I am a Dutchy in the UK. We have a lot in common; the rainy weather and complaining about it, and being a coast country gives a shared type of history of sea trading. So before I moved here I did not think the Dutch and the British are soooo different; in the end there is only a sea dividing us!
Read about my experiences…!
#1 – They drive on the left side of the road
As you might know the right side is the right side, so the left side must be the wrong side. As all of mainland Europe drives on the right side of the road – with thanks to Napoleon, – the British (still) drive on the left side of the road. And all cars are also mirrored with a drivers’ seat on the right side.
It is not impossible to change to drive on the right side; the Swedish did this on H-day. They changed in one night from left- to right sided traffic, however this took 4 years of preparation and education. Even though it is not impossible, I think it is highly improbable to happen in the UK.
#2 – They call themselves UK and everybody else Europe
Somehow it is not strange that the UK voted to leave during the referendum. In day to day language use they will never call themselves a European country. I am from The Netherlands, which is one of the closest countries to the UK, but still I am (not always) considered being from Europe, overseas or mainland. Talking about holiday plans: ‘We’re going to Europe’. Way of working: ‘In Europe they are doing it in X way’. Once I heard a British guy saying: ‘You Europeans and your coffee!’.
#3 – Queuing is the backbone of British society
Number 3 is quoted from the tv series ‘Very British Problems’, which is a must see for all Dutchies (and other foreigners) in the UK. The British like their personal space and queuing is one of the means to achieve that. Queuing for the check out, bus or ticket machine was never so organised and peaceful. When I started studying Greek language and culture, there was a separate paragraph about personal space and I quote from page 15.
“When you are in Greece, you will notice that you have very little personal space: queues at concert halls, bus stops or banks are not particularly orderly. To understand Greek queuing habits you have to experience them!”
Even though this is about Greek culture, the fact that they have to explain this to the British reader says enough!
#4 – They say ‘sorry’ all the time
Yes, the British apologize a lot. ‘Sorry’ for passing the same door at the same time, ‘sorry’ for bumping into you, ‘sorry’ for disturbing you, ‘sorry’ for me bumping into them!
Replying with ‘apologies accepted’ is not a joke that is understood – I tried it several times, until my boyfriend told me to stop it.
(Note from boyfriend: It is not funny if they don’t get the joke…)
When I’m back in The Netherlands I always have to adjust; I don’t have to say I’m sorry all the time anymore.
#5 – They have a great pub life
British food is well-known for its quality – it’s rubbish (they say). Sometimes, yes, it is rubbish. Who thinks of deep frying a slice of bread for breakfast? I thought the Dutch were the nation deep frying everything!?
I wouldn’t eat pub food every day, because it is often salty and fatty. Like the breakfast, the fish and chips and the pies. Luckily there are many more dishes on the menu nowadays!
In an English pub the atmosphere is great, it is like going back 50 years, the food is good and the prices are not painful.
And then of course the other national dish of the UK: curry! ‘Thank you, Indian immigrants for bringing this to the other side of the world!’
#6 – They protect their nature and their past
When walking around Cambridge it is like walking in a museum. College buildings are at least 100 years old and otherwise they are ‘new’. The colleges are not the only thing that is preserved. There is an enormous organisation taking care of nature and old buildings; National Trust. It’s really great for day trips and outings! We’re members and it is always a pleasure to visit a venue taken care of by the National Trust. Question remains; if you take care of you past so much, when do you have time to enter the future?
#7 – They speak one language only
If you go to any other country most people speak – at least – two languages, especially the higher educated people. Combinations you could find for example: Dutch and English, German and English, Italian and English, Danish and English, Chinese and English. Quickly you understand why the British are not so motivated learning another language, everyone speaks theirs! More or less. So, British people only need to speak one language.
In the same way that I cannot imagine expressing myself in only one language, many British I meet cannot imagine expressing themselves in more than one language. It’s an interesting thought; when you learn another language you don’t only learn the new words, grammar and sentences, you also learn the concept of a different language and the idea of a different culture behind the other language.
When you’re abroad it is always fun to mock the local people about their strange habits and culture. If you want to mock the Dutch; find here the complete list of stuff Dutch people like. Bicycles everywhere, directness, candy that is really black and salty (licorice) and the three kisses we give when we meet and say goodbye.
Please share your experiences with cultural differences below! I’m very curious. 🌞
- All pictures from google-pictures