate cake. There were doughnuts and chcocolate, burgers and candies but no cake. Yeah, I was disappointed. I couldn’t really understand the idea of paying 3 quid to go to a market and buy a burger for another 7 quid that you had to eat there. Does that make sense to you?

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Well as I had already paid the 3 quid I decided to find at least couple of things that were worth the money. And something as close to the cake as possible. I found a body scrub with a smell of a dream, an organic cotton bag for washing the small items in the washing machine, 1 bottle of Jamaican juice and 2 doughnuts. Although everything was quite over priced I still think all the things I decided to buy were worth the price.

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As a regular customer in a health shop I know what vegan cheese costs and therefore also notice when it’s over priced. And man, how pricy everything was! Which again was disappointing as naive Hanna thought she’s going to find some good deals. However… there were some really nice things. Especially if you have the coin to spend! I was trying all the flavours of vegan cheese there was. It was just sooooo amazing. Unfortunately, my company already noticed that Christmas bonus will be 15 quid so I cannot really afford buying 8 quid cheese for 2 sandwiches. They also had some really nice homemade liquer. I am not really the fan of liquer, I am more like a cocktail kinda-girl.

I don’t have many pictures of it as people, for some reason, where not letting me take any. What? Why? I don’t know. Sometimes I simply just don’t get people. But who am I to judge.

There are many other Christmas markets around the town so you can check them out as well. I guess the message to take with is that be aware of the prices and make aware decisions. Know where your products are from and who they are produced. Spending a little more for a good cause is worth it. Especially during Christmas time. Merry Ch…Ch… Chr… yeah, I can’t, it’s still too soon. Merry Sunday! ūüėČ

UK- To be or not to be?!

An anniversary post about living in UK. Should you or should you not?

HAPPY 1 YEAR TO ME!

Yes it’s already over a year that I have been living in the Kingdom. A YEAR! Time flies so fast that it is ridiculous. I have been super busy lately and, to be honest, have not felt like writing. Not that I don’t enjoy it any more but I simply have not had time to do much fun stuff to write about. Now I am BACK, though. I decided to dedicate this post to THE UNITED KINGDOM and give you my honest opinion about the stay so far.

I have written bits and bobs here and there in the past but I figured I am missing an overview for people who might really consider living, studying, working here. I actually got this idea already back in October at my school reunion when people asked me about UK and few of them were seriously considering coming here.

First of all, the most important thing- food. In one of my previous posts I wrote about the packaging craziness and processed food obsession they have. By a coincidence I now live near an organic shop and my opinion of local eating habits has slightly changed. Not all the people eat that processed thing they call food. A small grocery shop, UNICORN, is the cutest shop I have ever seen. Yes, you have to pay a penny or 2 extra to eat organic and clean food but let me tell you, the taste is worth it. I have even noticed that it is cheaper to buy diary free things from there than from supermarkets and the shop is constantly¬† fairly busy, to be honest. Not just it is super simple for vegans and vegetarians to find veg substitutes but you get the best possible quality. I do not consider myself as a vegan but I do eat mostly vegan at home (in UK). Oh you didn’t know? Well this is a long story and I need a separate post for just my eating habits and lifestyle now. All you need to know right now is that there are very good options in big cities like Manchester to eat well. What is more, the amazing shop Unicorn Grocery, has always a box of veges for free. That means people who maybe cannot afford even basic food can take salad material just for free. How amazing is that?! In my opinion all supermarkets should have that option. Not just that there would be less starving and hunger but big chains would throw away less food.

What is next… Oh, transportation. Unlike the opinion about food, this has not changed. If anything, it has gone even worse. I do not drive or use public transportation in Manchester because it is simply too slow and expensive. I have an old bike here and I cycle to work, gym, school, shop, where ever I need to go. Unfortunately, I must admit I have had quite a few accidents here already. The first ones were back in Reading. I already sensed then that drivers don’t really care about cyclists. Right now when working with patients who have experienced traffic accidents it seems like drivers don’t care about other drivers either. There have been few times that I almost got hit and one time that another cyclist did hit me. Touch the wood (ptuiptuiptui), so far all the “accidents” I have been in were without any injuries or damages. But I am super careful now. I have reflectors everywhere on the bike, on me. I have lights on the bike and a high visibility vest on. I do look like I just got off from the kindergarten but at least I am doing everything I can to be safe. Some cyclists prefer those blinding headlights that in my opinion make the accident risk even higher as it is seriously disturbing for the vision and therefore, you cannot pay proper attention on the surroundings. So, traffic is something that I am not very pleased with. Until you are very careful yourself you should be fine, though. If you are thinking of bringing your own vehicle here then DON’T. We learned it the hard way. Basically if you do not re-register it to UK number plate, the car will be taken and you will be given a certain amount of time to do it. Unfortunately, in real life that cannot be done and as you do not have the registration by the due date they will simply scrap it. So, just don’t bring your own. If you need a car and you don’t have any money problems, buy one here. If you need one for short period of time only and you have money problems, rent it. As simple as that.

