Before moving to England, I had braced myself for a change in personal interactions. The Brits are a tough nut to crack, one person told me. They’re not as friendly as folks in the Midwest are, someone else said. You’ll be lucky to meet your neighbors, another added. (These were all people who were either British themselves or who had spent a lot of time in the UK, so they had some authority, I figured.)
But I have found the total opposite to be true. My family has been treated so well here. A few examples:
-Within the first two days of moving into our house here, every single neighbor on our street came over to say hello and introduce themselves. There were offers to babysit our kids, many “please come knock on our door if you need anything,” comments, and suggestions for fun outings or places to visit. Our relationship with all of them has continued to progress and I suspect we’ll be good friends by the time we leave.
-During one of my initial trips to the grocery store, when I was still using my U.S. credit card, the machine wouldn’t accept it at the checkout. With two whining and confused kids and a full cart, the manager of the store made me hand over my bags and instructed me to find an ATM. (Ok, so admittedly, he wasn’t a good example of kindness!) I walked away in tears, ready to just give up and go home without any food. But the woman who had been behind me in line found me at the entrance to the store and helped me find an ATM down the block.
-One afternoon I took my kids to our village’s playground. I began chatting with a grandmother who was there with her granddaughter and she invited me to a playgroup that meets in the next village. I wasn’t able to go, but two weeks later, as I was walking down the street with my kids, I noticed a car suddenly stop and pull to the side. That same woman got out and walked toward us to let me know that the playgroup was planning some summer outings. We exchanged contact information and then she walked back to her car and was on her way. I can’t imagine anyone in the U.S. stopping their car to make sure I was in the loop on upcoming social events!
All of this is in addition to friendly and frequent chats in the store with staff and fellow shoppers, an almost weekly greeting by my postman, and so many more examples of friendliness and warmth. Don’t let anyone tell you differently, the English are very welcoming. I only hope I’ll have many chances to pay it forward in the years to come.