Bitesize Ep 55 - The Good, The Bad & The Ugly of Moving Back to the UK, Pt. 1

Charlie Baxter

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What's this episode about?

In this episode Charlie shares his thoughts on the good, bad, and ugly sides of living in the UK after returning from living abroad for almost a decade. Listen in and learn a load of British English phrases throughout.
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Transcript of Bitesize Ep 055 - Transcript

Hello and welcome to the British English Podcast. If you are new here, I encourage you to head back to episode one to get the most out of this show. But if you're a return listener, then you know the deal. I'm here to give you your weekly dose of British English through a conversation or monologue around culture, loosely speaking. But today we are going to be focusing much more strictly on British culture, because I have been back in the UK for 7 to 8 weeks now after having lived abroad for almost ten years, and I wanted to go through the good, the bad and the ugly with you. A candid look at life in Britain. So let's have it, shall we? Of course, I want to remind you that this is all simply based on my experience of living abroad and now coming to the UK. And more specifically, I am now living in a village in Surrey, which is under an hour away from London, and I've moved from the inner west of Sydney, Australia. So it is city versus village. So that's a big difference, isn't it? But yes, with that out the way, stay with me on this episode of the British English Podcast.

Okay, here's how I'm going to do it. To keep in line with the title of this episode, I am going to go through a good thing, a bad thing, and an ugly thing, which is really a pro versus two negatives, one of which is extra negative. So it might mean I end up complaining about the UK more than praising it. But hey, that is kind of a stereotype of being British, right? Complaining and never being overly satisfied with life. I'd say it's what has encouraged our comedy to flourish and humour to be ever present, because what is funny about a perfect life? I mean, come on, lovely palm trees, beaches, sun and great wine? Well, that's not funny, is it? No, no. Far more comedy in living a bog standard existence forever looking up to the royals, knowing our place in the social hierarchy. And my first good point today is somehow connected to all this, and I feel like I've metaphorically and literally been reunited with the in-group. Yes, I'm sure anyone who returns to their home country after being away feels this, but it's that slight acceptance of not living the high life in a sunny, far off land that makes me think that I'm being welcomed back. And it's it's a nice feeling, not only being accepted but also being in the thick of it. Current affairs all seem closer to home. Again, I'm accidentally speaking in a figurative and literal manner and I also enjoy being on the same or similar time zone to others and am able to share the seasons with the vast majority of people. Because did you know that 90 90% of us live in the northern hemisphere, leaving a mere 10% in the southern hemisphere?

And look at that! I'm already saying 'us' in the 90%, not 'you lot'. I feel so welcomed. All right, before I get too mushy on you, I'll hit you with a round of the bad and the ugly. A bad thing about being back in the country where I started is that I no longer feel different. And because I think I'm the star of my own show, different in my brain equals special and feeling special, well, it feels nice, doesn't it? You know, when you go into a shop Tring-a-ling-a-ling! G'day mate, how's it going? What can I do you for? Oh, hello there. I would like to buy your finest brandy. Oh, well, you're not from around here, then. Oh, yeah? Where do you come from, then? And I've just realised another reason why I think it's nice. It's because people take an interest in where you're from, probably just because it's different for them. So it's mildly interesting for them. But for me, I feel like someone wants to know about me, so they're just asking because it's different for them. But it's- I'm taking it as in like someone, someone's interested in me. So yeah, now I'm back in Surrey. I don't stand out by the way I look or sound. I blend in, and now it's only my mother who reminds me that I'm truly a special boy.

And now for the ugly. The people around me aren't in the same frame of mind. When abroad, it's likely that you meet others who are abroad too. Unless, of course, you are a true chameleon and aim to fully assimilate with the society you found yourself in. So yeah. Over the last ten years I made a lot of friends who were expats at the same time as me, and for that reason our mindset was more aligned. We were interested in the new environment we found ourselves in. We wanted to try a thing, whatever that thing was, for the first time, and we often did it together. The most obvious and mainstream thing in that place was a novelty for us. You know, I'd never suggest going to see Big Ben with my London friends. It's almost uncool to even recognise the iconic symbol of London whilst walking past it. But as an expat walking around the Sydney Opera House or contemplating paying $450 to climb the Harbour Bridge is acceptable and encouraged. It's a topic that is worth discussing and same goes with the everyday things going on. A ferry from Sydney to Manly is part of the fun for an expat, whereas sitting on the underground is a pain in the neck and a waste of time according to most locals. But tourists, well, tourists love to experience the London Underground. It might even be a thing to look forward to.

So yes, I am of course very happy to be reunited with my old school friends and uni friends, but I'm no longer surrounded with expats wagging their tails with excitement about the most impressive and iconic things in the land that we are residing in now. I realise that this round of the good and the bad and the ugly was really more of an expat versus somebody coming back to their home country. So I'll do another round of the good, the bad and the ugly in this episode and I'll make it more UK specific, I promise.

Okay. Round two of the good, the bad and the ugly. The good is university life in the UK. I really, really respect it and am incredibly grateful for it. Now, I'm- I'm not saying there's no other country out there that does it in the same way. But for example, Australians, the majority of them still live at home and go to a local university. And people in the US tend to stay within their state and there are a lot more campuses. So it's yeah, campus life much more than city life. There are universities in the big cities, of course, but I'm talking about the majority. In my opinion, the majority of British universities give students a perfect blend of being part of a university campus and living in a city. And not just any city, a new city. The majority of uni students move to a totally new location and because of that we get a brilliant melting pot of people living under one roof.

