#justenglishthings?

A kiwi reviews

The moment you have all (unawarely) been waiting for. I am here as a representative of the land of even further away than Girton, New Zealand. Here to tell you, on behalf of my feathered and fruity nation, about the things I have become aware of during my first month of living in England.

Let me enlighten you to the quirks of English life I had not expected on my 48 hour journey to England. I wish I was kidding – 5 airports, 4 flights, 3 layovers, 2 days and 1 very jetlagged girl later and I had made it – only to be confronted with a plethora of surprises. As an international student there are, of course, cultural differences you expect to encounter when moving to a new country. But let me tell you, dear English, what my sweet naive self had not anticipated…. Buckle up, brace yourselves, and hold on tight to that mug of tea I'm sure isn't far from your reach.

1) Taps that are the devil incarnate

On one side we have the heat of a thousand angry suns, and on the other the sub-zero depths of the arctic circle. Where's the gradient – turn this way for warmer, this way for colder? Where's the love? Only burnt or frozen fingers here, apparently.

The spawn of satan

2) Lack of bike helmets

In NZ, cycling without a helmet will land you a sweet $55 fine (£28.50). I had a definite feeling of bad-assery the first time I biked down Kings Parade helmetless. Truly liberating. Until a tourist looking at their phone walked head-down into my helmetless path and sent me skidding onto the pavement. Needless to say, I've returned to wearing my oh-so-sexy helmet since.

2) Supermarket snobbery

What is up with English people and their obsession with different supermarkets? Your mum drives 45 minutes to go to Waitrose? You send your kids to school with their P.E. kit in a M&S bag to show you shop there? You only shop at Aldi because it's cheaper (okay fairplay there, I bought 20 things in last week's shop and they all cost under one pound, amAZINg). Yesterday someone told me that they "can't wait for Christmas" because they miss "food from Waitrose." Seriously? That's what you're looking forward to? Do people really define themselves by where they or their parents buy their groceries? Is this some sort of English irony?

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Cue Aladdin's "a whole new wooooorld"

3) Christmas MUST be cold

I hate to be the bringer of bad news, but I have survived 20 snow-less Christmases. We go to the beach. Or we go to the river. It stays light until 10pm. And… surprise! It's still Christmas. I know, I know, but "it's just not Christmas if it's not cold!" But, urm, is it?

4) Strange affinity for general knowledge reality TV shows

I have to admit, this one really got me. People are so shocked when I admit that I've never heard of Pointless, Eggheads, Mastermind or even – dare I say it – University Challenge. This obsession with watching strangers battle to know the most obscure and ultimately useless facts… baffles me.

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I just don't get it

5) Use of the word c*nt

Turns out that here, unlike home, calling someone a good-c*nt as a compliment… isn't a compliment.

As these brief anecdotes show, I've learnt a lot in my first month here. English culture has some bizarre, unexpected quirks. English people can be stubborn as hell about many things, and can sometimes act as though their culture is the be all and end all. But, that being said, you really are a fun bunch. So grab your supermarket bag of choice, recklessly ride helmetlessly over to mine, we can make some tea after scalding or freezing ourselves, and we can watch some strange reality tv quiz-show while you tell me allllll about your Gran's Christmas roast, perfect for a chilly December 25th (your Gran sounds like a goodc*nt, by the way).

Thanks for sharing your culture with me – I might have to offer you a kiwi and some flipflop's in return.

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University of Cambridge Cambridge english culture New Zealand