The life of an expat is definitely not always “milk and honey”. Are you coming from a whole different culture, being lured into the UK by the myth of “civilized glamourous world, where everything and everyone is better, cleaner, happier, richer”? Then you’ve probably realized by now that here “dogs don’t have bagels in their tails either”, as we Romanians like to say (English: life is not as easy or wealthy as one may think) and you’ll probably find yourself in the below lines.
The cultural is here for sure and it’s definitely happening! It’s a tough time during which you ask yourself all sort of questions and you have a lot of doubts. Why did you leave your country? Is it actually better here being among strangers? Who do I become if I leave my cultural baggage behind? Will I fit in here?
Which are the challenges?
No more English, please!
Do you know that moment at the end of an exhausting working day when you’re just too tired to move or breathe? And we all have that colleague or friend or sweetheart who wants to talk to you right at that moment. Nothing major or complicated of course, it may well be small talk. “How was your day? How was your weekend? Please, can you pass me the salt” you can hear the sentences word for word, but the meaning of them is a mystery? You look retarded at the person in front of you, being unable to process the information. Your brain says: “Fuck off, I’m tired of English! Leave me alone! I don’t want to translate another phrase!” and shows you the middle finger. Deal with it! So it goes back to sleep.
Therefore you kindly ask the person to repeat what has been said with the same result: your brain refusing to react. So, you say yes and smile or say fine and smile and try to “fake” you’re there in the conversation. You try not to look like a fool who didn’t get a single word.
2. Vacation, baby!
Moving abroad? Checked! Working abroad? Checked! New friends? Checked!
In the first few months to a year, the feeling that you are on an eternal vacation doesn’t wear off. Everything is new and shiny: the job, making new friends, new customs, new language, new, new, new, new! Even going to work doesn’t seem so serious anymore!
Although people say “It’s Europe. It’s all the same”, well… you have to actually live in another country to experience the differences and the keynotes! And believe me all of the sudden: nope, it’s all very different!
3. Sun? What’s that?
Welcome to the land of crappy, rainy and cold weather! Say goodbye to your escapades to the seaside at the end of the week, to going to an outdoor pool or just taking a walk in the park when it’s sunny and beautiful. Goodbye shorts, goodbye sandals!
Sun? What’s that? You start to forget what that means…
4. Aand language again
You start to lose vocabulary in both languages. Thinking in “Rom-English”, not finding the right words in English, nor in Romanian.
I would add as well that trying to express native idioms in English is a big no-no and everyone will look at you confused. Good luck using: “you have a carrot in your ass (you’re stiff or nervous about something) or the well-known “I took a spike” (I got fooled).
5. Good at small talk
British people are extremely good at small talk. They can elaborate on any subject under the sun: your weekend, the weather, the news; they can be polite and nice (too nice I would say) at the surface. Beware! That doesn’t mean they genuinely like you or that they want to connect you. No, their brain and heart work differently.
We, Romanians, like to give it our all to the people we like, we want to know everything about you, we want to be there for you and we open our hearts and welcome you impatiently. We don’t wait 100 years for this, we invite you to our home from day 1. British people don’t have this ability to create deep connections and relationships, they swim on the surface of emotions, they don’t get involved too much.
Which one is the best way? Hard to say…
Pubs, beer garden, parks. Women, men, old people, people of all ages meet and drink tons of beer. Drinking is the same for them as eating is for us and it’s not seen shameful at all. It is seen as a way of socializing and networking.
Will things improve? We’ll see…