We are celebrating our 75th anniversary as British Council in the Netherlands in 2020-21 by sharing 75 personal stories from people who have a special connection to both the UK and the Netherlands. Read the 75 NL-UK stories and join us in celebrating our 75th anniversary. Expand the boxes below to read the full stories by Anne-May Janssen and Branwen Spence. New stories will be added in the months to come.
75 UK-NL Stories - Culture
When I moved to the UK four years ago, I didn’t know that I would come to feel so very much at home in this country. Everything from exploring the countryside with its rolling hills, sweet cottages, local pubs (can I get an Amen for local pub food?) and visiting grand historic houses, to sipping G&Ts after work with colleagues in wonderful over-the-top London bars. I love it all.
My colleagues at Universities UK International are excellent people who have been kind enough to take me along for the ride. Starting out though, I did have to decipher the British way of giving feedback and learn that ‘good’ means ‘start over’. So now, anything below excellent is not going to cut it for me anymore.
I have developed a deep respect for The Queue (and give death stares to anyone who dares to cut it), drink copious amounts of tea (without milk – sorry, I just can’t), apologise all the time, and use hyperboles left, right, and centre. This all came so easy that I think I may have been British in a previous life.
Though I am moving back to the Netherlands this summer, the one thing that will always tie me to this beautiful country is that my now husband proposed to me in the Cotswolds. It was the most romantic proposal in the history of proposals (she said completely unbiased) and cemented my years here in the UK as some of the happiest of my life (yes, yes, cheesy, I know – but true nonetheless). I am going to miss you, my dear UK.
But! I foresee many trips back to stock up on proper tea, brush up on British etiquette, and walk lazily through the streets that feel like home.
I wasn’t meant to come to here, the Netherlands. I was on my way to Saudi, as a nurse, for big bucks and sunshine. But a stop-over in Amsterdam and a wander on Bloemgracht woke me up like a slap in the face. Many years later I’m a teacher with a son – big bucks? No. Sunshine? yes.
On that Jordaan flowered bridge, I saw dreams coming true in this enchanting, quirky village-city with it’s magic within reach. And coming from wild and hilly Wales I was right away at home. Both places magical. Both weathers the same. Both landscapes stunning; one flat, one undulating. Both densely-populated; one with people, one with sheep. Both people efficient with words, and upfront. Both very much my home.
The dreams I had on that bridge?
1. to go from nursing into teaching, which came true.
2. to become a mother, which came true.
3. to get to 100, which, if I do, will mean I’ll have lived here in the Netherlands for 75 years!!! Fingers crossed!!
Gertrud and Kees van Erp- Grondsma
Every Dutch person speaks even just a few words of English. And that helps immensely: from arrival at the port in Harwich, Dover, Newcastle or Heathrow airport. At the same time, everything is immediately different: driving on the “wrong” side of the road and using not euros but pounds, for example.
It is an impossible task to briefly describe what the United Kingdom means to us. It is a specific feeling, a virus that has entered our blood and will never disappear from it.
“Blest Island crowned with matchless beauty when Britain first- at Heaven's command-, arose from out of azure main”
We are fortunate to have been able to discover the beauty of this “island” somewhere in the last century and we have been explorers ever since. You could say “Bloody Tourists” (Dorking 1978, 10CC). Mesmerized by the infinite variety of landscapes. The rolling green hills of Devon, the Black Mountains in Wales, the breath-taking chalk cliffs of Dover, Hadrian’s wall, the Cotswolds, Yorkshire Dales, the beaches and rocky coasts of Cornwall. Centuries of history take hold of you in cities like London, Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Exeter, Canterbury or York (to name a few)… You would (almost) like to be a Brit yourself. And so we could continue, filling page after page. But we won't. What makes the UK our favourite holiday destination: the residents of this Blest Island. The nicest foreigners we’ve encountered, ever! And if we'd write a book about this all, we already found the title: “Albion, mon amour”.
Gertrud and Kees van Erp-Grondsma