Back in sunny England
Lovely, sunny England is where I began my sojourns in Europe; and so too is it where I'm concluding them. Sunny — yeah, right; as usual, it's cold and wet and miserable here! I'm not exactly ecstatic about being back in England: especially after Spain, with its pleasant weather, its exotic vibe, and its upbeat spirit. But sadly, I booked London as the departure point for my flight out of Europe (many moons ago); and so it's to London that I had to return. In retrospect, I should have tried to fly out from somewhere else — anywhere else — on the continent.
I hate to be negative about my final stop in this part of the world: but in all honesty, I believe that England was a bad first impression of Europe, and I can't help but feel that it's an equally bad final impression as well. And the reason for this is not the fact that I simply hate England (which I don't — I think it's a wonderful country). Nor is it the fact that England is (you have to admit) cold and dreary. The reason is that England simply isn't an accurate representation of the the rest of Western Europe.
After travelling on the continent for the past 2½ months, I couldn't help but find myself a little shocked at the language situation, upon returning to England. Contrary to my first visit (back in October), this time it really struck me how everything here is only in English. In contrast: everywhere else I've been in Europe, many things are in at least two languages — and those two languages are usually the local language, as well as English. This seems awfully unfair to me: why do the rest of the continent's inhabitants have to make such efforts to accommodate English-speakers in their lands; while in England itself, there is no reciprocation of this effort whatsoever? No French, no German, no nothing. England utterly fails to represent the multi-lingual, language-tolerant situation that has become the norm elsewhere in Europe.
But it's more than just the language issue. I really do feel that despite having joined the EU, the UK is terribly disconnected from the rest of Europe. Disconnected by more than a mere strip of water. The UK doesn't seem to share Greater Europe's willingness to put aside cultural and historic differences, and to join together in more ways than ever before. They refuse to embrace the continental currency. They refuse to relax the border controls between themselves and the rest of the continent. And despite being so well-connected aviation-wise, they refuse to properly join the continental train network (Eurail still doesn't cover the UK, the UK National Rail is a joke, and the Eurostar service between the UK and Belgium / France is a privately-owned ripoff).
Seriously, dear old no-longer-so-Great Britain: whatever it is that's stuck up your arse, could you please remove it, and join 21st-century Europe. Get off your high horse, put aside your long-held fears and prejudices, and connect yourself. It's about time you realised that the modern, globalised world is a very big place, and that you'll be a lot better off if you join it as a fully-involved member of the new Europe. Your Empire days are long gone: there's no way in hell that you can afford to continue as a major force in this world, if you insist on still playing it alone.