In my six months of living in a small city on this little island, I’ve learnt a thing or two about its people, places and culture. So, here’s a mish-mash of quirks and some differences that I have noticed between the UK and New Zealand.
The Brits are a mighty tea-loving people who never stop complaining about the weather or the state of the government (Brexit is still fresh in memory). Some things that distract them from this moaning include a Royal Wedding (I must confess, I watched it live instead of studying for an exam) and a summer’s day where the temperature just enters the twenties and everybody has a sudden urge to sunbathe. When someone asks you “You alright?” or “You ok?” it doesn’t mean you look funny or have just tripped over and fallen. They want to know how you are. If you have the sniffles or a cough, you’re not just “sick” but rather “ill” or “feeling poorly”. Brits also come in different accents ranging from the industrial Northern, the sing-songy Welsh, to the BBC News refined accent and others that I still need subtitles for. Nonetheless, they are one of the most hardy bunch of folk I have ever met.
The British Empire gave us Imperial Units then went “Wait, this Metric thing is catching up, huh?” and stuck to their precious imperial units. Distances on roads are measured in miles, so “London 120” on a motorway sign is in miles, not kilometres. You may also pass the odd “Speed bumps for the next 200 yards” sign. I still don’t know how long a yard is though. The place names here don’t always sound like they’re written. For example: Salisbury (Sawls-bree), Leicester (Les-ter) and Worcestershire (Wus-ter-sher). Staying on the theme of place names, small towns can often be boring so locals come up with entertaining names for where they live. My two favourites being North Piddle and Petersfinger. Furthermore, I think every small town follows a very similar format. If I was to make a starter pack I’d definitely include a small river, one main cobbled street with a marketplace or square and of course a church that’s at least 300 years old. Bonus points for original Tudor houses and a working mill.
As culture varies with geographical region and age, I can best comment on urban youth culture. It’s not too different from Kiwi youth culture with an emphasis on socialising and the odd night out. I do think young Brits have better fashions sense and a greater availability of trendy clothes as major European brands and “fashionable” countries such as France and Italy are not too far from Britain’s dull shores. Unfortunately for us, New Zealand doesn’t have much of an exposure to world class brands and their products, leaving us with a more limited choice. Media of course plays a huge role in youth culture and shows such as The Great British Bake Off and Love Island are greedily consumed by the British masses.
Overall, I’ve growth to appreciate the unique mannerisms of this little nation that once controlled a fifth of the world. It’s had its ups and downs in history for sure and I only wish it success and progress for the years to come, and during whatever uncertainty that lies ahead.
God save the Queen,