…Not the one on which I turn one year older. Or the one where I have been married for another year. Today exactly 10 years ago I arrived from the Netherlands in the UK to live here. For three years, I thought, or maybe three years and a few months. Get my PhD, then return to my home country. Ten years on, I am still here… If you had told me twenty years ago that I would end up living in a foreign country, I wouldn’t have believed you. I am not very adventurous, and like to be close to my family. But the desire to do a PhD was stronger. And I have not regretted my decision. Although I can’t say that I feel British now, from the first week, I have felt at home here. I still miss being close to my family, but we have got used to communicating over the phone and internet. And after all, it isn’t all that far.
Anyway, to celebrate this anniversary, I thought I’d put together a top 5 of things I like most about living here. Here they are:
- My husband. He’s British. Although I had already decided to I wouldn’t mind staying longer to do a postdoc here, meeting him was an important factor in making me stay… His family have also been very welcoming, and this has helped me to feel more ‘embedded’ in the community.
- It’s OK to be mildly eccentric. A bit of weirdness is not a problem, and can even be appreciated. Or maybe people are just too polite to say that you’re weird in your face? Partly I suppose it’s also got something to do with the fact that I have been around many international students, who are all from weird places where they do weird things, and so have higher tolerance levels for weirdness. Anyhow, I quite like it.
- Scones with jam and cream, parsnips, trifle, shepherd’s pie… you get the idea. Although British food isn’t known abroad for its culinary sophistication, I rather like it. I like all the sweet stuff and the hearty winter food. Although we also eat plenty of ‘continental’ dishes!
- Old places. Although in American eyes nearly everything in Europe is old, in the Netherlands most things are not older than 16th century, apart from a few (parts of) churches here and there. Here you can go older than that. From Norman cathedrals (I have just moved to Durham), to Medieval guildhalls and quirky cafes in old shop buildings. For an archaeologist like me, there is much to enjoy.
- The beautiful landscape. You may gather from this point that I don’t live in London or any of the other big cities. In fact, I have so far only lived in ‘the north’ (and by that I mean north of Nottingham, not just north of the Watford Gap! And ‘the north’ is, apart from a few big cities like Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle, pretty empty. Maybe not quite as empty as Scotland, but there is a lot of space to breathe. I am currently in rural Northumberland for a bit of fieldwork and it’s just stunning. Although I’m not sure I would survive here in winter!
Well, there it is then… Initially I had wanted to include a top 5 of things I least like about living here, but my husband suggested some British people might feel somewhat offended by that so I decided against it. So here’s to the next 10 years! (If I don’t get thrown out before then for not holding a British passport…)