A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Being British abroad means a number of different things. Firstly, if you come from the South you must know the Queen, have a butler called Jeeves and enjoy high tea every afternoon. If you come from the North you must be Scottish and no one will understand you.
Evidently these are sweeping generalisations regarding what it is to be British but it’s an indication of what us Brits experience abroad. I have to admit that when I first moved to Holland I fell in to the first category and my accent became somewhat more refined. In the international environment, students continuously asked me where I hailed from and I bridled pompously at the notion that one could not immediately discern that I was English, replying with ‘oh yaaaas, aaaaim from Baaaath, hev you ever been? It’s aaaaabsolutely diviiiiine daaarling,’ in the manner of Eliza Doolittle. It was only when I went home at Christmas that my friends pointed out I sounded somewhat different, mad even. So I toned it down. Nowadays I even sound normal.
Luckily for me, my Dutch friends have a strong appreciation for English culture, speaking brilliant English, several studying English Literature and even hoping to live there some day. Furthermore, I had the good fortune to bump in to an English boy on my very first day at Leiden University. He fell in to the latter ‘Northern and thus Scottish’ category of Englishness. To be fair I still don’t understand him.
For British students concerned that the move to Holland is too big a change for them, I can reassure them that Holland is a wonderfully homely and welcoming place, Leiden in particular. There is also a big expat community if you want to be involved in it.
In Leiden there’s The North End pub where British ales, stouts and cider are served, and you can find your favourite British meals including Sunday roast. The Tuckerbox expat shop sells all the little things you’ll miss like Cadbury’s chocolate and Bad Habits bar is also international and serves a variety of British and American beverages.
You never know, may even branch out and make some Dutch chums!
So take my word for it, you’ll feel right at home in Holland.
(Disclaimer: Side effects include briefly developing strange accents and an unusual attachment to the Queen and all she stands for)