Cultural differences

London is a city full of theatre. I’ve been to two shows. Life of Pi and Moulin Rouge. When you go to Piccadilly Circus the streets are filled with signs and blinking lights to lure you in. I’ve also been to two very British shows. The Graham Norton Show and Taskmaster. I have always been a fan and this was quite special to me. I got to sit in the audience and see the set.  


I’ve also been to Salsa Temple every week. This showed me how diverse London is. People came from all different backgrounds to Salsa Temple. I’ve also met a Londoner there who invited me to be on his podcast. We talked about English shows, politics and my courses.  


I’ve not only visited London. I’ve been to Hastings where the famous Battle of Hastings took place. I’ve been to Watford, Oxford, Bristol and Brighton. Furthermore, I have been to Scotland. Here I visited Irvine, Troon, Ayr, Dunure, Edinburgh, Kilmarnock and Glasgow. I didn’t get the chance to visit Isle of Skye and this will be for the future.  


The people in Scotland are very open and would love to help a visitor. On a bus there were four individual people who tried to show us the way even though we didn’t even ask for help. In London people are very individualistic and everyone is in a rush. You frequently walk through a red light. There are always sirens going off.  


The weather in the U.K. is pretty much the same as in the Netherlands. I also had to learn this during British Studies and it seems to be true. A storm in the Netherlands, meant a storm in England and it didn’t rain as often as its reputation says.


I met with a childhood friend and she gave me a present. I was so thankful that I started crying. Her mother panicked and told me that: ‘We don’t show emotions here’. I could see she was trying to keep her feelings in. This is what I’ve also learned during British Studies. The English are modest, have a stiff upper lip and apparently are not that open about their emotions.


I think that the Dutch are better organized. When it comes to university and also the general look of a place. We have better roads. Furthermore, there aren’t any fences surrounding our parks. You don’t have to find the entrance of a park to get into it.  


The parks are so big compared to the parks back in my city Zwolle. The park can also include a waterfall such as in Kyoto Park within Holland Park and there is also a waterfall in Hyde Park. In these parks there was a strong rollerblading community. Squirrels would hop around everywhere. You would also find foxes in the city or in Richmond Park. 


People dress differently. Some women wear a lot off make up and high heels and dresses when they go out. They don’t even wear a jacket in the middle of the winter. Dutch women usually always wear a coat and could easily go out in a pair of jeans. Dutch people are more down-to-earth.


The food is very different. The bread isn’t anything like in the Netherlands and let’s just say that is a negative thing. The supermarkets do not have the choices you would have back at home. I missed a package or a fresh meal deal to make a lasagne from scratch. I missed all the things we are able to put on our bread. I missed aioli. The English cheese is quite good I must confess. A good cheddar cheese.  


The diversity in London is nothing compared to anywhere else. There are tourists but there are people living in London from so many different backgrounds. Mixture of cultures. In my area there was a black community and also a Spanish community. The person I sold my bike to via Gumtree was Italian. It didn’t surprise me. It is rarer to bump into a person who isn’t a mixture of cultures and from Britain than someone who is a mixture of backgrounds or a foreigner. My university was also known for diversity and very proud of it as you can find on their website. I came to find that this was very true. A strong Pakistani community and Indian community was present. This makes sense considering British history and colonization.  


I came to know that Pakistan used to be one country with India. I came to know that Russia also invaded Bulgaria. I told people Belgium used to be one country with the Netherlands. Some people were very unaware of where the Netherlands actually is.


Universities are very different when it comes to discipline. You can be late or not show up and it will have no consequences. There is not a lot of room to speak though and there is respect for the teacher. Students can be lazy and undisciplined.  


There were security measures taken when it comes to the university. You needed to scan your pass to be able to get in the building. I remember a mother who was a student and her child wasn’t allowed in the building. One day there were police officers and sniffer dogs making their way through the building. There were also security guards just around the corner of my street. I also knew several people who were mugged and I even got an email about it. Whenever I walked home by myself I kept my distance to anyone else.  


A big cultural difference was transportation. In the Netherlands everyone bikes everywhere. In London you take a tube. It is completely dark and the sound it makes is deafening. You also get a train or a bus or walk for an hour and then an hour back. Very normal. I did buy a bike and did bike to a bit of a hilly area but overall London is quite flat. There were three hills that I have been on top of.


There are a lot more options when it comes to restaurants and bars compared to my little city. You can take salsa lessons and dance freely until three. Enough gay bars and countless dining options in very varied cuisines.


I think it is fair to say that London is a much harsher place. People are more individual and are always in a rush. They don’t have the time for you or for a red light. In Zwolle people have time to have a chat with you while you purchase something. They sometimes do in London too but I think it is more common in smaller cities. The bus driver for example will not greet you at all. You are very lucky if you even get a smile or get eye contact. They usually just look very grumpy. Sometimes it is a woman with make-up and earrings. Also, very normal. Talking about greeting each other; in Zwolle some people will say hi in the streets but in London this isn’t normal at all.  


Since London is so individual people dress exactly the way they like. They’ll wear piercings or something very colourful. You will come across these people who just put on whatever they wish in Zwolle but not in the same volume as in London.  


I had this very interesting conversation with a student from Romania. Her background is very different from mine. She is not allowed to get a divorce from her parents. That she left her previous boyfriend already meant that she is the black sheep in the family. Mostly, I think in the Netherlands we are pretty free when it comes to break-ups and divorce.  


There was one big cultural difference I learnt from my childhood friend. A peace sign is not shown with the back of your hand and if you do show the back of your hand it actually means fuck off. This is supposed to stem from a time where people used their fingers as an arch and would fire an arrow from it. Fingers were also cut off. These fingers were powerful and it is a powerful sign until this day. If you want to say peace, you don’t show the back of your hand but your palm.

If you want to know more about my time in London or get more cultural insights, please let me know. Until next time! X

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