Noémie Jean, founder of Eclectic Minds, is our guest blogger this month and writes in this article about how to feel at home and settled as an international person in the UK.
After living in the UK for 14 years and having taught many people from small children to mature grown-ups, Noémie reflects on her first few months as a foreigner here. She writes about how her experiences have had a huge impact on her way of seeing teaching and learning today.
I was young when I arrived in the UK. Young, fresh and naïve. I really thought that my degree in English had prepared me for life in another country. (ha ha)
Truth be told I could write about the Victorian era and the author Wordsworth but did not know the word for “fork” or “hammer” which proved more useful in my 14 years of living in this country.
I had been told to read countless works of art in the literature department and when at university, reading for pleasure felt badly spent time.
In 2002, no Facebook, no iPhone, no tv at hand in my bedsit. I had to find an alternative. I turned to magazines. NOW was a daily read. Yes, the one with celebrities, real life (true?) stories, summaries of soaps and low quality language. Not only did I learn many words Wordsworth probably never used, I gained a great insight into the British culture. Maybe not the one people would like to base tourism on but still. I understood the importance of TV soaps and some popular shows. Slowly I felt more confident with reading novels and have since compiled a list of books to start tackling English literature. Plus, taking part in conversations about pop culture is the next step after the weather.
Food is where people from all over the globe will find common grounds. Everybody eats. Everybody cooks. Supermarkets in foreign countries are a wonder. From brand packaging, to the size of aisles and types of products: it is an amazing way to observe culinary habits without staring at people’s plates in restaurants.
I was 22. Young, fresh and naïve. The UK is the proud country of Cadbury. So I made it my mission to try all the chocolate bars on display at the newsagent. Unfortunately (or not), the UK is well renowned for its variety of crisps and quality of beer. So I tried them all. I am now a Green and Black and Camden Pale Ale kinda girl. Not so fresh and naïve. Not so slim either.
Being the odd one out, the French one, I felt a little out of place, a little inadequate, a little out of touch when references were made of things I had no clue about. So I used the “excuse-me-i-am-french” card a lot. I asked. And asked. And asked. And learned.
The more I asked, the less I felt embarrassed about it. The more I asked, the more I learned how to ask. And the more I was curious about the British culture, the more I got asked about my own culture.
I got asked questions I did not know about France. So I grew curiouser about my own country. Not only did I learn about the country I adopted but also about my birth nation. Do I feel French in the UK? Yes. Do I feel British in France? Yes. Having questions and answers and being able to put words on feelings enabled me to make the best of both worlds within my house and pass it on to my sons.
Noémie Jean runs Eclectic Minds, a new concept for learning with short, fun and quality group language classes, in lovely cafes around Oxford Circus. Her drop-in system works with credits, like a gym, except the only muscle involved is your brain.