It’s been nearly 3 years now since I’ve moved from Belgium to the United Kingdom. I wasn’t expecting any great difficulties: I knew the language, was familiar with British culture and absolutely loved the British sense of humour. Moving to the UK was going to be an easy ride, I thought.
And while there were no big culture shocks, there were some things I wasn’t really prepared for. Come to think of it, I think I’m still not used to them.
1/ “Sorry, I’m British”
It must be in the British genes, it must be innate, but British people apologize for anything and everything! It doesn’t matter if something is not your fault, when you’re British, you will apologize anyway! The word “sorry” must be the most used word in the English language! And the thing is: they also seem to mean it!
One of the best examples was me driving my bicycle on the pavement. I obviously obstructed some pedestrians, so where in most countries you would get a dirty look for doing this, nope, in the UK the pedestrians move out of the way and actually apologize to YOU for hindering them! Haha!
2/ Food combinations
British food isn’t exactly a synonym for “top notch and refined cuisine”, but there are some great dishes about. (especially desserts!) The thing I struggle the most with however are the “weird” combinations of food.
“No, I don’t want chips with my pizza, thanks”, “What are these Doritos doing next to my sandwich and why on earth would I want gravy on my noodles?”
Sorry, but my integration stops here…
3/ The weekend metamorphosis
Brits are one of the nicest and friendliest people in the world. Extremely polite, casual and maybe a bit uptight… But comes the weekend and everyone seems to go through a complete metamorphosis!
Let’s start with the women. Conservative, business-like or casual: during the week there’s no real difference with women in other parts of the western world. But comes Friday night and a complete make-over starts: hairdos that would have made Amy Winehouse jealous, heels that will have you end up in emergency services after attempting a few steps and dresses that reveal more than they actually cover. It’s a phenomena I still struggle with…
Guys don’t seem to make a real effort when it comes to clothing, the metamorphosis here is that this charming, ideal son-in-law could actually turn into a punch-loving, swearing ogre after indulging in a few too many pints!
I absolutely love the British, just not on a weekend out…
4/ The obsession with Christmas
I’m not really a Christmassy person. I don’t dislike it, it just leaves me kind of indifferent. Little did I know that the hype starts as early as August in the UK!
I can still remember the first time I came upon an ad for booking Christmas dinner late August. I thought they had forgotten to remove it from last year’s Christmas, but oh no, it was a reminder that Christmas was upon us in …4 months!! Madness really breaks loose after Halloween: companies start planning Christmas do’s , the shopping stress for the perfect gift starts and “What are you doing for Christmas?” seems to be the most asked question during that period. And let’s not even get started on the Christmas jumpers and Christmas cards!
But you know what? The atmosphere is kind of contagious and I find myself actually considering putting up a Christmas tree this year!
Would you like to become an expat? Moving to the UK or elsewhere?
What “weird” habits have you come across in your new country?