The vote on my Facebook page to see if people wanted me to carry on writing on my blog or not was inconclusive because I couldn’t tell if the likes were votes or not. I will add this incident to my list of ‘reasons why Facebook should be burned in the deepest pits of Hell’. I’m still undecided about what to do, despite assurances that ‘nothing happens in Bath’. I’m considering setting up a sister blog because writing about Bath in my ‘Amy Abroad’ blog might just seem slightly Birmingham-centric. Even if I do set up said blog, it may just end up being horribly neglected (see all Germany posts). Whatever I decide to do, this blog won’t die because I have an imperial tonne of photo posts to make. Incidentally, an imperial tonne is larger than a metric tonne by two stone or something along those lines. I promised photo posts and I will make them happen. Eventually.
I failed to write (I think) at Christmas and in June about my experiences after arriving back in the UK after a long period abroad. I do feel that my time with the Cite St Pierre was slightly more intense in terms of language immersion, so my experiences once back in the UK were more noticeable when I got back last week than when I got back from Germany previously. Some of them are silly and some are bizarre, but, to be honest, you shouldn’t expect anything else when reading my blog really.
The British Are Polite
No seriously we are. The plane I was on from Toulouse to Bristol was almost entirely carrying Brits and we are mercilessly polite. As soon as the gate was announced, there were people queuing. (After a flying a few times, you come to the sudden realisation that you have a seat and it makes absolutely no difference how quickly or slowly you get on that plane, that seat is still yours and so queuing is entirely pointless.) Then on the plane! Thank yous, sorrys and excuse mes left, right and centre. It’s only after spending a few months in France that I realised that we are exceedingly polite: excessively so. I know I say sorry a lot, but that plane took the biscuit. Then, when we arrived in Bristol, it took about twenty minutes for our baggage to come through and did anyone complain? Yes, but quietly to their friends or family. Everyone just waited politely, muttering exasperatedly under their breaths and sighing. In Germany, someone would have gone to ask what was taking so long or someone would have arrived to explain why it was taking so long whilst apologising profusely for the inconvenience. In France, there would be aggressive sighing, probably arms being thrown up into the air and the baggage handlers would probably have been on strike. The worst we’ll likely do is hold an inexplicable grudge for Bristol Airport and its baggage handlers or maybe write an angry letter that’ll never see more than the interior of the bin.
They just don’t look European at all. It’s like we purposely designed them to be as un-European as we possibly could. Most of them don’t have the EU sticker and they just look different. Most European plates are long, consisting of two or three groups of numbers and/or letters. Even Irish plates have three distinct parts. What do we have? Two parts and more letters than you see on the majority of European plates. The downside is that this means I spent a good three hours marvelling at how odd British number plates are. The upside of which is that in France, I could spot a British car approaching from the bottom of the road. I may be incredibly sad for even mentioning this, but our number plates are different and I think it’s kind of groovy, once I had ceased being baffled by it.
Driving on the Left
You are all doubtlessly aware that I can’t drive and that I have no real intention of learning. Those of you unfortunate enough to have seen my amazing driving skills on GTA V will be incredibly grateful for this. Regardless of whether I can drive or not, I was very grateful to be sitting in the back of the car because a year minus four weeks abroad in countries that drive on the right was apparently enough to confuse me. In comparison to the other things that baffled me, this only lasted about five minutes, as opposed to several hours/a few days. Though, I still look left before right if there aren’t any cars on the road and when I’m getting out of the car into the road, I’m occasionally baffled by a car coming down the road on the opposite side to the one I’m expecting them to be on. I think I must be quite simple to be confused by roads and cars.
They’re heavier. Apparently twelve months is long enough to get used to the euro and see it as a completely normal form of currency, as opposed to ‘monopoly money’ (which it resembles far better than pounds). Obviously the notes are almost identical in weight. When I talk about pounds being heavier, I mean the coins. Our coins are noticeably heavier than their European cousins. The weight of a €2 coin vs a £2 coin is not hugely significant, but I notice when I have lots of pounds in my wallet: the damned thing will weigh half a tonne (metric tonne). I got used to using pounds again quite quickly, but I imagine it’ll take slightly longer for me to not notice the weight. Seriously, our coins are obese.
It isn’t so much hearing other people’s English that was weird, so much as hearing my own voice speaking English was. I didn’t have this after I came back from Germany, but I think that might be because I had a lot more contact with English speakers and a lot more free time. In the three months (minus three days) that I spent in France, the only native English speakers I had contact with were my Mom, Alex, Hazel, one person in the Sanctuaries, Wendy, Theo and Daniel. There were several people who had an incredibly high level of English, but we tended to communicate in French. I was apparently a lot more immersed in the language, the bizarre side-effect of which was that when I came back to the UK, hearing myself speak English sounded strange. In the last few weeks at the Cite, the only English I spoke was inside my head or on Skype for two hours at the most. I guess I just got too used to hearing my voice in French. I continued to find my own voice in English strange for about six hours. My brain is stupid.
Even whilst skyping people from France, it was fairly obvious that my English was having some minor issues. I think it was obvious on my blog too, for example with my difficulties remembering words like ‘sauna’ and the English for funiculaire, which is funicular. I distinctly remember having several moments in France, where I’d stare at an object, or be asked what it’s called in English and be utterly, utterly stumped. ‘Broom’ escaped me for five minutes once. You’d think being back in the UK for a few hours would reboot my English speaking, but apparently not. My English is better now but it was shaky for the first few days, leading me to create wonderful new words such as ‘terocious’. Terocious as in, ‘That driving was terocious!’ (Terrible + atrocious = terocious). Having said all this, I may very well have come out with the word terocious even if I had been in the UK for the entirety of the summer holidays.
I’m not sure if milkmen are still widely used, but we have a milkman for our milk. He delivers milk and Dad’ll leave said milk in the hallway for me to put in the fridge (I’ve been hibernating in the house for the writing of my special study and the procrastinating of said study). For two days, I walked into the hallways, saw the post, picked up the post, sorted out the post and then wrote my special study, completely missing the two pints of milk sitting right next to the post. I like to justify this blindness with the fact that I forgot we had a milkman, but I’m not sure that actually makes it any better. I don’t think it does.
There’s other stuff too. There are adverts I’ve never seen, television programmes I’ve never heard of, new shops in Birmingham I don’t remember seeing before, shops closing down, things moving in the house etc. It was all a bit odd. Even seeing a police car was slightly odd because our emergency service vehicles just look so different and the road signs (indicating cities) are much larger and the houses are all different… well, actually, they’re all the same, which is what makes them different.
Despite everything being weird and odd, it still felt like coming home. If I’ve learnt one thing from my year abroad, it’s that I could live in a foreign country (if I speak the language spoken there) quite happily, but that I would likely be visiting the UK at every available holiday if only to see my family and friends, stock up on tea and eat fish and chips and curry. If you’ve learnt one thing reading this post, it’s that my brain is easily confused by many, many things, including my own voice.