The passenger always rings twice

February 11, 2011, 5 Comments

It’s been a funny old three days. A short trip back to the mother country and I’ve been feeling out of sorts. Like I am home, but not really. I won’t get into a deep philosophical discussion – “Where is home for an expat? Discuss.” – but I’ll just share a few things that I’ve noticed in the past 72 hours. Things that have made me realise that my body is used to being somewhere other than in Britain. Normal everyday things that you barely think about until they seem odd. Things like:

  • Going to the wrong car door to get in as a passenger
  • Spending ages trying to find the apostrophe on this keyboard
  • Being amazed that Harrison Ford has his real voice on television
  • Looking the wrong way first when crossing the road
  • Noticing that shopkeepers and market stallholders call you love, mate, darling or boss
  • Remembering just how many book adverts there are on public transport
  • Smiling when the cashpoint gives you only small notes
  • Walking down escalators easily because everyone else is standing on the right
  • Expecting cars to stop for you when you’re at a zebra crossing
  • Hearing people whistle in public

As I said, nothing major but each enough to trigger a sensation of not quite being a local any more. That really struck home on the bus yesterday, when I rang the bell to get off. Twice. As it dinged for the second time, earning me a sarcastic remark from the driver, I had to smile. I’m clearly so used to Swiss buses and trams that my finger couldn’t resist pushing the button again. To explain: on Swiss transport you ring the bell to let the driver know you want to get off at the next stop, but the doors won’t open automatically unless you push the button on the pole beside them. Except of course if the button you originally pushed to ring the bell is the same one as to open the doors. Got that? In London, you just ring the bell once and wait for the doors to open. No need at all to push the button beside the door, and if you do the bell rings again. Oh dear.

Having said all that, and despite London seeming now ever so big and noisy, this still feels a bit like home. Just one I haven’t seen properly for a while. Maybe it’s the weather, which has been very English, or the language, which has been less English than I remember. Or maybe it’s purely because no matter how far you go and how long you stay away, the place where you grew up will always be a part of you.

Time to relax and enjoy the rest of my little jaunt to not-so-sunny England. Then it’s back to the land I now call home. It is, at least, where my heart is.

5 Comments on "The passenger always rings twice"

  1. Ingrid Friday February 11th, 2011 at 05:36 PM · Reply

    I love your article. “The place where you grew up will always be a part of you.” So true and straight to the point. It touched my heart and it made me giggle at the same time.

  2. Sebastien Saturday February 12th, 2011 at 12:10 PM · Reply

    As a Swiss living in the U.K., I have the same feeling in reverse:

    * People racing to find the best queue at the supermarket
    * Doing its grocery shopping after 6pm or on a Sunday
    * Being amazed that adverts are not lip-sync on the TSR
    * Looking the wrong way first when crossing the road
    * Remembering just how many variety of cheese or bread are there
    * Smiling when the bus/ train reach its destination on time even with the wrong type of rain
    * People rushing into the bus/train as soon as the door open
    * Not hearing police siren every 2mn
    * Thinking that even busy roads / places feel like a desert or slow-motion pictures

  3. Anina Sunday February 13th, 2011 at 12:23 AM · Reply

    ..and at least we have nice weather here!

    I really like the sentence where you write that the place where we grew up will always be a part of you. So true.

    I actually came across your blog because of your visit at PH Bern. I loved listening to your stories about Switzerland, swissness and crazything about both of it.

  4. jofurniss Tuesday February 15th, 2011 at 03:17 PM · Reply

    I went back to the UK recently, and it took me about 48 hours to stop saying to myself “Oh! They’re speaking English!” every time I overheard someone else’s conversation in a public place. Imagine how annoying it was in a restaurant – oh they’re speaking English, oh so are they, oh and that table over there, oh hang on I’m back in England aren’t I? Der…

    • swisswatching Tuesday February 15th, 2011 at 09:01 PM · Reply

      I do exactly the same! Isn’t it funny how your ears pick up on the English voices so easily?

Leave a Comment