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Now, the part that probably everyone is wondering about the most. Is the salary and living really better? 2 months ago I started a job in a private practice. As I already had a local experience as a physiotherapist, the interview went smoother- I was confident and less nervous to start a new job. I already knew what they expected and how to manage my time at work. Although, the client base is completely different (from Reading and the Estonian working experience), and I see twice as many patients as for example in Estonia, I feel a lot more appreciated as the salary reflects my hard work.¬† I am not working full time because of the university, I live in a quite expensive house, buy organic food, travel, and am still able to save enough to pay for my Estonian student loan and current university tuition fee. So, in my field I must say I do get more than in my home country (something for Estonian employers to think about). For other fields, as much as I have heard, it seems similar. It might be a little difficult in the beginning but as soon as you have already a local experience to show on your CV (even if it’s short period) you are going to find a job and good salary faster. Of course, it ain’t La-La Land. You need to plan your time, work hard, and have motivation to manage everything. But it is doable. I must admit I have to give half of the credit to my amazing other half who helps out and supports me on the way. I am not sure if I could manage it all alone.

If you are planning to come for just studying then I do highly recommend that. I just finished the first semester of my studies and couldn’t be prouder of myself. If you are Estonian you might be used to good grades but here they expect as much from you as from locals. That means you need to push yourself twice as hard. Your English on paper and on examinations need to be as good as native speaker’s. But don’t worry about English too much, it will improve tremendously while living here. Based on my own experience and my coursemates’ English level, with the level of B2 there should be no language barriers. The only thing is that some universities ask for C1 at least. As a credit for the University of Salford I must admit they give a lot of support and feedback for foreign (and local) students. You have a personal supervisor and one for each module (at least in physio). Whenever you are in trouble, don’t know what to do, you have plenty of people who care and will help you. Here you go, come and have a degree in foreign language! Not only does it sound great when saying it out loud but it is highly rated by locals (hopefully at home as well) as many of them know just English. Now the money part. I decided to pay my tuition fee by myself because I already have one loan. However, there are student loans available with very reasonable criteria. If I am not wrong there should be even one (around 20 grand) that you don’t have to pay back until you start earning yearly more than around 18 grand (in pounds). Knowing the average salary in Estonia then it might be that you don’t even have to pay it back at all.

The health system here is similar to Estonian. They have an association called NHS that provides the basic help. All students and people that are working have the basic healthcare and do not have to worry about it. When arriving you just need to register yourself in one of the surgeries in your area. Some employers do offer private healthcare as well and in that case you probably can go to dentists and private doctors for free (or for less money) as well.

What else? Weather. In the South I think it was a lot better than I expected. Summer was hot like summer is supposed to be and I even got a tan. Up here it is raining every other day. Seriously. As the temperature doesn’t really drop below 0 right now I don’t think there is a winter in here at all. It is more like a constant autumn. So who is into that you are welcome to come and enjoy. I for sure am not. I miss snow, cold wind to freeze the tip of your nose, and wearing winter boots. I am not sure how bad is it going to be in the summer but what I’ve heard of, it ain’t a dream either. So if you are thinking of travelling for the weather, don’t! Or stay in the South.

Last but not least, people! Locals themselves say that people up in the North (midlands) are more opened and friendly than in the South. As I don’t really remember meeting too many angry or rude people in the South I am not sure what kind of position to take. There are always people that either have a bad day or simply don’t care about the others around. Based on my experience I wouldn’t say it is worse in the South or better in the North. All my colleagues, patients, coursemates, etc have been reasonable and lovely people. Colleague-wise I would probably even say that there is less “competition” and tension in the clinic than back at home. Or at least I don’t sense it as much as when working in Estonia. Everyone is willing to help and teach you. After all, the clinic/business is as good/strong as it’s weakest worker. So in order to keep the good quality you need to invest time and knowledge in new workers and English do understand that. Generally I reckon we all have bad days and I wouldn’t generalise the population based on those few rude ones. I think local people do care (even when you are foreigner) and they take time to explain themselves when you cannot understand the accent (especially the one in Manchester). Even though, the political situation may leave another expression.

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In conclusion, if you don’t mind constant autumn, would like to learn authentic English from natives, and are willing to make an effort to build your success up, I believe England could be the place. But I reckon you should do it before Brexit because you know, no one really knows what happens after!

Before I end this one I wanted to discuss another idea I have. So, far I have been writing about 3 things- travelling, hiking and living in UK. At some point probably I am finishing the UK series as I am running out of things to write about. So, instead of that I was thinking of starting a new part/series that will be about healthy and active lifestyle and my opinion/stories/experience related to that- beauty, exercising, food, shops, products, money etc. I will continue with the hiking and travelling posts of course as well. Let me know what you think!

That is it for now. I have few blog suggestions and ideas waiting already. I appreciate you letting me know what you like to read about and giving me feedback. That is  PERFECT. Keeps me motivated! I hope I will manage to write more often from now on.  But now, crab your Earl Grey, a bisquit, sit back and enjoy Ed!