For the first twenty seven years of my life I lived (with the exception on one year in France) in England. There, I was one Brit in a sea of millions. Nothing about me to get excited about, I blended in with the British crowd.
And then I moved to the Netherlands and I was suddenly a Brit in a sea of Dutch people. I stuck out in the crowd; well actually I got lost in the crowd of tall Dutch people, but culturally I stuck out. I was the odd one out.
And I came to realise just what being British means. And how British I actually am.
I noticed it in the small things, I saw it in the big things. I saw it on a daily basis. Every time I opened my mouth to speak I was acutely aware of how British I am.
Every time I tutted as the queue that should have formed behind me descended in to a free for all, I realised my Britishness. Every time I stared daggers at the queue jumper in front of me, I realised I was embracing that part of me that makes me British.
Every time I cringed when a Dutchman actually said hello to me as he entered a lift, I felt British.
On every occasion I was greeted in the waiting room by a fellow patient in the Dutch doctor’s surgery, I felt like an alien. A British alien.
Every fruitless search for Branston Pickle and crumpets and proper tea in my local Dutch supermarket left me feeling more British than ever, a despondent and homesick one at that. Luckily my stiff upper lip never let me feel down for too long.
|Even a Dutch supermarket trolley can make
me feel British
Saying sorry as a Dutch shopper rammed me with her shopping trolley opened my eyes to my reflex British quirks.
Whenever I glared at a fellow train passenger whose music blares from his earphones, turning my head away at breakneck speed when the culprit turned to stare back at me, all so they don’t actually see me glaring, I knew there is a British part of me that will never fade, no longer how long I live outside of Britain.
Every time I walked away from the hairdressers looking remarkably the same as when I went in, nodding enthusiastically when asked if I like my new haircut, I knew my Britishness is all consuming.
And that big inner cheer I gave, the fist punch in the air in the empty room, when I heard that Marks & Spencers had finally reopened its doors in The Hague tells me the Britishness inside this girl is here to stay.