Expatriates in other places often ask me in what ways being here is different from being in England. This question is of significance, because I spent five out of six years in England in a market town the size of the Outpost capital, with even fewer things to do and with its main redeeming feature being that it is an hour’s ride from London. Actually, this is a comparison that frequently comes up when I try to rationalise myself into adapting here or when I am trying to convince Jod to try to adapt here.
Yes, the English market town was dreary, yes there was just the one cinema and a single theatre, yes pubs and restaurants cannot sustain you for ever. Yes, the Royal Army bases made the town no better. Small places are more or less the same everywhere, it seems. So, yes, we were trying to get out of there, we were happy to and we never looked back — but for the friends we have there. Yes, the English generalised anti-europeanism and the working classes’ suspiciousness towards anything that is not ‘working class’ are irritating and disastrous in many respects.
But. There we had our bikes and we would walk. There were (scary and overpriced but, usually, functioning) trains to carry us further afield. Our views, ideas, frustrations and whining were seriously discussed, whether in agreement or not. Neighbours would engage into casual talk with us on cats and plants and trips and apples. Generally speaking, people were treating us as people, not (just) weird foreigners. We eventually won some of them to develop true and lasting friendships with. With the others we would exchange invitations to teas and parties and dinners. Here, three years on, we hang out with exactly two Outposters. Nobody (else) is ever available for coffee, parties or dinners, as they have to be with family whenever they have free time.
So much for the idiotic stereotypes about northern Europeans and their supposedly unwelcoming, suspicious and introverted disposition: once won, even if this takes long, northern Europeans are yours forever (I know Scandinavians, the Dutch and Germans are like that, too).