I travelled to Manchester 5 years ago, when I was studying my languages degree at university. Manchester is an industrial city and the second largest city in the UK.

I went there with my best friend, and we started working at a restaurant, where we learned a lot of English and met many new friends. We did not want to have any contact with Spaniards because we went there to learn how to speak the language fluently. Every time a Spanish person wanted to talk to us, we pretended to be from Italy. We lied, but our goal was so clear and we were seriously aware that we had to make the most of the time there. Therefore, we did not mind telling a white lie to our own compatriots.

For example, one thing that I found very shocking was that every time I said, “thank you”, the British answered, “you are welcome”, and at first I thought they were really polite, and I kept repeating the word “thank you” over and over again. Since I had a very strong Spanish accent, I took it as they were welcoming me to their country all the time!

One day I was sitting on a bench in a park reading a grammar book, and a lovely kid playing football approached me because he came after a ball that was thrown towards me. We had a chat for a little while and I asked him his age (he was 6), and when he asked me mine (I was 20 by then), he looked surprised and said, “if you are so old, why do you speak so badly?”. He was ever so funny!

When you visit a country for the first time, there are always pleasant anecdotes to tell. In contrast, you might experience some negative ones as well. But the most important thing is that they will make you open your mind and help you learn about yourself, which will help you get by in different situations and contexts, in other words, to survive in some other circumstances.