I’m English (me old fruity)

I did something yesterday that I’d never done before.  I sent someone a text saying “Happy St. George’s Day”.

I’ve never really paid much attention to St. George’s day; this is largely because I spend most of my time playing up the fact that I am, technically, Austrian – born halfway up a mountain in Austria is more than simply a quirky blog name, after all.  However, my usual “I was born there, therefore I am one of them” schtick falls down somewhat when I arrive in the country, unable to fully communicate and having spent 18 out of 21 years living in the UK.

So here I’m English.  And there’s nothing wrong with that, I’m proud to be English, England is where I was raised and I am part of it’s culture.  Being “Austrian” is simply something that makes me stand out from the masses a little bit.

The problem I’ve been finding in writing this, though, is finding aspects of English culture which are distinct from British culture.  I’m proud of British humour, which takes it’s cue from the whole nation’s absurd, self-depreciating, occasionally macabre tastes.  I’m proud of the amount we’ve contributed to literature and science, but authors from all over the country write comparable works and our scientific advances have come about from group research.  I’m proud of the BBC; I’ve met so many non-British people who use the BBC news service and watch it’s programmes, because it offers more balanced reporting and more varied programming, but that of course is the British Broadcasting Corporation.

But then, when I lie back and think of England (har har), I don’t think of those things, nor anything that could be learned from textbooks.  I think of my family and of somewhere I can go back to if all my worldly ambition falls through.  I think of sharing a pint and laughing with my mates down the pub.

On my walls there are two flags, a Spanish flag and an Austrian flag.  I’ve been asked before why I don’t also have a flag for England.  Put simply, Spain and Austria are places where I’ve lived; their cultures and languages fascinate me, but I will always be an outsider to some extent.  England is my home.  And that’s more than a flag can truly represent.

So while, after all I’ve seen, I can’t romanticise the English countryside as the most beautiful in the world, nor the weather the finest, nor the politicians the least corrupt.  I can say that for many years now since first hearing it sung by The Divine Comedy, I’ve always this poem going through my head – and occasionally my iPod – when I return to England from a holiday:

I travelled among unknown men
In lands beyond the sea;
Nor, England! did I know till then
What love I bore to thee.

‘Tis past, that melancholy dream!
Nor will I quit thy shore
A second time; for still I seem
To love thee more and more.

Among thy mountains did I feel
The joy of my desire;
And she I cherished turned her wheel
Beside an English fire.

Thy mornings showed, thy nights concealed,
The bowers where Lucy played;
And thine too is the last green field
That Lucy’s eyes surveyed.

William Wordsworth

And I mean it every time.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Erasmus, Philosophising, Travel

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