It's an opportunity to grow up and learn how to stand on your own two feet and broaden your horizons. I mean, the binge drinking is a bit over the top, but again, it bonds people for life. For example, I've only seen my Danish uni mate once in the last ten years, but there's something about waking up in a graveyard at eight in the morning after a big night, and then rolling over to see your friend try to force another shot of tequila down his own throat and instantly vomit it back up all over his arm without realising I was awake. It's that kind of memory that makes me want that person to see me get married. It's a bit weird to voice that, but I mean, I guess it's a watered down version of being brothers in arms. Going through an extreme experience connects us eternally with one another. I was contemplating making a comparative reference to military service then, but feel like that would be incredibly disrespectful and inappropriate. So instead I'll just leave this comment to linger unnecessarily and move on to the bad. Oh, but I do want to add how a friend who is British but lived in Australia for the second half of her childhood really felt like she missed out on the British university lifestyle that she knew her friends were experiencing. She even deliberately chose to live in a different city in Australia for university. And yet because the majority of students were from that area, they were less welcoming. There were cliques that were already formed from growing up around each other. So yes, I am forever grateful for the university experience in the UK and I am well aware that I didn't even mention the quality of education. Let's see. This varies. It could be the best in the world and it can be a bit of a joke. So yeah, if you're thinking about going to university in the UK, pick which one you go to very wisely.

Okay. Onto a new bad point that couldn't be less connected with university life if I tried. And it's really petty, but hey, it's sometimes the everyday things that count. My shoes are ruined, multiple pairs of shoes are ruined just within six weeks, they're really muddy, completely scuffed. They all look like they are on their last legs. So for all of you out there who are seriously thinking of starting up a shoe shop business, do not start it in a country that has nice weather for the majority of the year. And to really ensure you break even in your first year of business, find a country that doesn't have a big budget in the town planning for pavements in parks. Now, my weird little point here is most likely exaggerated because I've gone from a very urban built up city to a village in a county outside of a city. But still I've noticed multiple places that are needlessly unkempt, thus giving my shoes a real challenge, unlike the land down under. So. So. Come on, Rishi. Sort it out. After all, my- my shoes have a gentle soul.

And the last ugly point I have for you in this bitesize episode is the copious amounts of chain restaurants. Everywhere I go, I see the same old, shitty, inauthentic Italian chain restaurants. I know they serve a purpose, but I will be caught dead before I set foot in one of them again. Oh, sorry. I just got a text from my sister. It's... Oh, it's her husband's birthday next weekend, and she's thinking of booking a table for the eight of us at Pizza Express. Yeah, that would be nice. Yeah. Can't go wrong with some Pizza Express dough balls. Lovely. Yeah, lovely. Sorry. Where was I? Oh, yes. Bloody chain restaurants. They are the worst.

So there we go in review. The first round of the good, the bad and the ugly was that I now feel part of the pack once more after having returned to the motherland where this bunch of miserable, sarcastic Brits still call home. The bad was that I no longer feel special. So if you see me out and about, come up to me and say, Charlie, you are unique. Just like every single one of us. And the ugly was that I'm no longer around people who are in an explorative mindset because I'm no longer an expat and I've got lots of friends and family in the UK that I wanted to come back to see, which I do love. So it's like an ugly with a love, ugly love. Is that a thing? Well, Round two led me on to talk about the university experience in the UK, which I think is exceptional in many ways. I then smoothly moved it on to how my shoes are getting ruined far quicker here than they were in Australia. And I finished on how many f-ing chain restaurants we have in Blighty. But that's all we have time for because it was a bitesize episode. We got through six things, I think, and I've got about 20. So yeah, unfortunately for you this will probably end up being a bit of a mini series, so I will most likely be back sooner than you had hoped to point out another round of the good, the bad and the ugly of living in the UK. I hope you enjoyed this episode and of course that you picked up on some British English phrases that I was using throughout this episode. Thank you very much for listening to the end. My name is Charlie and I am your host on the British English podcast.

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Podcast host: Charlie:
This will be quite a bit harder for you to understand, as there are a number of accents in the conversation, some poorly delivered at times, as you will notice.

Podcast host: Charlie:
But the aim is to give you a variety of dialects in one conversation and some dialogue to give you native expressions in context. So enter, if you will, to Charlie's pub and his imaginary world.

Character: Mike:
Alright geezer, how's it going?

Character: Chris:
Yes, I'm well thanks. How about you? Have you had a good day?

Character: Mike:
Can't say good mate. No my old man he's been giving me a right old earful for what happened on site last week.

Character: Chris:
Oh that's a pity. Are you back on your dad's building project again?

Character: Mike:
Sad to say mate, but yeah, I am. Couldn't resist this one though. Cash in hand, you know.

Character: Chris:
Oh fair play, hard to resist those I imagine. Oh, here she is.

Character: Emily:
Oh, hi.

Character: Chris:
I was wondering if you're ever going to join us tonight.

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