The first time I travelled outside of Brazil, I was 23 and went to Newcastle, England, to take a course that would last one year. For us Brazilians, very little information about England is available. The difference between the UK, England and Great Britain results in endless confusion and more than a few mistakes. In Brazil we are influenced by the United States and don’t know much about British culture and habits, which leads us to create a few fanciful ideas about the country.
Upon arriving in the land of the Queen, especially in the early days, I got a good few surprises. Over a period of time I became used to all the differences, and I’m now able to list some common misconceptions I had before going over:
1) England is the same as the UK
There’s a lot of confusion about what the difference is between the UK, England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Ireland and Britain. Very few Brazilian geography teachers will teach these divisions. In fact, the UK consists of 4 countries – England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland – with the Republic of Ireland being a separate and independent country. It would also be a good idea to never call a Scotsman, Irishman, or Welshman ‘English’.
2) The UK’s currency is the euro
Even though the UK is a part of the European Union, they use the pound sterling.
3) Englishmen are a bunch of tea-drinking old people
Contrary to images of a land full of women wearing fancy clothes, sipping on tea all day, the reality is that there are a lot of young people creating street art and music (it's worth remembering that England is home to bands like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Bee Gees, the Arctic Monkeys, and Coldplay). In big cities there is a lot of life, and a good mixture of different nationalities and ages.
4) You’ll never see sunny skies
Even though they are not common, and not as hot as Brazil, there is a lot more to the weather than rain, rain, rain! There are beautiful days, full of flowers, green lawns and sun when the British enjoy going to parks to lie around, just enjoying the sun.
5) There is no poverty in the country.
Because it’s a developed country in Europe, this might be assumed. Yes, there is poverty, but the way in which the government takes care of its poor is very different to Brazil.
6) You can enjoy the pubs until the sun comes up!
While the British are very fond of beer, the pubs don’t follow the same late-night, early-morning schedule that Brazilian’s do. Between 22:00 and 23:00 they close their doors!
7) Everyone sounds like Harry Potter
There are, in fact, various accents, dialects and even other languages that have nothing to do with English spoken in the country. When I arrived in Newcastle, I could not understand much of what they were saying. It took me three months to understand the local Geordie accent. In a city like London, there are different ways of speaking depending on which part of town you come from (Cockney rhyming slang, for example, has thrown many a tourist off).
8) Everything is cheaper in England
Not true. The UK is expensive compared to the rest of Europe (excluding maybe Scandinavia). A Brazilian can find cheap electronics or perfumes in the country, but fruit, vegetables and food in general, is very expensive compared to Brazil.
My initial plan was to only stay one year, but by the end, I spent almost two years in the UK, and got to know a ton about this wonderful country and its people. From the Highlands in Scotland, the Lake District in Northern England, the fields of Wales, the heart of England in Birmingham, the beautiful beaches of Cornwall and the amazing people who always wondered, with their typical dry humour, why I had exchanged the sunny shores of Brazil for this cold, gray country.