Learning a language isn’t just about grammar and speaking. It’s also about knowing the culture, and where you might be best suited – if you decide to make the move abroad. We caught up with our writer, Erin, she goes through her tips, and personal experiences, of living in the UK. Want to know where’s best to learn? How to sound like a local? Erin can help…
Country or City life in the UK
Where is the best place to live while you’re learning English in the UK? That depends on you. If you’re looking to make connections with lots of people from all over the world who are learning English, big cities like London will be your best bet. If you really want to get into the everyday life of “Englishness” and don’t mind a bit of a slower pace, the countryside is definitely for you.
What’s it like to live in the UK?
You’re not going to blend in – and that’s ok!
When I first moved to London from Canada, we moved to a small town outside London. I went to the grocery store for that first big shop, and asked where I could find the eggs. It was like one of those Western films where everyone turns around to stare at the stranger that walks into the bar. I think everyone within two aisles in that grocery store was aware of my request. And then I had to repeat myself a couple of times.
Smaller towns in the UK
In smaller towns, and definitely in the countryside, you’re going to find everyone is aware of your accent and your language skills, or lack of them. Even as a native English speaker, but not a native British person, I had trouble making myself understood in smaller towns, and even just up in the northern part of the country. Of course, people were much more patient, on average, and loved telling me the local words for things. Even if they did have a bit of a laugh at my efforts at pronouncing them!
Moving to the UK – you’ll definitely learn how the locals speak
The benefit to spending time away from the bigger cities, is the pace of life is often slower and more relaxed. People are more interested in striking up a conversation with a stranger, and wanting to know more about you. You will definitely get more time to practise your language skills in a spontaneous way. I could not believe how many people just started conversations with strangers on the train as soon as we left London.
In smaller towns, people are not as used to people that are learning the language, so you will have no choice but to keep trying to speak English until you can be understood. It’s a bit of a trial by fire, but it will work!
If you’re looking for exciting club nights and lots of other young people, the UK countryside is probably not going to be a good fit. If you watch those old English mysteries where the detectives spend a lot of time in pubs, or talking to people from the fishing association, that’s a better example of life outside of the big UK cities. Without the murders though, that’s just TV.
In the city, you’ll find more people like you
Places like London are full of people from all over, coming to work and study. It might take years before you run into someone who was actually born in London, there are so many people from other places, both inside and outside the UK. This means everyone is used to people who are learning English and you won’t get the stare down.
Big cities = busy!
However, like big cities everywhere, people seem to always be in a rush, so you won’t get a nice conversation with your coffee at the cafe, or a chat with the grocery store cashier. On public transport, everyone plays this game where you’re crammed into the carriage, standing with your nose in someone’s armpit and someone else’s bag is jabbing into your back, but you stare into the middle distance like you’re alone on the train. It’s just the London way. If you try and start a conversation, that’s when you will get stared at!
Strangers become friends
There are lots of groups of people living far from home in big cities like London, looking for connections and friendships. I had some of the nicest conversations with the guys who worked at my local Indian restaurant about their dogs back home, our immigration paperwork stories, how much we missed friends, and everything.
When you’re both strangers to a place, that can be the biggest connection of all.