Actually, after a year of living in UK I don’t really know how to start writing this text. British culture is apparently rather well known among Europeans. Most of us learn ‘British English’ with a bit of culture along with that. I was always fascinated by British conservatism and some kind of difference and isolation from the rest of the Europe. I managed to visit London a couple of times, very popular destination, but in my opinion the capital is not really a representative picture of the whole country. The level of multiculturalism, amount of foreigners, megalomania and worldliness London is for me rather a separate cosmopolitan city with its specific culture and only reflecting some characteristic British symbols like London Eye, Tower Bridge, Big Ben or Buckingham Palace. My adventure with UK in the wider aspect has began since the Erasmus exchange. Unfortunately my home institution offered the exchange only to University of Hull – average but very nice University in terrible and awful city Kingston upon Hull. After eight months of studying there I managed to hate that place completely, mainly because of the architectural, geographical, and cultural reasons. Hull is totally flat, port, located far away from every potential interesting destination (apart from York), ugly and boring, cause there is nothing going on apart from a couple of clubs and events organised by University. Another Hull’s disadvantage is a massive Polonia. The problem with that is, that very big part of that Polonia are Polish coming to UK without any qualifications, any language skills or personal culture, working in second-rate factories and roaming drunk on the streets after working hours being mean to ethnic minorities. I personally had a doubtful pleasure of living for a couple of weeks with a bald criminal who bullied his girlfriend.
That’s it about Hull however, it has got one bright side – University on which I met a couple of really nice people. They helped me familiarise myself with British culture and understand it better, my boyfriend, our house mates and a couple of friends from drama society. Apart from youth slang and recognizing different accents, about which I had no idea before, that’s why I struggled with understanding anything for the first two months, I have learnt some British habits, which only confirmed my opinion about British distance to everything. For example the fact, that being direct is very often perceived as being rude,so many people hide their thoughts under the mask of courtesy to not offend anyone. Well, some people might think it’s right, I guess. Apart from that something that I would perceive as natural thing. You are invited for the party or whatever, ask if you can go with your partner and you get permission – very natural for me. But no, English man will not go without personal invitation. Another observation of my friend, who spent with me half of a year, is that English can’t drink. Well, I am not entirely sure cause sometimes I have been surprised by the amount of alcohol consumed by some of my friends, but it almost always ended with vomiting all around and terrible hangover.
Another important, if not the most important 🙂 case in every foreign country if of course the cuisine. After a couple of previous visits to London and opinions of different people I was assured that English cannot cook and that their cuisine is terrible and bland. After a year spent on British food and stomach problems that stereotype is only getting more true for me. Well, maybe it’s not that bad, as I thought before, although I still think that there I no chance for food to be tasty, food is greasy and fat, and obesity dominates among people on the streets. The leading dishes are burgers, cheesy chips with vinegar, takeaway, curry so adored by British, as well as somewhere after all of that maybe fish and chips, apparently so popular but I didn’t notice that. Some dishes are really shocking for me, like for example cheesy chips with vinegar served in burgers, tortillas, solo or any other possible way. I noticed that pesto is quite cheap and popular here, but pasta pesto is not the most rich food. When I think about leading British dish Full English Breakfast comes to my mind. In theory consisted of toasts, fried egg, fried mushrooms, baked beans, fried or baked bacon, tomatoes, sautéed potatoes, potato cakes and famous black pudding. The amount of the food on the plate is overwhelming, that’s why it is often called full-day breakfast. My culinary discovery of the year is that already mentioned before black pudding. I have heard different terrible things about it, that it is made of blood and fat and nobody likes it. I was really doubtful about trying that thing but in English breakfast I didn’t have choice. Well, that famous black pudding is just an ordinary ‘kaszanka’ (polish dish as well)… traditional English kaszanka. From other popular dishes I can think of it’s Sunday roast dinner – roast chicken, roast potatoes, peas, carrot, cheesy cauliflower, gravy and so on. I would say that it’s tasty if it would have any taste, but yeah it’s good :). Pork pies! Sold in the shops with the size of a tin of luncheon and inside reminding luncheon as well. Crumpets – actually I don’t really know what it is, tiny fluffy pancakes, which you can eat with anything when you roast them a bit. I ate them the very first day I came to the UK with peanut butter and I had no idea I was eating very traditional British thing. Actually in contrast to what I thought before, British cuisine is rather diverse and there is plenty of things I didn’t mention, but I stop here. I love the fact that cider is so popular in the UK and with all the flavours I can think of. After all this, definitely very tasty think I have eaten here is the best beef burger ever – with salad, tomato, bacon, cheese, onion rings, tomato sauce and best in the world sauce made of Tennessee Honey Jack Daniels – Viva la Wetherspoon!
