Thursday, 10 March 2011

Reader Request: Great old Britain

Ah, England. I live here now. I don't think I ever expected to. As a teenager, I always expected to move to the US instead. Funny, that. But living in England hasn't diminished my memory of first visiting, back when it was strange and new. Vix asked me to describe my first impressions. So here they are.

I was exactly fourteen days away from my twelfth birthday when I first arrived in the UK. On holiday, with my parents and my brother. We rented the most gorgeous flat in London for twelve days, went to the theatre, did some sightseeing, took a day trip to Stratford-upon-Avon.

But what did I think of England?

1. The milk was amazing. No, really. Milk in Bangalore did not taste like this. I was in awe.

2. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out what half the words meant. This was England, right? Home to English? So what the hell was a haggis and why didn't I know this word? What, for the love of Heathcliff, was a spotted dick? Let me tell you, my eight-year-old brother and I could not say those words without giggling.

3. Holy hell, it's light at ten o' clock! At night, I mean. It was May. It got light at about five in the morning and got dark after ten at night. I was bewildered. Flabbergasted. In India, whatever the season, it never stays dark later than about seven in the morning and never stays light later than about seven in the evening. With about a two hour window for sun-up and sundown. Light at 10 effing PM was a novelty.

4. Strangers called me 'love'. There you go, love or cheers for the seat, love or got any change for this, love? I thought it was sweet.

5. The weather didn't shock me. And that shocked me. Sure, it was a lot colder than it had been in Bangalore, but it wasn't colder than Bangalore winters. What was all the fuss about this bitter English cold, then? Reminder: it was May. Of course it wasn't that bloody cold. Boy, did I realize how naive I'd been when I turned up for my first year of university seven years later.

I'm sure there are other things that really struck me or stood out for me when I first arrived in England, but I can't think of them now. These are my highlights. And they continue to be highlights. I love being here. I'm always surprised.


  1. Oh, thank so so much, Sangu! I loved reading this. You echo my thoughts on India, I'm contantly surprised and amazed and I'm delighted you feel the same way about the UK. xxx

  2. So jealous of where you live! I studied at Oxford for a bit and miss England every day. Haha, enjoyed this post, "love" :)

  3. What do the English know about haggises? Half of them think it's a small four legged creature found in the Highlands of Scotland. The legs on one side of the creature are supposedly smaller than those on the other, which means that it can run around the side of hills easily at a level altitude: but it does mean that the haggis can easily be caught by running round the hill in the opposite direction since the creature can't turn round to escape.

  4. Heheh... Fun to hear your first impressions! Changing countries is a special experience... That we all experience differently.

    Out of curiosity, what was the milk like in Bangalore? How was it different?

  5. Oh that's so interesting! I am woefully uneducated about India and had no idea about the light over there. That must have been such a huge difference.

  6. of my ancestors and a place I want very much to visit (Scotland too.)

  7. I wish I could have spent more than 5 days in London. I loved it. Your impressions are priceless.

  8. I love the milk here, too. And oh yes, I can't believe how light it stays here. Crazy!

  9. Great post! Funny, I remember my first impression of America quite vividly too. I moved here from England when I was eight. I adore my trips to England...I love being called "love" by everyone. :)

  10. Light until 10pm in the summer is one of the great things "up north", same in Central Europe though, where I now live.

    I always thought it was light in the summer until 10pm in most places. Then a New Zealander or an Australian told me otherwise, while travelling around Scotland. It makes up for the winter when it's dark by 5pm.

    Later I heard from a native Californian who got confused by the timing in a movie. Then he found out it was light until 10pm and the sun rose at 5.30am. I definitely like that about summer here :-)