The United Kingdom is a crazy place. Or at least, it seemed it, for a while. If you’ve read my About Me page, or know me personally, you’ll know that I’m not British (but you could question that, with the amount of Yorkshire Puddings I consume).
My parents put me on a plane and brought me to another small town across the sea – where I was drowned in rain and a strange Yorkshire accent. – About Me Page
Although this country is my home now and a main part of my life, it wasn’t always like this. Coming here really was a huge shock, especially for a nine year old and it took years to accept it. However, lets not talk about the deep stuff – save that for another time. I thought I’ll talk about all the little (or big) things in the UK that really shocked or confused me, and even made me laugh.
I actually planned on writing this post for a while now, but I do forget just how different some things, which are now familiar to me, used to be. I always get reminded of it when I have some visitors from Poland – friends or family and they pick out stuff strange to them, which I’m just so used to! So, as well as having a long think and laugh about what my life used to be like years ago, I also had to ask some people of their reactions too.
It’s insane, how normal these are to me now:
15 Things I found weird in the UK
– From a Polish person’s perspective.
British people eat dogs?!
The first trips to the supermarket in the UK could have you running for the plane back home. There’s a reason why Polish people don’t always appreciate a good British pie – because PIES in Polish means ‘dog’! So you could imagine the shock on our faces, before we actually got to know what a pie is. It doesn’t help that the typical pies you find here don’t really show up in the Polish cuisine. I’ve had so many laughs about this with friends and family who have come over to visit us!
Choose one: scolding hot or ice cold?
Not really a great choice is it? I don’t think I’ve seen anywhere in Poland that would have two separate taps! How do you wash your hands comfortably? They either burn or freeze.. You Brits are living the dangerous life! But why? What is the secret? It’s been 10 years and I still haven’t figured it out.
‘Congratulations to my son-in-law’s cousin’s hairdresser for losing his virginity!’
Britain really has a greeting card for everything.. and each occasion has so many versions! Maybe not as crazy as my example, but this is honestly what they felt like when we got here. In Poland, although people do give cards for birthdays or weddings, they’re not as popular and definitely not very specific. Also, good luck finding an entire shop dedicated to them. Maybe a little corner shelf in a book shop? But, being a sucker for greeting cards, gifts and celebrating every smallest occasion, this is one of my favourite things about this country.
How to EAT your TEA?
This is something I was confused about for YEARS, and I always tell my friends about it. Outside of the UK, nobody knows that many British people call their evening meal their ‘tea’. So, just imagine the complete confusion on my face when other kids in school said they had pasta for their tea. I’m sorry, WHAT? Whenever I was invited over for tea, I was just expecting a cuppa.. not a three course meal. At the start, I’m sure I just accepted that British people put food into their cups of tea. Whatever it was, they were definitely having tea every night. I wonder if that’s where the tea stereotype came from? Just a lot of foreigners being very confused about the importance of having your tea at the end of the day?
The bathroom problem.. will it reach?
Another strange realisation was that no bathrooms in the UK have any plug sockets. So, you’re either forced to do all your getting ready in another room, or buy 3 extension leads to reach all the way to the bathroom mirror. First the taps, now this? They’re torturing us.
Illegal bus rides are harder.
You see, in Poland (and many other european countries I believe), you buy your bus tickets in a shop and you just have to validate them using a machine on the bus. Which means that, if you’re sneaky enough (and don’t mind risking a fine), you can just take a free bus ride, as they really don’t get checked that often (the tickets are super cheap though so I don’t recommend the risk). The UK system is clearly a lot more foolproof, but.. God, it really does take forever when the bus driver has to count 5 people’s change at every stop.
‘Hi, can I please have some carbs inside my carbs, with some carbs on the side?’ That’s what I heard when someone asked for a chip butty and a packet of crisps. It’s such a strange concept. And I won’t even mention my shock at some of my first school lunches, when kids would put their Walkers crisps into their bread. Chip butties I have grown to love, but crisp sandwiches are still completely alien to me.
Small or.. small?
Oh yes, lets get this big bag of crisps for tonight! Oh wait, but it’s.. filled with small bags of crisps? I was crisp obsessed as a child and this was really a big problem for me. Especially that, back then, there really hardly was any large crisp packets. These days, although Britain’s catching up, they’re still hard to get, especially when you just want a big ass sharing bag of Walkers.
Are we still in England?
Most countries have some different accents, sometimes slang, depending on your area. But in the UK, you could drive for just 45 minutes and suddenly you don’t even know if people are still speaking English! I was literally learning the English language since I turned three. Then, I landed in West Yorkshire, terrified and my mind blank, but ready to at least try and remember some of the language.. I get welcomed with a fast ‘y’alright?’… HUH? I had to start learning everything in English all over again, I’m not kidding. ‘Mum, why don’t they talk like they do in Harry Potter?’ I was being lied to all this time!
‘You’ feels so wrong.
It felt so weird and abnormal saying ‘you’ to a teacher or an elder – it felt plainly rude. In Poland, we don’t use that word when addressing an adult, unless you’re also an adult AND you know them personally. It’s a little like addressing people with ‘sir’ or ‘madame’, but instead it’s ‘Pan’ or ‘Pani’ and if you don’t do it, you’ll be forever known as a disgusting person. (‘Fun’ fact: China also has a formal ‘you’ for the same reason)
Where are my slippers?
What do you mean, shoes on in the house? That is a concept Polish people just don’t know. In every house, the first thing you do is take your shoes off and then find a drawer full of slippers, not just for you, but enough for 10 other guests.
Please, no milk!
Tea with milk. The weirdest of all. Although I’ve tried it and I can drink it, it’s definitely still weird as hell. It’s one way Britain will ALWAYS stand out from other countries. Never mind the fact that British milk also tastes so different! I was apparently the strange one for liking it – my mum always refused to touch milk unless it was from the Polish shop.
The absolutely reckless.
What are you doing?! It’s RED! Crossing the road when the light isn’t green or away from the crossing is illegal in Poland and you can get seriously fined. I’m quite Britishly-reckless with this, so when I have visitors from Poland they completely freak out, each time.
Are you sorry though?
British culture is very strict in politeness (whether it’s honest or not). ‘I’m sorry, will you, please, pass me that salt? Thanks a lot.’ That’s just so completely natural here, that you don’t even notice yourself saying it. However, a Polish person will just say ‘Pass me the salt’. That’s not because we are naturally rude – it’s because saying that isn’t even considered rude in the first place. Being here so long, I’ve picked up this politeness too, and I actually seem like a weirdo in Poland, when I say thank you three times in a row in a supermarket. You will definitely not hear a ‘sorry‘, unless someone’s actually knocked you out walking into you.
Let’s get undressed!
I think even the British people will agree with me how funny it is, that as soon as the sun is out, whether it’s 13 or 23 degrees, everyone gets half naked and catches a tan (well, sun burn). I really don’t consider it hot enough to undress or sunbathe unless it’s above 26. BUT, I could never turn down a good beer garden in the sun. Guess I’m British that way!
Moving here really was a rollercoaster ride, and as strange as some things are, I love this country and even all of its weirdness. I had a lot of fun reminiscing about the craziness of getting used to living in the UK and there are so many other things that the UK is much different from Poland! I will definitely do a second part to this post, so watch this site for more!
If you happen to find these totally relevant, do share them with other people and also comment any weird things I might have missed out! Also, if you’ve ever been to Poland and found stuff crazy or strange, I’d love to hear about them! Leave a comment down below.
Kamz Online: Kamila Zielinska