When people find out I am originally from Portugal, a question usually follows: “Oh, and you moved to England?”. I think people get even more surprised when I respond something along the lines of “Yes, and I love it”!
Yes the weather isn’t the same as in Lisbon – and not to say that I don’t love Portugal, I do – but there are some amazing things in this country. I have been thinking about this for a while and decided to share them with you.
1. The British are not cold and distant
It may take a while to break the ice, but if my experience is anything to go by, the Brits are possibly some of the nicest people I have ever met. Polite, kind and with a dark sense of humour. Once you take the step from being an acquaintance to becoming a friend, these connections last forever. People value them and will go out of their way to help you out. I have met some incredible people everywhere in the world, but there is something about the Brits..
As as a tourist, people will stop and give you the right directions more often than not!
2. It doesn’t always rain
I may be crucified but global warming has been OK, i.e. not in the general sense, but in the last couple of years, England has had nicer summers (but also colder winters). That means that summer can be actually a season, and a heatwave lasts more than 2 days (I love it when they call them heatwaves, or when they say “It is hotter today in London than in Havana”.
Nonetheless, there is no sense of entitlement and it is incredible how happy people become when the trees start blooming and you don’t need a coat anymore.
As a Portuguese, I will not wear sandals just because it is sunny – it can be slightly weird when in March, with 18C, everyone starts wearing shorts and flip-flops!
3. I love English food
Yes, there is such thing as English or British food and I love it. Everyone that has visited, no exception, has enjoyed the wonders of British cuisine with me – from chicken liver parfait, to pork belly, the sunday roasts and don’t get me started on the desserts.
I may start campaigning for British restaurants abroad. And overall, the Brits enjoy foreign and continental food so much on their holidays, they demand the same back home, so great ingredients are easy to find.
4. The system works
When someone commits to a date or a deliverable, they mean it. You can count on it – and I like that. That means, of course, you are expected to do the same, which is more than fair. Customer service in the UK is second to none in Europe, there is such thing as a service industry and in my experience, if we exclude Asia, it is light years ahead from anywhere except the United States. If a company fails you, they apologise and more often than not, they try to make it right.
If you need to go to the doctor, you get an appointment on that day or the next day. They apologise if they run over 20 mins late – and this is the public health service. In Portugal, it drives me crazy when I pay €80 for a 15m appointment and the consultant is late and it is supposed to be OK. I really don’t get it.
5. Yes means yes, no means no (as it should)
..and that matters when a friendship has been started. One thing that drives me crazy is when you try to make dinner plans with someone in Portugal, they say yes and have no intention to actually commit to a particular dinner date. I try to go to Portugal regularly and with limited time, I like to book these dinners and meals early – this is difficult for people to actually understand that I won’t “wing” them. Whilst in England, with various groups of friends, we are completely used to make plans with a couple of months notice if need be. I have a busy social life and if you want to spend time with me, get it in the diary and I will honour it – I won’t cancel a dinner with someone because I got or am hoping to get a better offer.
I saved the best for last of course, I love England even more as Mr. O is, guess what, British! In his own words, he is very continental. And apparently, I’m the reverse which it is why it works so well.
Time to end the rant. I really don’t know why England gets such bad press sometimes. I have felt welcome by everyone every time I moved here – from the lady in the supermarket, to the doctor, the MBA teacher or my colleagues at work. I am Portuguese and a very proud one – don’t get me wrong, but that doesn’t mean I cannot live in a different country and also feel at home.
And there is no other place where people call you “love” all the time, I love it! “Alright, love?” “Can I help you, love?” You already have. Thank you for making me feel at home.