I cannot wait to see everyone! It has been seven months since we were last with our families - not the longest time we have gone without seeing them, as when we where living in Sevilla we didn’t go home for ten months - but still, it feels far too long.
From England, where I have spent 24 years of my life, there are so many sounds, smells and sights that remind me of growing up; those that when I experience them again after being away from them, wrap me up in a reassuring blanket of familiarity. There are other things that no other country seems to do quiet like Britain does.
1. The countryside. I grew up in the countryside, and no other country seems to have areas of green and pleasant land quite like England. I loved the German and Austrian countryside, with the rolling green fields, and forests that stretched for miles and the breathtaking Alpine valleys. The way the evening light lit up the view and made it sparkle always made me inhale sharply with the beauty. Viewing this countryside from the car or train window, I just wanted to be in the middle of it. But, as stunning as it is, it just isn't the same as the English countryside: The windy narrow lanes edged by high hedges; the higgledy-piggledy stone walls dividing small odd-shaped fields, fields coming in all shapes and sizes. Fields full of livestock; sheep and cows especially. The sounds of the skylark in late summer, and the blackbird, particularly in spring.
3. People saying sorry, even when it is not their fault. I still do this and - in Europe especially - got the weirdest looks. My default ‘sorry’ mode is slowly disappearing the longer I live away from England.
Here, most stores seem to pack your bags for you. We found it very weird at first, and it is taking some time to get used to it. I always feel guilty that someone else is doing the work whilst I am just standing there. You may say it is very civilized, and it is, I guess; but when there is only one person behind the till and they are ringing the things through the till, you are left twiddling your thumbs and then twiddling them some more whilst they put it in bags, and although most of the times they pack well, I like to pack one bag full of fridge things, another full of cupboard items etc, so it's quicker to unpack.
The chatter in England doesn’t seem to exist anywhere else as a rule. Even if you do actually speak the language, it doesn’t seem to be the norm. Sometimes when I was in a rush, I viewed the banter as an annoyance, but other times it was nice to have some interaction in the day.
5. English drivers. In Germany, the drivers were quite aggressive. Even if the light were red ahead, they seemed to have to get there and bake hard rather than slow down gradually. In Spain, the drivers scared me: we once saw someone reverse around a roundabout as they had missed the exit… Here, well even the locals say the driving is bad. Scarily bad. Bumper to bumper, the drivers do the craziest stuff and don’t seem to use their mirrors or look if they are coming out of a parking space. They also do not let you in if you are joining a highway, even if the traffic is going slowly, you really have to barge in. Polite, relaxed, British driving...