In terms of different experiences – Education. For all those who wish to study in England. It’s horrendously expensive! I had an amazing opportunity to join particularly that academic year when the price of tuition fees has raised three times – only £9000 per year. EU students are eligible to get tuition fee loan which needs to be pay back after graduation but only when income of the graduate will reach £21,000 per year. However, unfortunately EU students cannot get maintenance loan which is available for UK students to pay for the cost of living on studies. In Hull, rather cheap city, average cost of living is, I would say, £100 a week. Renting a room differs between 50 and 90 pounds per week including bills. About 20-30 pounds for food fr a week (I do my shopping in Lidl, cause it’s cheap and nice), apart form that any additional costs like cosmetics, alcohol, entrance to clubs, medicines and so on. Everything depends on one’s style of life, I guess. There is no problem with finding a job, especially when you hand the CV in the right period of time. There is no problem with working along studying as well. Study course includes 60 credits per semester and 120 per year. One module is normally worth 20 credits (10 ECTS), so normally it in one semester you have 3 modules (1 hour of lectures and 1 hour of tutorials a week), and additional work at home and one or two hours of free elective – language/ course/ or any module connected with your course. So you would spend on average 6-8 hours a week on University unless you join any society. In such case you can afford working part time (15-20 hours a week) earning the minimum wage about £6 per hour. You pass modules normally by writing an essay and passing the exam. Essays are, depending on which year of your studies you are, between 2000-3000 words (undergraduate studies). Exams are very rigorous, you have 2 hours to answer the questions from your module, you sit in separate tables in a big room, there are plenty of people checking if you are not cheating and your phone needs to be turned off and placed under your table in a plastic bag. Maybe that is why education in UK is more effective. If you want to apply for studies you need to do this via system UCAS already before 15th of January or sometimes even earlier when you are applying for the course starting in September. Over the next months you fill the next stages of application process via UCAS system as well (high school or college results and stuff). Unfortunately EU students cannot get a loan for Master studies. Another interesting place in UK for studies for EU students is Scotland, cause there undergraduate studies are for EU students for free. Unfortunately I don’t know yet how it looks like with Master studies there cause it seems to be quite complicated. Everything depends on the University you are applying for, some courses are refundable, for some you can get a loan or scholarship. I will work it out and post about it later.
oving towards more travelling aspects of Great Britain, even without travelling much so far I know that UK has got incredible potential in that topic, it is an amazing country with interesting culture and history. There are plenty of places I have read or heard about and I am going to visit them with Scotland and its west coast on the top. The other places are definitely Lake Districts on the North West of England, Malham Cove – my favourite place showed in the Harry Potter VI film, Snowdonia National Park in Wales where you can climb the highest peak of Wales – Snowdon, Cornwall, its fantastic coast and Eden Project(http://www.edenproject.com/
), White Cliffs in Sussex – Seven Sisters, which I have already seen from the ferry (and that’s probably the best view), but it’s always good to see another perspective. Giant’s Causeway in North Ireland, which according to the legend was supposed to be built by a giant as a bridge to Scotland. Apart from that many many National Parks in which you can fully use the potential of the UK: New Forest, beautiful sights on the beach of Dorset, Peak District National Park, Torquay, Hadrian’s Wall – northern border of the Roman Empire, Massive bridge in Bristol, or finally Stonehenge to which you can’t come close anyway.
Travelling in Great Britain is rather expensive. Trains cost between 40 to 100 pounds and higher, depends on the route. You can buy tickets cheaper booking them early enough or having a special Student Rail Card. A bit cheaper way of travelling are National Express couches which can get you almost everywhere thanks to cooperation with local transporting companies. The cheapest, I guess, is Mega bus company, they offer very cheap deals on fares but they do not link many locations, for example ticket from Hull to London return booked about 2 weeks earlier was £20. One litre of petrol costs about £1,34, so you can try to travel by car, its beneficial when you travel in a small group.
If we talk about my travelling experiences with England so far, thanks to my awesome boyfriend I had an amazing opportunity to visit his home area – Wirral. Little peninsula located between Liverpool and Wales and separated from them by two rivers – Mersey and Dee. Both of those rivers accumulate massive amounts of mud which makes beach to grow and get longer. Some of the further parts of the beach are planted by rare grass and plants in which there live endangered frogs and other stuff. From the beach in the Southern Wirral there is an amazing view on the Northern Wales and dozens of wind mills on the Irish Sea. There is a Marine Lake (apparently the biggest marine lake filled by the sea water in Europe) in West Kirby. There are also some windsurfing events happening there and the races of Kite Buggies. Around the lake a nice walking path has been built. A bit more to the North is Hilbre Island, on which you can get during the lower tide and come back before higher tide cause then the Sea surround the island from all sides. On the Hilbre Island there is bird sanctuary and on the west side you can see seals lying on the beach. Going on the dunes from West Kirby to Hoylake I found fantastic rocks of red sandstone, beside that the whole area lies on the red sandstone and it’s the local treasure. The rock were very colourful – red, green, brown and grey, they were fantastic place to sit for a while and admire Razor Clams which I have seen for the first time in my life. Between the rocks and the sea there is at least 500 meters of beach and on that beach you can find many weird things from huge jellyfishes to crab’s shells. In the area there is plenty of amazing places, in West Kirby you can climb Calday Hill from which there is stunning view on the whole area, Wales and the Irish Sea, going down from the hill you can get to the cliffs with beautiful rocky beach full of colourful shells. Going further in the direction of Calday there is Thurstaston Park full of little lakes, dunes, flowers and grass and in its centre there is legendary Thor’s Rock. It’s legendary only cause my boyfriend used to play there with his mates in the childhood, apart from that there is nothing legendary and the rock has got nothing in common with Marvell’s Thor. Although, it’s very nice, full of grooves made by water and writings made by teenagers sitting there. Further that direction there are beautiful Botanic Gardens in Ness. Nevertheless, the place most magical for me with which I fell in love from the first sight was the beach in Formby – Anthony Gromley’s Another Place. Again amazing long beach with the view on the wind mills on the Sea, and on the beach Gromley built plenty of statues of men turned to the sea. And apart from all of that sunset and birds like the icing on the cake.