This coming November will mark my 4th year of living in the UK and it has flown by. When I finished my studies in Tourism a couple of years before coming over, I was already playing with the idea of travelling abroad and gain experience working elsewhere. However, I did not have the UK in mind to start off with. I was mainly thinking of Spain, Portugal, Greece (aka ‘mainly’ nice weather countries). I wanted to also be able to speak the language and not be too far away from home. Then when I was watching an episode of Two Pints of Lager I thought perhaps the UK might be a good destination as I speak the language and it is “around the corner” from home. So, there I was about 3 months later moving to the UK not knowing that 4 years later I would still be here.
The first thing that I had to get used to was the ‘English Accent’. Although in and around London it is not the most difficult accent it was still a challenge at times. I was, however thought to be American for the first couple of years here in the UK (which really is from watching American movies and series on telly). Once I figured out that the accent where I live (Buckinghamshire) is one of the “lightest” English accents, I was happy about the fact that I had cracked it and wasn’t struggling anymore. Now almost 4 years later I am ok with most accents even Irish and Scottish however the occasional Northern accent still gets me at times. This is where I can pull my ‘sorry I am foreign and English is not my 1st language card’ out of the bag and I am forgiven for keep on saying “Sorry?” “What?” “Pardon?” “Huh!?” I have now however apparently transformed my own accent to slightly Irish as this is now usually the first guess for most people who I meet for the first time.
The second thing that I had to get used to was the ‘English Food’. Where the menu in the Netherlands for me mainly consisted of vegetables, potatoes (boiled) and a piece of meat - for dinner in the UK there is the choice of Fish and Chips, Pie/Puddings/Pasties, Ham/Egg and Chips, Sausage and Mash (I now know this is also known as Bangers and Mash!) etc. Let us not forget the Sunday Roasts! The massive plates full of veg, roast potatoes, meat, Yorkshires, gravy and my favourite, the Cauliflower and cheese. The different selection of hot puddings is something I have never really gotten used to as I just find it so filling after a big meal but oh so delicious! Another little thing I would like to get off my chest is the choice of flavours and brands in the crisps aisle of any Supermarket, it is mad! Although I have embraced many typical English foods and dishes I have also far from embraced many and I look forward to the occasional packages from my parents with Dutch cheese, mayonnaise, peanut butter and applesauce amongst other things.
The third thing that I had to get used to but have fully embraced is the Pub Culture here in the UK. The moment where people will come out of work and go to the pub for 1, 2 or sometimes a couple more drinks whilst relaxing after a busy or maybe not so busy day. The pub is the extended living room and it feels like that as well. In the Netherlands, we go to the pub (café) on the weekends, Friday and Saturday, and mainly only in the evenings (might be a bit more in the city). During the week, you go home after work where dinner will be on the table between 5pm and 6pm. If you visit the UK by yourself and go in to the pub be prepared that you will leave having made a couple of new acquaintances/friends as there is always someone interested in why you are there and where you are from.
I feel I have integrated in to the UK quite well as some things are very similar to the Netherlands like the weather, sense of humour and the Royal Family. There is one very typical British thing that I have not taken over though which is MILK in my tea. Whenever I order a tea and ask for; “Just black please?” I occasionally get a bit of a weird look but then they must think oh you silly slightly American sounding woman!