When Mayur Saxena went overseas to pursue higher studies in Milan, Italy, in 2015, he was overwhelmed with the warmth and hospitality that the country showered on him. He later moved to the United Kingdom and feels that even though the two countries are poles apart, they have something in common — the beauty of the countryside.
United Kingdom, he says, is dotted with picturesque locales that often prompt him to take off with a backpack.
“I am an avid hiker and the English country side is just perfect, despite the damp weather,” Saxena adds. He tells Little India about his life in Swansea, the teething problems he faced as he moved to the United Kingdom, and his love for the Italians:
Grappling with English Accent
I moved to Swansea in 2016 and work at a multinational company. People from across the globe work in the United Kingdom, besides, of course, the many others hailing from different parts of the United Kingdom. It can be a bit tricky for someone from a different country to understand the Welsh accent, and I learned it the hard way.
Being a manager, I had to lend a patient ear to complaints from my team members. My colleagues would often pour their heart out while having a conversation with me, while I would simply nod, not understanding anything of what they said. Under such circumstances, I would have to ask them to repeat their query or concern all over in a slower pace this time, while my colleague would stand and wonder if I was even listening to them.
I moved to Sheffield in April 2017 and faced the same issues — a new accent, more phrases — and it was as if I had to learn a new language. But I learnt from my mistakes and would warn my colleagues about how I did not understand the accent in this part of the United Kingdom.
The Indian diaspora is quite large and they can be seen all over the country. There is no Indian ingredient that is not available here. Right from Indian spices to pulses, the supermarkets here stock it all, and there are a number of Indian restaurants here.
English Food Habits
The food habits of people in the United Kingdom are very different from what I noticed in Europe. They hardly cook, and everything is straight out of a tin or it is frozen. They seldom eat vegetables and indulge in a lot of fried food like chips.
I am not a fan of the UK cuisine, although I loved the food in Italy. The produce there is fresh and delectable, and there is so much to choose from. Italians are much more hospitable and I have been invited to several dinners at my friends’ homes. The spread is wonderful — right from fresh vegetables, classic wine and some melt-in-the-mouth cheese.
Pub Culture in UK
I was quite taken aback with the drunken brawls that I witnessed in the pubs in the United Kingdom. People here love their alcohol and they are real guzzlers. But what ticks me off is what follows after guzzling down large quantities of alcohol. I have seen many squabbles and arguments after people get sozzled at pubs here. Once a drunk argument took a bad turn, with the drunk man passing racist remarks against an Indian. What was, however, appreciable was how many people in the pub, mostly from the United Kingdom, supported the Indian man and told the drunk man off.
Love for Adventure
I am an avid hiker and love skiing. The countryside here is stunning, with rolling grasslands and hills. Sheffield, in fact, has the Peak District National Park with steep limestone valleys. I love to set out on a hike, seeking some adventure when the weather permits — considering that there are hardly five days in a year when we can enjoy the sun. The views around the country are breathtaking, to say the least.
My girlfriend, who is Italian, and I also loved visiting Scotland. Visiting the Old Course in St Andrews in Scotland, considered the oldest golf course in the world, was quite an experience. It is also one of my favorite places.
Cross-country skiing in Mont Blanc, on the French-Italian border, gave me quite an adrenaline rush. The captivating view, coupled with the experience of skiing, was a memorable experience.
Questions about India
Italians are very curious about India. They are full of questions and want to know if Indians eat “spicy” food three times a day. Many have asked me if cows still roam on our streets. In United Kingdom, however, questions are less, but something that I have often been asked is why so many Indians are in leadership positions in the United Kingdom. My reply has always been that the discipline infused in us right from the start, and the quest to do better in life, drive Indians to achieve heights.
English Sense of Humor
Something that is incredible about the people in the United Kingdom is their sense of humor. They don’t mind having fun at their own expense. For instance, if someone is making fun of their ways of life, they don’t mind adding to it and having a good laugh. Also, their general way of speaking is laced with sarcasm and humor — even though it is subtle — and most times I crack up as I have got used to their way of communication.