Posts Tagged ‘how to be English’


It’s official. After a week of collating documents, translating Brazilian bills, writing letters and filling applications, we had our interview yesterday afternoon with the immigration authorities in Croydon.
We had this romanticed and naive idea that when they said we had to pay £950 for premium service, it meant we would be received in a plush office, and we’d have to explain a lot of things face to face. It wasn’t the case.
On the positive side, I was told I had scored 22 out of 24, in the “life in the UK” exam, which is been nicknamed “Britishness test”.
In any case, after handing our documents and passports…and waiting for a while, I was granted my residence permit. Stuck to my passport and with my photo!
Now I only have to start paying a lot of attention to the weather, and complain about it all the time.


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Thames and the City

Over the course of the weekend, the Thames south-embankment tranforms into huge outdoors festival. London is always teeming with festivals, and surprinsingly given the unreliable weather, outdoor festivals remain very popular. As long as it is not absolutely flooded with rainwater and the winds are not gale-strong, the English know how to enjoy the outing (I trust so would the scots and the welsh for that matter, but I have not observed them in any considerable number).
But yesterday it was sunny. And quite warm (for mid-September). So it was not too difficult to round up a few friends to go to the Thames festival. The lord had mixed feelings about it (flegmatic as he is, he was finding troublesome to feel enthusiastic about sharing the space with thousands of people). I managed to convince him and off we went to watch the Tango shows, right under the shadow of Tate modern.
It was a badly designed stage, at floor level. That is also tipically English. No-one complained too seriously, though we all voiced our ideas, of how this or that other could have been better that way.
So difficult it was to watch the dancers that after around 20min, we decided to wander off… Too many people meant that we were forced to abandon the river front and take the backstreets. London is quaint and beautiful at places. We were stopped by a couple of middle aged Americans wanting to know where they could get Fish and Chips around there. My English friend felt heart-warmed by this.
On Southwarkbridge there were two huge banqueting tables, with hundreds of golden chairs, like some sort of outdoor communal wedding party. There even was a Mariachi band (three people that is). There were quite popular with the feasters.
It was one of those rare ocassions Londoners have a sense of togetherness. Nobody was too bother by the crowds ambling along. People would even chat with strangers.

Away from London, there is this feel of community all the time. The post-office is more of a social club than a service provider. You must do small talk in the queue and at the counter. In country paths, the walkers greet each other. People have got the time to chat and be nice.
Last week, when we were “forced” to walk around Exeter, we meet a little old lady that insisted on chatting to us and even invited us round to her house. That belongs to a by-gone era. We declined, but she still took us round her garden.
Should we had accepted, no doubt a cup of tea would have been offered. Tea has such a place in British life that it deserves its own post.
But away from the cities, you can be pretty sure of only finding instant coffee, so better stick to tea.
The city of London is fast-paced. People don’t have the time to look at each other, let alone chat. But at the riverbank, on sunny days, it feels accepting and magnificent, calm and vibrant at once.

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