Authors Answer 73 – Random Entry

Yes, I’m going to give this week’s AA a miss. Why? Well, the question is this: Jay Dee is moving to Canada in less than a week. In the voice of one of your characters, how would they describe a nine hour flight from Japan to Canada?

Given that I am a year behind on all these AAs, this is not particularly relevant anymore, plus my characters live in a Fantasy world. I would either have to come up with some sort of cross-over story where they are utterly bewildered at being in a big metal tube, or I have to pretend that this might be normal to them. I’m not up to either challenge at present. Instead, I’ll give some random ramblings about my personal experience of moving to a different country.

Back when I was a teenager I was mad about anything British. English was my favourite subject at school (and pretty much the only subject I did any homework for, despite it being probably the one subject I didn’t need to do homework for), and any TV I watched was pretty much the BBC (Blackadder, Red Dwarf, Have I Got News For You; ahh, those were the days…)

Given all that, I suppose it was almost inevitable that I ended up living there. I started off by doing one year at Edinburgh university, and boy was that different from what I was expecting.

Given that Britain and the Netherlands are neighbouring countries, with nothing but a piddly sea separating them, I could be forgiven for thinking that both countries would be much the same. And while in many ways this is the case, there were far more cultural differences than I had ever expected. Having my age questioned when buying alcohol was a novelty. I’m not saying the Dutch don’t do that, but I’d never actually experienced it. Kebabs were also a novelty. There are kebab shops in the Netherlands now, but I’m reasonably sure that either there weren’t as many, or I just never went to one because there were none near where I lived (my home neighbourhood was quite posh – probably too posh for a greasy kebab shop).

Speaking of takeaway food – chip shops. A dutch chip shop is a veritable smorgasbord of snacks – kroketten, frikandellen, vlammetjes, bami/nasischijven, bitterballen, mexicano’s, kaassoufflé’s – damn, I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

What do you get in a British chip shop? Fish. Fish and soggy chips. Last year I made a (literal) flying visit to my family, and on the way back I bought myself a big bag of friet at Schiphol airport, with a big dollop of mayonnaise, curry ketchup and onions. That’s the proper way of eating chips, and I remember sending my husband a picture of it with the caption ‘food of the Gods’.

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Img. 1 – Food of the Gods.

Christ, I miss Dutch chip shops. And Indonesian restaurants. There’s nothing quite like a large portion of babi pangang for your takeaway.

So anyway, before I got sidetracked on food, yes, Britain is quite definitely culturally different from the Netherlands. I always found it quite charming – that excessive politeness which means no one will ever tell me off for not queuing up at the bus stop* and that will make people apologise if I step on their toes. That sometimes infuriating politeness which makes me regularly tell my husband to just be a bit more nasty, for fuck’s sake.

Unfortunately, since Brexit everything has a bit of a sour taste to it. Britain has always found itself too good for Europe – they used to be an Empire, you know! And if the nasty EU wasn’t holding them back then, by golly, they’d rule the world again!

Sure, there are plenty of intelligent people in Britain who realise that this isn’t the case, that the glory days of the British empire (aside from being massively tainted with things like slavery and war atrocities) are more than a century past and will never come back. Unfortunately (and this is true in any country to be fair) the stupid people outnumber the intelligent ones, and they all went ‘waaah, there’s a Polish supermarket in my neighbourhood and I can’t understand what them foreigners are saying to each other on the bus and they’re all stealing my job!’ and voted to leave the single most stabilising institute of the past century.

It infuriates me that I’ve not come across a single Leave voter who has been able to give even one well-reasoned argument as to why we’ll be better off outside the EU. Yes, I know I said this last week as well, but it’s still true. At best you get vague bitching about ‘the shackles of the unelected EU beaurocracy’, which is rather ironic given that they’re happily letting our unelected Prime Minister throw away everything the EU has achieved in the past 60 years with her ‘Brexit means Brexit’ and ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ attitude.

Do I think I’ll be personally affected by Brexit? Not in the sense that they’ll try to kick me out. I really don’t see that happening, despite the bolloxing about with guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens already living here. But everything will be more expensive, travelling to the continent will be even more of a pain than it is already, and the nasty undertone of racism that seems to pervade everything these days will linger for a long, long time.

And do you know what I really, really miss from the Netherlands? Paprika crisps. They’re just not the same over here. And oh damn, I just found an online shop that will ship them here.

*Look, there are several buses that stop at my bus stop, and mine only goes once per hour. I’m not going to stand at the back of a six-metre queue and run the chance that I’ll miss it. Also, whenever the bus pulls up, all the British people just stand there looking at each other with that vague ‘were you first, or was I?’ look on their face that means they’ll be ‘after you – no, after youing’ for at least another twenty seconds before getting on. I’m doing them a favour by hopping on first, because the moment I do it breaks the spell and people just follow. As the Dutch say: once one sheep’s crossed the dam, more will follow.

Back to your regular scheduled AA next week.

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