Thoughts on Things British
I came to London with a suitcase full of preconceptions and stereotypes about the place that would become my home for a year. Even though I consider myself open-minded, I could not help but expect an exorbitantly expensive city with terrible food and weather, Mr. Bean-like people, an unpopular royal family and pubs crowded with loud hooligans.
After all this time living in the UK, I've learned that some of these legends are completely false, whereas others have turned out to be surprisingly accurate! Here's my take on some things British I have encountered along the way:
- Food: I swear I have given it many chances, but I still dislike most British food. To a Cuban used to abundant seasoning, British meals generally seem bland, and the fact I hate lamb automatically makes me hate half the items on a typical British restaurant menu. There are things I do like, however, like "good" fish-and-chips dishes and Cornish pasties. And, of course, the English breakfast, which traditionally comes with eggs, bacon, mushrooms, toast, sausage, baked beans, tomato and hash browns. It's delicious! No wonder the English playwright W. Somerset Maugham said that "to eat well in England you should have breakfast three times a day."
- Royals: I shamelessly confess I am a loyal follower of European royalty news. (OK, perhaps I'm a bit addicted to them.) Having read HOLA magazines for as long as I can remember, I wasn't particularly fond of the British royal family and was not that excited to live fairly close to Buckingham Palace. I was therefore surprised to find that a great number of British people love their royals and are perfectly at ease with funding the lavish lives of William, Kate, etc. with millions taxed from their hard-earned money. I could not believe it when I saw everyone from 80-year-olds to 5-year-olds camping outside Westminster Abbey in the days leading up to the Royal Wedding.
- Pubs: Yes, British people like to have their pints at their local pubs after work. Here it is legal to drink in the streets, so the abundance of pubs means virtually every sidewalk gets crowded with people in their working clothes who chug the two or three pints as if they were water.
- Weather: This is also one of those sad confirmations. Weather in Britain is usually rainy, cold and unpredictable, meaning that some sunshine in the morning does not guarantee a beautiful sunny day. Last spring brought warmth and colour, which has all vanished in this most fleeting summer where autumn leaves started to fall from mid-August onwards!
- British people: Yes, they are shy, quiet and inexpressive, though they can also be quite humorous (even though half the time you will have no idea what they are joking about). They are also very courteous and are always willing to offer sophisticated directions (walk straight for ten minutes and then turn right and walk for another five and a half minutes...) All in all, I've found that despite their perceived superiority complex, the Brits are very welcoming of foreign cultures and can prove to be wonderful hosts.
- London: The British capital is a lot more cosmopolitan than I could imagine. There are authentically ethnic neighborhoods, a constant flow of people from all over the world and international influences on every element of society. It is also very expensive, yes. Transport fares, rent, prices of groceries and virtually everything else increases yearly, but there are also countless ways to save money, especially for residents. And, what's best, there's always something going on here, be it a grand festival, a superstar concert, the Olympics...Paris may be more beautiful, but London is the place where stuff happens.
Maria is a Cuban Harvard graduate and a guest blogger for Foreign Students. She posts regular updates of her experiences as a postgraduate student at LSE in London. Click here to see her older posts.