Is it too late now to say Sorry? First impressions of England
By Maria Noyarovich, an Exchange Student
So how does it feel coming to England for the first time when you learn English for half of your life? It’s priceless and overwhelming for the first few days. A dream of this 11 year old girl from Belarus came true. I couldn’t believe I was finally going for Erasmus exchange to this mysterious and unknown country yet attracting me in a special way.
It felt real when I sat on my 1 hour flight from Eindhoven (The Netherlands) to Manchester. It felt even more real when I was asked on the border control to show my documents from the university which can prove I came for an exchange rather than illegal work or even worse – smuggling weed since I was going from the Netherlands. I didn’t expect all these questions since I already had my student visa and passport, apparently it was not enough… The rest of my journey was surprisingly nice, I experienced real English politeness. I mean reading about it in books and hearing constantly “Please”, “Sorry” and “Pardon” make the difference.
Living and studying abroad in The Netherlands had a huge impact on me without realizing it. Foreigners call Dutch people rude. If you live in the country for quite some time then this peculiarity transforms into directness or simply straightforwardness. So when I came to England I was not quite prepared to replace directness with the politeness. Bus drivers and barmaids address you as “Dear” or “Love”. People who nearly touched you showered you with a rain of “Sorry”s. But be aware that expressing your negative opinion about the quality of the cocktail which you got or the colour of the outfit which doesn’t really suits your classmate will put a tag “RUDE” on you. You are slowly getting used to the norms and rules of the environment you live in and then notice that “Sorry” is actually your most used word.
There is a particular funny thing that I didn’t know about English people – queuing! I didn’t understand in the beginning why people where staring at me so strangely when I came to the bus stop and stood under the roof in front of the perfectly made English queue. They stared at me even more when I entered the bus first and the line of people remained standing in the same order. That reaction made me feel awkward and I decided to do some research about English culture and habits. That’s how I discovered that English people are the best in queuing even though they don’t enjoy it but they simply like to arrange things and they are good at it.
And another funny fact I missed is English tea. Drinking pure green tea became my healthy habit quite long time ago. So going to a café and ordering green tea rather than anything else to drink was simply normal for me. I thought green tea is the same everywhere but I was so wrong. While ordering my favorite drink at the bar I was asked: “Do you want milk with your tea?” I was so confused that saying anything apart of “No, I’d like some normal tea, please” didn’t make sense for me. The bartender was simply shocked because normal tea apparently can go only with milk. So I have to admit that I tried to drink this “normal” version of tea several times and it became quite bearable.
These are the main peculiarities that I found since being in England for over a month.