It’s quite a strange thing these days for me to go from the Netherlands to England. All of a sudden, I’m in a place that sells OK! Magazine, has an abundant supply of Twirls and Crunchies, and collectively screws up its noses to bikes, yet I’ve travelled less than four hundred kilometres. It’s unnerving.
Paul and I went across to York last week, to see my cousin Kieren get married. Kieren’s been living in jolly ol’ England for the last couple of years, which means that not only is he my closest relative in terms of age (he’s three days younger than me), lately he’s also closest distance-wise.
Strangely enough, the easiest way to get to York wasn’t to fly to Leeds, but to Manchester. There’s no public transport between Bradford Airport and York, so we headed seventy kilometres further west, where we could benefit from a direct rail connection. Again, this inability to rely on the public transport system was a little more familiar to me.
Getting into England is always inherently different from the Schengen zone, which contains the rest of the mainland EU countries, and even Iceland. I was kept for a good twenty minutes the first time I arrived in the country, having to recount my entire five-month itinerary and display all my credit cards until I was given an entry stamp. In comparison, when I arrived in Amsterdam last year, I was stamped after a ‘hallo’. I was worried, thinking I needed to tell the border guard I was intending on staying a little while. ‘OK,’ she replied without blinking. ‘Have a nice day.’
This time entering England wasn’t dissimilar from the first; despite possessing a UK Tier 5 Visa (Working Holiday Permit) I myself began to believe that I must have something to hide.
‘So you’re coming here to work, then. So why are you only intending to spend four days?’
‘Umm, no, actually I’m just here for my cousin’s wedding in York.’
‘So why do you have this visa then? If you’re not intending on working?’
‘Umm, because I don’t actually live in England. I live in the Netherlands.’
‘So you don’t need this visa at all. Why are you entering the UK on an incorrect visa?’
‘Umm, because I used to work in England.’
‘So you don’t need it any more then. You’re here as a tourist.’
‘Umm, no, because I intend to use it later in the year. It’s valid for two years.’
And so on. To assist in picturing the situation, the border guard was giving me a death stare the entire time, I was the only person on the whole plane not an EU citizen, and all of my ‘umm’s were drawn out and accompanied by me sweating profusely. The whole time I wanted to throw my passport at her, opened on the first page and bellow, ‘Look! Same Queen! Lizzie wants me to pass through your border freely without let or hindrance!’
Once I was allowed in, the interrogation continued. This time though, my interrogator worked for the Spar Supermarket in the airport. All I wanted was to get some munchies for the train, and what better travel munchie is there than Pringles? These ones were even more inviting due to a big ‘£1′ discount sticker affixed. When the Pringles in question scanned as three pounds, I objected.
‘How do you know they are £1?’
‘Did the others have the £1 sign?’
‘Where did you find them?’
More sweating ensued and eventually, with a sigh and a scowl, I was given the offending Pringles for the sum of one pound sterling.
Welcome to jolly old England.