5 changes of a Chinese wife in England: on Culture

I’ve slowly picked up some survival tips after living in England since 1996. Here are 5 of them on culture:

1) Always starting your greetings with the weather, not food

Now I say ‘Isn’t it lovely!’ or ‘What a lovely day!’ to greet people, as ‘hello’, as opposed to saying, ‘Have you eaten?’, which is a Chinese way of asking ‘How’re you’.

And, I’ve learnt to agree with people when they praise or moan about the weather, because English people don’t expect you to disagree with them about the English weather. They just don’t.

2) I remember the names of our neighbours’ pets

My son told me off for referring to his pet lizard as ‘it’, or our neighbours’ pets as ‘they’. Ben said it’s rude to call a pet ‘it’. So now I know all the names of my neighbours’ pets.

Our opposite neighbour’s cat is Bella, another neighbour’s cats are Mary and Poppy, and there is a corn snake called Pyro, a leopard lizard called Airren and a crested lizard called Cody.

3) I make a big fuss about English people’s birthday

I’ve come to realise that English people celebrate their birthday as a marathon, because they feel so special about themselves, and they also put numbers on a balloon, so that you know.

For example, my husband would go home to his parents to have a celebration, later another celebration with wife and son. The next day he would buy chocolate and go out for a drink with colleagues, then he would buy DVDs or games for himself to continue his birthday marathon. “But, your birthday was last month!” And he grinned, “So?”

4) I make sure I go to toilet first if watching the BBC programs

It came as a huge shock to me that the BBC has no adverts. I come from a country where you get stupid in-your-face adverts every 5 minutes.

I remembered watching an uninterrupted Hamlet on BBC for about 3 hours one Christmas (p/s: starring David Tennant). That was a bliss, but I should have planned the toilet break better.

5) It is a virtue to be nice to dog walkers and their dogs

We do a lot of local walks in this sleepy little place. Some dogs would get too close to lick, sniff, climb on you and try to pull your arm off. Their owners would be ever so relaxed, saying, “Oh don’t worry, Rover NE-VER hurts anyone!” “He is a sweet puppy! He just loves children!” “Rocky’s VERY friendly.”

I’ve learnt to fake a smile or two and be nice, if I can’t avoid these over-friendly dogs.

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21 thoughts on “5 changes of a Chinese wife in England: on Culture

  1. rhmay

    I had not realised that about never disagreeing on the weather. Now that you mention it, yes, we do feel uncomfortable. The weather greeting is supposed to be a kind of bonding. You must not turn it into a debate.

    Reply
  2. Janet Williams Post author

    I disagreed with some acquaintances before about the weather and I could feel the interaction changed instantly, and subtlely. People simply don’t expect an intellectual conversation about the weather, I suppose. They just want to say hi and move on.

    Reply
  3. Dana

    As someone who’s also recently moved to the UK I found your post quite true and quite funny! You don’t really realise how different your own culture is till you compare it to another!

    Reply
    1. Janet Williams Post author

      Indeed. This place never fails to amaze me with its idiosyncrasies and the weather. I’m trying to register them before I get assimilated completely into this culture.

      Reply
  4. Colline

    People here make a big fuss about their animals too – sometimes treating them better than people and children! One thing they do not allow, though, is for their pet to approach others (fear of being sued maybe if someone is bitten?).

    Reply
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  6. Janet Williams Post author

    English people always think their dogs are harmless. They think their dogs are the sweetest things on the planet. They presume you have to love their dogs too. Have you seen how big some dogs are? You must have. They look more like lions!

    Reply
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