Expat Voices: Anna van Haastrecht on living in the UK
Dutch expat Anna finds the British sweet and helpful but worries that the young women are wasting their potential.
Name: Anna van Haastrecht
City of residence: Southampton, Hampshire
Date of birth: 27 March 1989
Civil status: Single
Occupation: Student at Southampton Solent University
Reason for moving to the UK: I am a BA Journalism student in The Netherlands and for extra credit I was able to study abroad for one year. So I moved to the UK, hoping that in one year my English will be fluent and I might be able to work across the world with my knowledge of the English language.
Length of time in the UK: I arrived in Southampton on the first of September and will leave in the summer of 2011.
What was your first impression of the UK?
The people in the UK are incredibly helpful and nice. Lost? No problem, the British people will help you or even bring you to your destination. People behind the checkout counters in supermarkets or shops call almost everyone 'love'. "Would you like a bag with that, love?" I think this is incredibly sweet and makes you feel at home straight away.
What do you think of the food?
Every night after clubbing, my friends and I always get chips with salt and vinegar. This is a delicious treat, especially with the vinegar. It is something that would never be served in The Netherlands, but something that we should serve. There are also a lot of Indian supermarkets and Indian products in regular supermarkets; since I'm a huge fan of Indian food, this really pleases me. I haven't tasted Fish 'n Chips yet, but I will definitely try it soon!
What do you think of the shopping in the UK?
My student budget doesn’t afford me the luxury to go shopping endlessly, so I mostly stick to the cheap stores, such as H&M and Primark. The second hand shops in the UK are amazing. They are affordable and there is a wide variety. Vintage, '60s & '70s shops, they have got it all. I am saving money to go shopping in London. I have heard amazing stories about Camden Market.
What do you appreciate about living in the UK?
I love the sweetness of the people. Aside from that, I love how the British people are able to work and study hard, but combine this with celebrating.
What do you find most frustrating about living in the UK?
The only thing I can think of right now is how the girls dress and behave when they go out. Even when it's freezing outside, the girls wear nothing but a mini dress and high heels. They also get really drunk. Every time I go out, I see an ambulance carry away a drunken girl. Don't misunderstand me. I love to go clubbing, to dance, to have a couple of drinks. But those girls go too far and have no idea where their limits are. I think this is the most frustrating thing I have come across since I have lived here; those girls have so much potential and they throw it away.
What puzzles you about the UK and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
I'm still not used to the cars driving on the left side! Every time I cross the street I have to think which way to look first. I haven’t missed anything since I moved here. I love to get to know new cultures and I have opportunities here that I would never have had back in The Netherlands.
How does the quality of life in the UK compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
I think you can compare the quality of life in the UK to The Netherlands. They are both rich, western countries. I have also lived in Argentina for one year and that's a whole different story. The north of Argentina, where I lived, is poor and almost comparable to a third world country. People in the UK take care of their country; even though, like the rest of the world they are struggling with the economic crisis, they are doing a good job.
If you could change anything about the UK, what would it be?
At this moment, having been in the UK for two months, I can't think of anything. When I have finished University in Southampton, I might be able to answer this question.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Go out and meet new people and see as many places as you can. The United Kingdom is a beautiful country with a lot of hidden treasures.
Anna van Haastrecht is a journalism student from the Netherlands who is documenting her experiences in the UK on her blog Southampton Calling.
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Anna van Haastrecht / Expatica
Photo credits: kumquatgirl / flickr.com (fish & chips), policeblue999 / flickr.com (ambulance)
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