Going on holiday to England. Every year it is an event I look forward to. Loads of people have asked me over the years what attracts me to this part of the world. Lets try to explain!
I came to England for the first time in 1997. We went to Manchester and saw a small part of the Lake District as well. I was mesmerized by the people here, the landscape, the funny language, the warmth and friendliness, the food and so on. It was another world I stepped into, a world I wanted to explore more. In 14 years I have had the priviledge to see large parts of The UK, in general. I even lived here for awhile, before my kids were born. To me, London has few secrets to discover and Oxford I know like the back of my hand.
I was born and bred Flemish. A child of two Flemish parents and all my live I have lived in Flanders. However, I feel that my heart and soul don’t belong in my country of origin. Evertime I come back to England, it feels like coming Home. “Home” with a capital H.
An English heart and soul. How can that be? Why is that? I have no clue, as it is a feeling I can’t quite place myself. There are reasons why I love this beautiful country though. Lets see….
I am an outdoorsie kind of girl. I have always loved nature, and I am in awe of her beauty. When I go to England, I always end up somewhere godforsaken. England is littered with public footpaths. Up and down hills, miles and miles of coast (as The UK is an island), through mountains, vales, lakes, moors etc…I have had the pleasure to visit The Mendip Hills in Somerset, the Peak District, The Lake District and so on. The landscape is just stunning. I always tell people who think England is just a heap of old factories to watch “countryfile”. And quite often I get some baffled reactions.
History and Culture
I don’t know of any other country, which holds its history and culture so close to its heart. I am sure you all know about Tudor History, or The Wars of the Roses. But have you heard, for example, of Georgiana Devonshire and her husband The Duke of Devonshire? Have you ever heard of Bess of Hardwick and one of her husbands The Earl of Shrewsbury? Do you know where Winston Churchill was born? Where he spent most of his childhood? Do you know where Florence Nightingale lived after the Crimean war? We can all find out these things, because the English have preserved their history so well! The National Trust and English Heritage are vital in the upkeep of beautiful stately homes, grounds, gardens and all their content. Few, like Chatsworth House or Highclere, are still in private hands. But even these homes will be open for visits at certain points of the year. For the public to visit and learn about times gone by.
The English culture is also totally different from the Belgian or Flemish one. People here are proud of being English. At important moments in time (like the olympics etc…), they’ll break out the bunting and organise a street party. God still saves the Queen and all that! I have witnessed it for myself. People moaning about the English monarchy, but when the Queen comes by, the mood instantly lifts. Excitement fills the air and everyone will look at her with a certain amount of respect. Being English here means something. It means they are part of something big! They are part of something beautiful.
I was talking to a friend this week and he asked me what I like about England. I replied: “because you are all so Goddamned backwards”. I think a chuckle must have arisen on the other side of my screen there. But, yes, I love English backwardness. They still drive on the left hand side of the road, their currency is still the Pound! Metric system, who invented that? “Nay, we’ll measure in yards and miles and we shall tell the world the weight of our newborns in lbs”. I have stayed in hotels and b&b’s, where I found it impossible to switch on the hot water. Only to realise there is a string hanging from the ceiling, which to pull to switch it on. How many hours I have stood by a kettle which refused to boil, I can’t tell. Because I forgot the plug has a switch! We don’t do plug switches in Belgium. Doors open wrongly, cupboard doors shut the other way around and even bikebrakes are assembled back to front. Everytime something works the opposite way of normal procedures I think “oh, it must be English”.
When I compare Belgians/Flems to English people, there is a big difference. I find English people more kind and welcoming. I have had many a lovely meal with people I hardly knew. Such a thing in Belgium would be unheard of. My Dutch friend at home told me, it took her three years to get to know some people in her area, because everyone was so closed. She calls it “typically Belgian”. I quite agree. When I moved from London to Esher, the first week I had tea with my downstairs neighbour. Just to welcome me in the street! A year ago I moved to my new home. My neighbours haven’t spoken a word to me yet.
English men in general are different as well. I find they are still very polite towards women. Very courteous and also kind. At least more courteous than Flemish men, who find it normal a lady pays her own bill at the end of the date. Most Flemish women take this as norm now. Having dated English people, my norm is different. I also love the way some (well educated) men walk alongside a lady. A true gentleman, I have learned, will always walk on the side of the road! To be honest, I cant see a Flemish man do this consciously ever!
A blogpost about England. There you have it. I hope I have clarified my love for such a great country a bit. It is a love affair which is still growing strong.