Cuando la nostalgia se adueña de nosotros…
It can be strange for a British expatriate to hear a foreigner remark how they have always dreamed of living in the UK. We Brits take our little island for granted – too much so, perhaps. It seldom occurs to us that London (or Manchester or Edinburgh) might be highly desirable places to live, simply because we have spent most of our adult lives within a two-hour train ride of said destinations.
The same is true, I suppose, of many Spaniards, when told they are so lucky to live in a land where the sun shines for most of the year and families can eat al fresco without fear of being drenched by sudden, unexpected downpours.
The grass always grows greener on the other side, as we say in Britain – meaning that we always yearn for the things others have, rather than appreciate what we have ourselves. Perhaps the same is true no matter where you hail from.
Having spent over a year in Catalonia now – and currently experiencing a few pangs of homesickness – I am reflecting on what I miss most about my country. Being able to converse regularly in one’s tongue features highly on the list of things I pine for. The nuances and complexities of a language are ineluctably smoothed over when the language is taken from its natural habitat. This is to aid understanding, as there are far too many cultural allusions and baffling social references for non-Brits to understand, let alone non-native speakers.
Nowhere is this sense of shared culture more deeply entrenched than in that most doughty of British institutions – the pub. Short for ‘public house’, the pub is a veritable British institution, a sanctuary from the world’s ills – if only for a few short, hazy hours.
Walk into most drinking holes in the UK (a drinking hole is a jocular term for a pub) and listen to the many conversations overlapping and unfolding like evanescent arabesques. Nowhere will you find a purer form of native English than in the place many people consider a home from home, a place where they can relax and let their hair down (see Tip of the Week for an explanation of this idiom).
Sadly, the character of many British pubs is being replaced by a homogenized gastropub aesthetic, as national chains like Wetherspoons continue to buy out long-standing locally-owned boozers (another name for the pub).
We can only hope that the variety and diversity of language and culture that has for so long enriched British life does not dissipate with the encroachment of these corporate behemoths.
Let’s raise a glass (or two) to the British pub! Cheers!