England: An Outsider’s View

Before Maria left to return home to Spain, I asked her what she had thought of my great country. She was a little overwhelmed by the question (she thinks I am far too proud of England but honestly how could I not be? It is amazing) so I broke it down into categories for her. Here are her answers and her review of England from a Spanish point of view:

What were her favourite things about London? Watching Phantom of the Opera, Big Ben (she was obsessed with it, I ended up taking so many pictures that I frankly never want to see it again), Tower Bridge (which we saw all lit up at night) and spending time with me (I was quite upset to be beaten out by a clock and a bridge… But I accept Phantom because it was AMAZING).

What were her favourite things about Colchester? The beautiful town and green gardens, the castle and the squirrels (this may sound odd, but in her town they don’t have squirrels so we ended up spending best part of an hour chasing them around the park trying to get a photo of Maria feeding one. We did succeed.)

What were her favourite things about Canterbury? Again, the beautiful city and getting to meet Phoebe (my flat mate from last year). She also enjoyed Thorpe Park, which we visited before returning to Canterbury.

What was her least favourite thing about England? Unsurprisingly for someone from the south coast of Spain, the weather. We were lucky on the first few days, it was quite warm, but it soon went down hill. We faced near torrential rain in Canterbury (thankfully made it into the house before it got too bad) but London was thankfully alright. Something else Maria pointed out was the English obsession with saying “sorry” and the preference of me, my friends and family of the BBC.  It really did get on her nerves that we apologise for everything and when we had the telly on it was always the BBC.

Perhaps the strangest thing she noticed was how “polite” we are. A lot of the places we visited, especially in London, we were asked by waiters or shop assistants where we were from. Now, polite conversation and small talk is nothing strange to me, but it really did confuse her! She thought we were quite the gossipers and was more than slightly uncomfortable at the prospect of talking to stranger the way we do!

Most importantly, what did she think of our food compared to Spain? She said, and I quote, “I can eat it but it’s not my style. I think if I lived here then I would prepare my own Spanish food myself.” Rather depressingly, her favourite foods that she tried here were pancakes from McDonalds and sandwiches from Subway. I took her out to a carvery so we could have a proper roast dinner (Yorkshire pudding, stuffing and all) but she wasn’t having it. On the plus, I got to have her Yorkshire so ups and downs.

Overall, she said she gave England 7.5/10 (or 8/10 if you take the squirrels into count…) I think that visiting us really opened her eyes as to the real cultural differences between our countries. Apart from anything else, when we visited Harrods in London they told her she couldn’t wheel her suitcase around – understandable when the floor is so expensive – and she wasn’t impressed at all. I don’t think my explaining that it was one of the poshest and most exclusive shops in the world did much to help.

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For all of her disdain for English people and customs, I really do think Maria had a great time here though – at least I hope she did. Whilst I can’t quite see her moving over and integrating fully into our ways, I do hope that this holiday hasn’t put her off us completely! Either way, I relish our Britishness, even if she doesn’t! Have a great day!

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