For several reasons put together, the last time I set foot on British soil was over a year ago. Puh, as the Germans would so nicely put it. That is a long stretch. But absence only makes the heart grow fonder. And it makes me all the more ecstatic to know that in a few days I will be flying out to one long, glorious summer on the British isles (even if it turns out to be cold and wet). And when I think about it in anticipation, here’s what I miss the most:
1. British warmth and friendliness
The people of Munich are known for their coolness towards newcomers. They need time for you to earn their trust and their friendship, but apparently once you have, it is there forever. The people from Duesseldorf (my old town) and the nearby area on the other hand, are known for their warmth.
Whenever I hear this discussion amongst Germans, I have to internally snigger. Because this so-called warmth is still quite a few degrees under that which is emitted by the average British person. Sometimes you really do just need to hear ‚alright Luv?‘ and the ‚what can I do for you sweetheart?‘ from strangers and it brightens up your day.
2. British humour
The above warmth and friendliness is most often combined with a self-deprecating, ever so slightly sarcastic and always on the ball wit which almost every British person seems to be born with. And if you weren’t born there, you develop it as part of the cultural integration program.
3. Fish and chips (and mushy peas)
Sure, the Germans have their baked fish in bread rolls and their funny soused herring, especially the more north you go, but I can sense that they look down on a bag of fish and chips and just don’t quite get how good it can be. Find the right chippy to collect your fish and chips from and your cosy Friday night-in or a seaside trip is complete in my opinion. Ok, I admit I needed time to acquire a taste for the mushy peas, but now I find them more than tolerable.
4. The British coast
Yes I know it rains, yes I know you are most likely to be eating your homemade Devon ice cream under cloudy skies and the coastal walk is not to be undertaken without wind- and water-proof gear at the ready – but oh that rugged British coast line. And did a cornish pasty, or said bag of slightly soggy chips ever taste better than on a blustery day at a remote seaside village?
Yes you can be British and black. Yes you can be British and brown. Yes you can be British and look however you look. And feel accepted. I’m not saying that integration is perfect in the UK, but it has made huge strides in the last couple of decades and is miles ahead from Germany.
Foreigners sometimes use the words ‚England‘ and ‚London‘ interchangeably as if it were one and the same. In reality, visiting London is like visiting another land within England. It is unique in its character, architecture, infrastructure and zeitgeist – a cosmos in itself, far flung from any other city in the UK.
Arriving at one of London’s main stations in the bustle of the day among the extremely trendy and streetwise crowd always leaves me in awe and with a sense of excitement. The city can’t help but buzz. And there is always something new to discover, no matter how many times you visit the city.
7. The English countryside
Pick even one of the less pretty industrial cities (sorry Birmingham), travel 30 minutes out of the city and you will hit green pastures, forest trails and maybe some modest hills if you are lucky. While you may have to travel quite a few miles to reach a mountainous landscape (rather to Scotland or Wales), the English countryside around you possesses great charm.
8. Pub lunches
And if you did make it through one of the above nature trails, there is no place better to unwind that in a cosy pub. Log fires, wooden panels and copper pots lend snug perfection in winter and the variety with gardens over-looking canals, streams and rivers are perfect for the summer. And if you scoff at the idea of simple pub grub, then seek out a gastropub.
9. A nice cup of tea
I stopped ordering tea in German cafes a log time ago. Because they can’t make you a nice, ever-comforting cup of tea like you would get at a friend’s house at home. They classically offer you the choice of one insipid black tea and then a selection of peppermint, herb or fruit teas. It’s just not the same. There is a place in the world for Tetley/PG Tips/Yorkshire tea.
10. The English Heritage
Ancient ruins, grand manor houses, beautiful English gardens – the history of England is all here and well managed by the English Heritage. And they offer a huge number of summer events.
The summer season for me includes whenever possible watching an outdoor Shakespeare play with the backdrop of one an ancient priory or a spectacular courtyard, spread out on picnic blankets and snacking on pork pies and scotch eggs.