Pete has been a student of mine for a couple of years. Now fluent in English conversation with an advanced command of written English, he is a model student. Intelligent, hardworking and reliable: read what he has to say about surviving life in the U.K. It may make us think twice before asking someone ‘What are you up to this weekend?’
How to survive living in the U.K
There is no universal recipe.
First of all, I’ve been in the UK about 3 years. I have to admit I have an advantage, because I live with a member of my family, my sister. If you’ve got an opportunity live with person, you trust, it´s a really big bonus for example sharing the rent and emotional support. For a typical Slovak person, the price of the rent can be shocking. So, that is my first piece of advice on how to survive. Live with people you can trust. If you can´t live with them, the real process of trying to survive in the foreign country starts.
And now the British mentality. The basic fact is, the mentality of British people is different to the mentality of people in the European continent. Rumour has it there is a different mentality. Many decades and centuries ago the British people had very little contact with other nations (I´m not counting Scottish, Irish and Welsh people!). The British have created a very specific mentality, normal here and quite strange around the world. If I´m thinking about British history, when the British colonists tried to bring the British mentality into their colonies, they weren´t very successful. In the colonies, the original inhabitants already had their own specific mentality and the British colonists couldn´t change that, just modify it. Those who were unhappy or persecuted here very often left the country for good and helped to build another nation (USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand).
The average British person still separates the world by East and West Europe, they don´t care about Central or South Europe. And what’s even worse, they ask: ‘Are you from Poland?’ It´s really useless to explain where you are from, because the next time they are still going to think you are Polish. It´s much easier to properly explain where you are from to people you work. After a couple months they are able to remember the name of another country other than Poland. For other people you are still going to be Polish and someone who stole a job from the young English people. It´s useless to fight against it, sooner or later you have to get used to it and then life maybe will be easier. Of course, maybe there are some exceptions, especially educated people, who know, how the economy works and why there are so many foreigners here.
My next point is a classic thing. listen and try to learn as much as possible. A question, which is often asked is ‘what´s your plan over the weekend?’ But what can you actually say? If you are single, you are just glad you don´t have to work, and if you´ve got a family, you look after your family. I don´t know but this question is really weird to me. On the face of it, it looks like English people have got an extraordinary life and every weekend they do something amazing, although it´s probably not the truth. Where I come from, we wish each other a good weekend a good time etc. we don´t really care what other people do. English people probably think the same, but they ask about it. They think it´s polite. But for me and for my fellow – countrymen it´s quite weird. Don´t get me wrong, I´m not complaining, but it takes a time to get used to it. As I mentioned earlier, don´t try to understand it, because it’s a different mentality. It takes a long time to understand a little.
Let´s move to another point. It´s good to try to find some people from Slovakia, you don´t have to spend all your free time with them, but some contact with people from the same culture can help you. In addition, If there are people, who have lived here more years than you, they can help you with their experience.
And what about food? That is a real change. It´s unimaginable to put mashed potatoes over the meat back in Slovakia. And here we are, it is almost national meal (Cottage pie). So from the beginning, try to cook for yourself.
My last piece of advice? Avoid conflict, Avoid the pubs or bars with a bad reputation. Avoid conflict with local people. Remember: you are just a guest here. If something happens, you will just be seen as a foreigner and can be very soon expelled.
Congratulations to this year’s competition winners!
The winners of this year’s Transport Day competition were Louise Brayne from Fiddlers Lane Primary, Irlam and Faith Holdsworth from Ravenbank, Lymm.
This year I hosted a workshop at Lymm Heritage Centre with illustrator Kate Hulme. It was great to see so many young people taking part and combining literary and artistic skills. The presentation of prizes was made by councillor Anna Fradgley at Lymm Heritage Centre. Can’t wait for next year’s competition!