As an international student, it doesn’t take long for Belfast to feel like home.
Many people who've lived abroad for a relatively long time know that during your stay in a foreign country, you pass several stages. In the beginning, you may be really missing your home country, your family, your friends... all the nice little things you got used to doing at home. This feeling will soon be replaced by another – the excitement of discovering a new place, new culture, new people. Finally, at some point, you start thinking of your new place as 'home'.
Having lived in the UK for almost four years, including one year here, in Belfast, I've suddenly realised that I've reached this stage of calling Belfast ‘home’. Moreover, I was surprised to notice that I've started assimilating into the local lifestyle and culture. Here are the signs that you are transitioning into a Belfast local
When I arrived in Belfast one year ago, one of the biggest problems was understanding what people were saying to me. The Irish accent is very different from the English one. People speak much, much faster here, with a different intonation and even different vocabulary. So, if you (like me) have never heard it before, you are very likely to struggle in the beginning. But after a year of living in this environment, talking and listening to people regularly, one day you suddenly realise that you not only understand what this lovely stranger in the street has just asked you but actually respond in the way a local would; words like craic, wee, grand are actually part of your active vocabulary now.
If you think that it’s impossible to have heavy rain, sunshine, snow, a hurricane and a rainbow in one hour, you’ve never been to Northern Ireland. The first rule you learn once you move here is never EVER leave your home without an umbrella. Ideally, the umbrella should be made from steel and sailcloth if you want it to last longer than an hour. Rule number two – you need warm clothing. And by warm I mean really warm. Coming from Russia, I thought I was well-prepared for the Irish winter until I actually experienced it. If you are coming from warmer countries – good luck!
But interestingly, after a year of living here, I’ve actually noticed a curious thing – you do get used to this climate. At some point, you stop getting frustrated about the rain AND you stop getting cold! Sooner or later you will find yourself wearing a T-shirt when it’s +10 outside and being fine with it. The next stage is when you actually start complaining about hot weather when it comes to Belfast.
When you arrive in a new city, it's a very common thing to use public transport all the time. You don't really know how to get around and have an impression that everything is so far away. But the more you discover Belfast, the more comfortable you get walking everywhere. Now, I can't even remember when I took a bus last time. Your perception of the distance really changes with the time and you realise how easy and convenient it is to get around this city on foot.
Northern Ireland is known for its vibrant pub culture. That's where people often meet for a catch up, for a birthday party, for an after work drink and for many, many other occasions. Back in Russia, I would go to the pub maybe a couple of times per year as I don't really drink (shocking for a Russian, right?). Here (even though I still don't drink) I would go to a bar or pub at least once a month, and actually find it fun because you can meet and talk to a lot of people you know, meet new people and just see the real life of local people.
The more you live here, the more you know its people, the culture and the history, and it's very hard not to be charmed by this city with its calmness and craziness, beauty and drawbacks. And once you start feeling this love, you should know – you are becoming part of this place.
More reasons to love Belfast
PhD (Hons) History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics| 2nd Year |Russia
I am a second year PhD student doing research on ISIS propaganda. Before coming to Belfast, I lived in London for three years and Moscow for two years. I’m getting used to living in a smaller and calmer city and am now totally in love with Belfast. Through my blog, I hope to tell everyone about my experience of living and studying in the UK. In my free time I love doing Argentine tango, reading and travelling.
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