It has been a while since I lived abroad and I had almost forgotten about the shock and excitement of spending a good chunk of time in a new country, or even returning to your home country for a few weeks and the things you dream of before you get there, like beans on toast, Marmite and Cadbury’s! Yes, I certainly had my priorities right when I made any trips home!
I got to thinking about both aspects when my Brother and his Fiance come to stay for Christmas. They currently live in Vietnam and his Fiance has never been to Europe before and the place she really wanted to visit was Stonehenge, which I am ashamed to say I have never been to! It’s funny how there are places in the country where people have always wanted to go to yet I grew up here and haven’t been to all of them yet. It was great to see them both, even if it meant I had to spend ages making a Bakewell Tart as that was my Brother’s only request of me. The one I make isn’t even that good, certainly not worth a trip from Vietnam for!
Their visit also highlighted a few English quirks that us Brits can often forget about:
– our increasing obsession with Christmas jumpers, everyone has to have one! Olaf jumpers, in particular, seemed very ‘in’ this year, and why not when he believes some people are worth melting for?
– having Christmas dinner and the main celebrations on Christmas Day as many other countries celebrate on Christmas Eve.
– our ‘tradition’ of watching British soaps over the holiday period and wondering why we did as they are usually even more dark and depressing than any day of that previous year. Not at all filled with Christmas cheer!
– our favourite Christmas PJs that are stored away until the ‘appropriate time’ and then are revealed. As soon as you put them on it feels like the Christmas holidays have started. Especially as they usually have a pattern consisting of snowmen, or reindeer, or santa or some red check-ness about them. That for me is one of the saddest bits about the holiday being over, I can no longer wear my favourite PJs. No one wants to see snowmen themed PJs in the middle of July!
There was also an interesting ‘to do list’ that they had prepared to ensure lots of ‘Britishness’ was represented:
– eating a yorkshire pudding, which I think would have made my list as it is the highlight of many Sunday lunches. So much so that I always save them till last.
– cream tea with the whole works of fruity jam/ fluffy homemade scones and rich clotted cream. I am not quite sure if we made a Cornish or a Devonshire afternoon tea though, I think it could be argued it depends on which way you hold the scone as to whether the cream or the jam was put on first. However, I seem to be the only one who thinks this. Then again, I think which way you are heading depends on which way you are facing so whenever you are walking in the direction you are facing North. Apparently this is widely inaccurate…and could explain why I always get lost and am never allowed to map read….
– fish and chips eaten the proper way- outside in the cold, by water, fighting off hungry birds and served with mushy peas and curry sauce.
– seeing snow for the first time and being able to build a snowman. Although, the first time they saw snow my brother didn’t stop to build one despite her singing the famous Frozen line to him. He then get panicked as the snow disappeared and it was the one thing that she had really wanted to do. Fearing he would never hear the end of it from anyone they went on a snow hunt. Fortunately for him they found snow, unfortunately some poor people will have arrived home and found a fully fledged snowman in their front garden without knowing how he got there…I just hope thee were no excited children staying up all night in case Olaf or the Snowman appeared.
– experiencing English countryside and a proper English pub, beams, fires ale and all. The first one we went in then randomly had, and we really couldn’t have planned it any better, some ancient English soldiers sword fighting their way across the pub in the name of the King, Queen and country, so we informed my Brother’s Fiance that was what happened in every pub in England on a Saturday night! It could almost be true..
– a good bacon sandwich with a cup of tea and a dollop of ketchup. And the ketchup? why it has to be Heinz of course.
– experiencing other cultures in Britain, including table dancing, Oozo, lots of ‘ompahs’ and plate throwing at a local greek restaurant. What a way for my brother’s partner to be introduced to all the immediate family in one fell swoop. I did feel a little bit mean for her in case it was too much but then it was a fantastic ice breaker for her – or should that be ‘plate breaker’ ?