I found it somewhat intimidating when Google, my trusted online research platform, revealed negative impressions of a country I was about to consider as a new home. “Want to be happy? Don’t live in the UK” and “How to: Survive five weeks in England”. According to my online research, the people were loud, the weather was dreary and I shouldn’t expect to leave the country with a penny of savings in my bank account. “Great,” I thought. What was I getting myself into?
Moving to an English speaking country, however, was a lot less stressful than moving to South Korea, where I taught English for two years. Asia opened my mind, exposed me to a different set of cultural norms and introduced me to my partner and boyfriend, Adam.
I met Adam, the only other foreigner waiting for the bus, minutes after landing at Incheon airport from Toronto. That four hour bus ride made for four hours of conversation that we both didn’t want to end. Needless to say, it didn’t. And after our contracted year was up we decided to move to the UK (Adam’s native land) for as long as my working visa permitted. I was prepared to live and work abroad once again, but this time as part of an English culture— even if they spoke the language in a way I still struggle to understand.
It has now been five months since I moved across the pond, and other than the strange looking mushy peas, obscure lingo and irrational football fans, Brighton has proved to be a quaint yet beautiful seaside town. In the past few months I’ve rode on double decker city busses, chatted to genuine hooligans at a Fulham football game, experienced the electric crowd at Manchester United’s Old Trafford and drank more cups of tea than there are days of the year.
I’m learning to replace the word “cheers” for thank you and am still finding it difficult to remember which way to look before crossing the road. I have stopped asking to use the “restroom” at a pub, as the bar tender assures me there are no available sofas, and bangers and mash really are served at every food establishment in the country. The words “proper” and “jumper” have subconsciously edged their way into my vocabulary and I have to remind myself to interchange “cilantro” and “coriander,” or “pudding” and “dessert” when speaking to family back home.
It’s difficult not to compare my time spent living and working abroad in Asia and Europe. The “foreigner bars” are just as rampant and occupied with the same, pleasant nostalgic conversation. I admire the eclectic colours, smells and multiculturalism buzzing in the streets. The abundance of proud gay couples embracing one another is unlike anything you would see in South Korea but just reinforces Britain’s beauty. Brighton has been coined London by the Sea and is a city like no other. It is young yet historic, exotic yet traditional, vibrant, lively and free spirited. I enjoy the bountiful parks, gorgeous castles, green countryside and English breakfasts.
Google may have shone a dim light on some of the more unruly British character traits, but other than being loud beer drinkers they are passionate (about football), have a ready sense of humour and are welcoming, genuine and warm hearted. High tea, eating fish and chips with malt vinegar while listening to the fab four in the background, baking “jacket” potatoes (you know them as baked potatoes), talking about Princess Kate as “being up the spout” (meaning she’s pregnant), living here in the UK is not exactly “easy-peasy” . The Brits’ bizarre colloquialisms are quite arbitrary but I’m trying not to get my knickers in a twist.