luton, united kingdom - anonymous' reflections after years there in their 20s

posted by anonymous on 11/13/13.

2

I was 24 when I came there. Before that I lived in Lithuania where I had my bachelor's degree finished. The city I lived in the UK was a small industrial town called Luton, far from the best place to be in England. High crime rate, lots of immigrants, families on social welfares. The only thing good about it was probably a close proximity from London and several international airports.

Possibility to study high quality Master‘s degree in Human Resource management brought me to the UK and relatively good tuition of course (now it’s not so good). I had a preference to continue my studies in another country and it had to be English speaking, because I didn’t want to feel isolated with a language barrier in some other random European country, and UK is quite close for a cheap return home.

To answer about the people in the UK, I would have to include all of immigrants, because there are so many of them, I would not hesitate to claim that truly British people are only 50 % of the population.

It would be kind of alright if the immigrants were Europeans, but they’ve got, Africans, Pakistanis, Bangladeshi, Indians (they are quite alright though), and Albanians. They don’t integrate; there are large districts of their cultural concentration with medieval customs and they usually don’t mix with Europeans well. British, well, they are very different from one another, depends from the location and social status. Some of them can be super rednecks, some alright, decent people. They usually do not hold truth to them, only the government tries to be politically correct, however, I value that straight to the point style.

I did not have a lot of dealing with Brits, probably because my Masters class had only 2 British guys and they had no intention to mingle outside the class. Everyone else was from countries I mentioned earlier and a couple Polish females. However, after dealing with a few Brits, I came to a conclusion that they are not especially fond of foreigners. There was a cute girl in a bar that came to me wanting to get acquainted and asked if I am from France due to my accent, I said “Nope, Lithuania”. Her smile instantly disappeared; she turned around and walked away. This was at the end of my stay in UK and I was not surprised much. There was a similar situation in the US, yet they didn’t care where I was from, they haven’t even heard the name of the country before, but they still would accept me for my personality instead of origin. I think this is where the main difference with Brits lies from my perspective. They are hard to make friends. Since there are many different classes of people in UK, maybe I missed the best ones, but that was my experience and actually many other people would agree with me, but I still haven’t given up on Britain.

Since the world is now more or less open for all of us, deciding where to live is far more complicated, and I am with you on this one.

The easiest friends to make were all international students. Spaniards, Bulgarians, Indians, Africans, Polish..., speaking of local population, quite difficult. I won't say there was no fault of my own, but I made an impression that Britons do not wish to mingle with foreigners. Immigration wasn't kind for the UK in terms of crime. Most crimes were committed by Polish and Lithuanians. Most immigrants from my country are looking for a better life without putting an effort aren't exactly the brightest and kindest people. So I believe a reputation was already built for me before I came there. However, there were 2 exceptions. Some smarter Brits became good mates of mine, probably because they didn’t generalize people because of their nationality. So my social life was quite isolated after all foreign exchange students had left. I even bought “World of Warcraft” to push time, and the gray weather didn’t add up to the mood. I was glad I finally finished my degree and left for home.

How did your race, nationality, gender, accent, etc. affect how you were treated or how people reacted to meeting you in the UK?

The only real problem was my accent. The strange thing is that Americans did understand me perfectly; however Britons had a problem with my pronunciation for the first few weeks. They either pretended they didn’t understand me, or they really did not understand me. In about a month, I adjusted my accent to make it more understandable, it worked. My race probably played more in class where 95% of students were other than white. My class was the most potential source for friends, yet only one Indian girl became a good friend of mine, with others, it was to different culturally, even though there was no animosity to one another at all.

Do you have any observations or stories to share about dating, relationships, gender norms, or sex in the UK?

Britons are quite relaxed about sex. Mentality of sex buddies is present, early age sex life and plenty of very young mommies with children.

Any social/cultural advice for others who might come to the UK?

From my experience, if you want to fit in, you have to become more or less like them.

What sort of work/school did you do in the UK? What's it like working (or studying) in the UK compared to what it was like where you lived before?

Work is hard there; I mean performance reviews, inconvenient schedules. Employment is often seasonal and a culture of temporary workers is strong due to the immigrants. However, if you stand out in a good way, work hard; there is a good chance of career. Studying is relatively easy, little unfairness and grades are fair. You can live decently while working part time and studying. My fellow Lithuanian had a CBR bike, Ford Escort, a roof over his head and a gaming laptop, all from his part time job as a mover. I worked in “Amazon.com” warehouse and some clothing warehouse.

Does your money go further or not as far as it does in other countries and cities?

The length that money can go strictly depends on your location and life style, and it goes further or as far as in other civilized countries. Definitely not worse than in The US. First of all avoid London and probably other big expensive cities, car insurance and repairs drain you allot. If you avoid these things, you can have a decent fat life in UK without too much hassle. Public transportation prices also tend to bite, especially long range and train. Food is cheaper, however. In Lithuania I wouldn’t be able to afford even a half of that for a minimum par time job wage. Average decent room rent in a decent house 250 – 350 GBP.

My favorite thing about the UK is these rare true British cultural “islands” with tradition that is good and not worth changing, decent behavior, language, tolerance for European immigrants. Yes, I was surprised there are still such districts remaining. Where they do understand, that after all, we are all Europeans and more similar in so many ways then different. I expect to see Britain, not some badly tasting cocktail of cultures that don’t mix. Of course being in one of the centers of the world, so many concerts, and other cultural events does impress.

What things about the UK surprised you?

I was surprised there were so many thick minded British people. I though most of them would be as smooth and will educated as in most movies. I was probably too naïve.

What did you miss while living in the UK?

While living in the UK, I missed a good, stable weather. The weather is worse the mediocre European weather. I missed social acceptance, every time I spoke to a British person, I tried to hide my accent, I was even successful for a few moments to trick them I was local, so yes, I missed social acceptance. I was afraid they would always look at me like at an immigrant trying to steal their job One more thing if we are talking about missing cultural phenomena, local British girls have a horrific style of clothing, and I am not a stylist to be picky. In Lithuania they always try to look the part, match colors, shoes, match dresses with their body shape. However, in the UK, everything is opposite, eve I could dress a women better.

Would you recommend the UK as a place to live, travel to, or neither?

Would I recommend the UK? To travel sure why not, there are interesting unseen places and things to do like in any other country. To live? Hardly the best place, unless you can’t stand your own country, but if you are not too picky, have a specific purpose in the UK, you can do well there, but if I were you, I would try other places first, which in my opinion are better like Germany, France, Nordic countries (I limit this list to Europe), you’ll just have to learn their language.

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