The brutal truth about living in the UK is that it is the strongest and most addictive poison known to man. If you go and live in the UK, you can forget about ever fully enjoying living elsewhere, ever again.
Trust me, it has happened to me.
I grew up in Germany and Austria, and have lived in ten countries; I currently live in Sweden, which clearly rocks - as did many other countries I lived in. But the British dimension looms so large in my understanding of the world these days that I actually see myself as mostly British, even though I only spent seven of my currently 48 years of life there.
How did that happen?
Britain stole itself into my subconscious via the voice of my nanny from Devon when I was two, and has remained there ever since. I knew what a bobby was before I saw my first polizei officer, expected buses to be red and double decked, and knew that tea is “lovely.” Then, I proceeded to say my first words ever - and they were, much to everyone’s amusement, in English. I continued to speak mostly English until I got to kindergarten, eating from Peter Rabbit plates and enjoying the illustrations of The Mice of the Brambly Hedge.
You can see how easy it is to slip into Britain’s culture. It’s full of iconic things that feel cute and right, and you can furnish your world with them from A to Z. Name any aspect of life, there will be a quintessentially British thing you can put to use around it.
I went on to live in Canada, the US, New Zealand, and France before finding my way to England many years later. There, the old conditioning fired right up, and I settled into British life with an ease and verve that really surprised me. It was as if I was suddenly running on all eight cylinders.
Life simply felt right in Britain.
And it makes no sense, because the place has so much wrong with it - I mean, I had previously lived in glorious places like Vancouver, Pasadena, Santa Monica, Scottsdale, and Manhattan; places with bright blue oceans, sandy beaches, palm trees, skyscrapers, and mountains. Yet, the warmth and happiness I felt strolling along my rainy Nottingham streets for a pint at Wetherspoons eclipsed all that. Car boot sales and tea and cake with the old folks in the church garden gave me kicks I never got elsewhere. I was able to look at, and enjoy the untidy brick jungles of the Midlands with a feeling of deep seated comfort and trust I never felt anywhere else.
I loved the narrow doorway to my little terraced house, and the awfully patterned carpet inside. That typical, musty smell of “old, English house,” the voice of the BBC in the background, the slightly eery atmosphere in the streets with the willows and barbed wire and soot blackened brick buildings everywhere. I loved driving around grandiose landscapes like the Peak District or North Wales in my old Jaguar XJ, listening to groups like Goldfrapp, T-Rex, David Bowie, or Annie Lennox, wearing black leather jackets and generally feeling wonderfully menacing yet appropriately attired in a way you just can’t elsewhere.
I am not the only one.
Other members of my family have also spent years in England, and we all agree that it has become our true home, in our hearts. Even though none of us live there today. I believe I will return some day. I just have to. It’s who I am now.
So, be very careful when you’re in a position of exposing anyone to a dose of Britain. It will change them forever.