Monday, October 1, 2012

An English Thing

An American friend surprised me a while ago when she wrote (either on her blog or FB, I can't remember which) that she had had an unexpectedly fun time with her new Brit friends, I think she'd expected us to be very straight laced, prim and proper and yet there we were, not quite swinging from the light fittings and getting thrown out of the bar, but quite definitely having a ball.
Similarly a Fench friend expressed surprise when I admitted that despite having a garden, and therefore having to 'garden'*, I'm not a fan of gardening.  To me a garden is for sitting in with a tall glass of Pimms, a bowl of nibbles and a good book.

I guess growing up in the U.K. you never really have to confront the fact that people from other countries have misconceptions and preconceived notions about you, just because you have British passport.

There are some stereotypes that I do conform to however.

- being happy naked.  Naked sauna is a BIG thing here, and I, like most of my English expat friends would rather walk over hot coals** than sit with friends, naked.  We're trying to organise a girlie spa day, it's proving impossible because so many of the 'wellness' places here expect their clientele to be nackt.

- have bad teeth. My teeth are perfectly healthy, which my German dentist considers to be nothing short of a miracle, however they're not straight, and straight teeth are considered a god given right here.   I was recently at the dentist and as she is currently off on maternity leave I got her stand in.  I was not amused when he asked if I'd considered having my teeth straightened...I told him that they'd been like that a long time and were quite happy, cheeky bugger.

- drink tea.  I do drink coffee (but it has to be good coffee) but my beverage of choice for breakfast is tea, two cups please and then and only then am I prepared to meet the day. What's more, I prefer my tea the way I make it, not too weak (so that you can taste the milk, bleurgh) and not so strong that a spoon would stand up in it.  When certain guests are here I will make sure to offer tea just so that I don't then have to drink their offering***.

- hate confrontation. This is me to the core.   I'm more likely to turn and walk away than face up to an argument.  In fact this very issue is what sparked today's subject.  J was in a school show last summer, the people at the local theatre who run a kids theatre group were impressed with her and specifically asked her to come along this autumn and join in.  J went with a friend, had a great time and we sent in the enrolment form.  The friend didn't, but rather than 'fessing up, said nothing.  Now J doesn't want to go on her own, but is in tears over missing out.   And I am livid.  But will I say anything to the mother (who also happens to be a friend of mine) highly unlikely.  For one thing, it wont gain me anything, the problem will still be there, although if she does ask about it I shall tell her about J's tears.

- being polite.  I hate the idea that someone might think me impolite, and I will probably let someone push in front of me in the queue at the bakers (although only one person and I will glare at their back as they do it and mutter about it afterwards) and rather than offer an outright 'no' to a request that I don't like the sound of I am more likely to give a 'maybe' response, afterall I don't want to hurt their feelings!

Since moving away from England I do feel more English, I have never been as patriotic as I am now and yet the very distance that has fertilized my patriotism has also allowed me to see Britiain for what it is, I can see clearly its faults and failings and love it despite these.****

* my version of gardening is more the slash and burn method, well it would be if the burning of garden refuse was allowed here, instead I have to haul the sacks of debris to the recyclinghof, and pray they don't tip over in my car on the way there, fun.
** whilst fully clothed clearly.
*** and they thought I was being a wonderful hostess....
**** but no, I'm in no rush to go back to the island, I'm quite happy here in my new home thankyou.

1 comment:

Secret Wino said...

The Patriotic element of being British is the thing that has shocked me most about living abroad (also in Germany, also in Essen). Back at home I was scanning supermarket racks for anything foreign and exciting, these days I freu myself something stupid when I see Lea and Perrins, Marmite or OXO in a German supermarket and then to purchase it for Patriotic purposes only to watch it slowly slide past its expiry date at the back of the cupboard.

The confrontation part is true of me too. I often find myself cowering behind my partner when she chooses to make a scene about something that she doesn't like and often end up apologising on her behalf and informing the (more often than not) shop attendant that everything is okay.

Thanks, I enjoyed this blog entry.