1. The weather talk.
After having told people about me moving to London, there was one common reaction: “You’re going to England? Don’t forget your umbrella and wellies. It’s raining a lot over there.” After having heard this time and time again, I began to seriously question my decision. Who wants to spend a year in a country where it is miserable all the time? Guess what, the opposite actually was the case. The sun was shining and I couldn’t spot a single cloud when I arrived.
The thing about English weather is that it can change rapidly. The “it-rains-a-lot” cliché might have resulted from this. Yet, the number of rainy days is not greater than in Germany, n the contrary. I am talking from my own experience. Also, Brits can kill hours by simply talking about the weather. They can waffle on about it for ages: it’s either too hot, too cold, to wet, too dry…You get the idea. I’ve learned just recently that it can even get worse than raining cats and dogs. In order to get the superlative, the English replace “cats and dogs” with “pigs.” Now I know that it can actually rain pigs. Just imagine. I definitely expanded my own horizons.
2. Exaggeration is lovely.
As a foreign newbie, I soon came to realize that everything is lovely. It’s lovely to meet someone. The weather is lovely, of course. And as for food, this is also lovely, whether it is tasty or not. You might have seen this one coming. Brits tend to exaggerate but only in a positive sense. This oftentimes makes it really difficult to read a person’s mind. How can everything be perfect? How can English people never be seriously annoyed? Well, they surely can but they don’t let people know. It’s the British courtesy. But exactly this is what makes interacting a bit strange, for they do not say what they really think. I still am always interpreting every single conversation I have. This is not the case back in Germany. If people are grumpy, they show it. Most of them even have the weirdest tantrums – exaggeration in the negative sense. I am not sure whether that’s better. Let’s just all believe that life is lovely. I don’t see anything wrong with this.
3. One is on familiar terms with each other.
What is still quite unusual for me is that everyone is called by their first name. I was having trouble with it especially at college. Natives suddenly just started referring to our professors as Tim, James or Natalie. And they obviously didn’t mind. This would be sheer unthinkable for the majority of Germans. Let me tell you, it really took me a lot of will power to overthrow my German formality. Somehow, being on unfamiliar terms with someone who is more senior is just a matter of respect, something I’ve been taught. Well, other countries, other customs. It’s quite handy, for the boundaries of the hierarchy are blurred in a way. And actually, this makes working and living together so much less complicated. Just think about it. I have continued calling my lecturers “Mrs” or “Mr” until a couple of months ago, although they have signed emails with their first name. I finally gave in. However, Brits do make an exception, namely when it comes to members of the royal family, for they are traditionally addressed by their full title. There’s gotta be a social difference somewhere. And by the way, as the normal people are on familiar terms, it is not rare that you are called “dear”, “love” or “darling” when shopping. But who doesn’t want to feel a bit special?
4. Transport issues.
Alright, this is a delicate matter. Let me begin by saying that public transport here is great. You get anywhere you want, whenever you want, at least until midnight. However, the system can also get annoying (and I always thought it can’t get worse than the German national rail). Trains are cancelled, buses do not show up. Most of it is due to the general traffic or bad weather conditions, which then leads to technical problems. Well, “weather issues” is the key word. Look, there are a few wet leaves on the rails. It’s a good reason for a train not to run: “We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause you.” And then you are left standing at the platform, desperately trying to locate the next bus station, knowing you will be late, anyway. The best train is the last one (still can’t understand why in a city where almost 8 million people live trains stop running from about midnight to 5 in the morning). People refer to it as the “drunken express” and every time I end up in this one, it does its name justice. This all might sound horrible, yet, it isn’t. It’s a transport adventure. Every day is a new experience. You meet lovely people, you meet crazy people. You just never know what’s gonna happen – who’s gonna throw up next. Trust me, you will have many situations you’ll still be telling your grandchildren about.
5. Where is the queue?
It’s a phenomenon. Never ever have I seen other people being so patient when having to wait in line. A queue can almost become a huge social gathering in England: at the post office, at an ice-cream parlour or simply in front of the entrance of a new venue. Well-behaved and patiently, Brits can wait for hours. They bring snacks, drinks and perfectly manage to entertain themselves. Germans would complain, get super angry and eventually die of impatience. Funny enough, even with 5° C outside, the English wear T-Shirts and short skirts. Good for them. They seem to be the epitome of coolness.
6. Drinking culture.
What can I tell you? The English like to drink. They like to drink often, they like to drink much. The daily after-work beer is a common thing over here and certainly shows the people’s friendly manner. Consuming alcohol in England is much more than just the actual process of drinking. Brits drink to finish off their day, they drink to party, they drink to get more sociable. And lastly, they drink because they simply love beer, it seems. But there’s the huge difference: they drink it warm. Warm beer? What an outcry this would evoke among Germans, who would never ever think about having their beer this way. Also, the English start drinking in the early evening as many pubs close around 11 pm. This means “Game over” – in every respect. When Brits get into serious drinking business, they tend to forget about their polite attitude and simply speak their mind – communication has never been easier.
The little big differences – but I think all this is what makes England so charming. As a “proper” German, I’ve learned to not take life too seriously over here on the big island. How could I be too serious? I mean, where else is it raining lovely pigs, darling?