So long Britain!
It’s been a journey. I arrived on Monday 10 September 2015 – it’s been 2.5 years. It was a rainy Monday, and I was little more than a confused 23-year-old boy with vague writing ambitions.
If anything, I’m 26 now.
I’ve learned loads here with you.
– I’ve picked up an accent that vaguely resembles yours.
– I’ve learned to say “That’s interesting” when in fact I mean “You are boring me to death”.
– I’ve learned to cycle in all kinds of weather, and when it rains sideways – don’t want to wait for the sun.
– I’ve learned the value of the sunlight. It may sound like a paradox, but exactly because there’s less sunlight, I’ve learnt to worship it and make the most of it when the sun’s out.
– I’ve learned the value of expecting a lot out of people, and to be vocally grumpy about my disappointment with the services I receive – whether it’s your politicians, your cab driver, or the bloke who for some reason thinks it’s acceptable to take 10 mins to make my coffee.
– But I’ve also learned to understate my anger. By a lot. English filters your thoughts, like a decoder. The words you end up uttering are different from what you have in mind. “Get the fuck out!” becomes “Would you please step aside? (possibly: sir)”. “This article is shit” turns into “Do you not think this could be improved here?”. “Why are you doing this?” becomes grumpy tolerance. It’s just what must be done: repress the anger. Push it far down in a dark corner, where it brews resentment – ready for the guy taking 10 minutes to make my coffee.
– I’ve learned the value blunt humour, only half-jokes – in fact the only effective way to properly express what you think without censoring yourself.
– I’ve learned to look beyond appearances.
– I’ve learned the word “taxpayer”, the trump card if the journalism you’re working on turns out to be obscurely irrelevant.
– I’ve felt valued. Respected. Regardless of where I was from or what I did or how I expressed myself. I felt listened.
– I’ve learned to appreciate the bewildering beauty of a neat queue – whatever you do. I’ve seen beautiful queues at supermarket tills, restaurants and – this one tops them all – at crowded bus stops waiting for that bus to work that you know isn’t going to fit everyone in.
– I’ve learnt to say “Sorry” for everything. It’s a knee-jerk reflex, you can’t keep it from coming out. A guy steps on my own shoe – “Oh, I’m sorry.” I complain about the quality of a service. “Sorry about that.” Somebody bumps me while waiting in the queue in the supermarket “Sorry!”
– I haven’t really learned what’s the earliest acceptable time to go to the pub, but I think that’s kind of the point.
What I’m trying to say is, I have heard so many Southern Europeans constantly go on about the weather, the food, the nights ending way too early, the lifestyle they hated. I can’t say I disagree, but I try to pull out of these conversations. Britain allowed me to grow. I was given a shot, and taught to get better. If anything, I owe Britain some.
I guess the bottom line, dear Britain, is that after two and a half years living on your island, I feel I’ve become a bit British, a bit like you – and I’m glad.
I hope I gave something back.