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Bruce Bucknell

Former British Deputy High Commissioner Kolkata

Part of UK in Minsk

19th December 2014


We are going home for Christmas.  But we’re only back for less than three weeks, and we won’t be living in our house.  So we won’t have the complete British Christmas that I described last year.  But we’ll be spending time with family and friends, and re-visiting favourite places. I’m looking forward to it.


As representatives of their countries, diplomats should spend some time at home.  They need to keep in touch with their foreign ministries, catch up with the latest developments and, as often as not, plot the next move in their careers.  It’s not always possible to keep abreast of your own country when you are abroad, although there is so much information now available on-line.

Going back is often more of a culture shock than going away – or “reverse culture shock”, as I see it is called.   What you thought you were familiar with, isn’t quite as you remembered.  When you are in a foreign country, you expect to see new things and have new experiences.  You don’t expect “home” to be different.

I suppose this is because you’re a slightly different person when you return.  Or perhaps what you remembered wasn’t quite the full reality.  Or perhaps you see familiar places with new eyes.

I’m looking forward to lots of new things when I go back, but there are also some familiar things that I look forward to.  So here are a few that I hope to experience when I go home:

Green grass:  as long as there isn’t snow or a sustained spell of below zero temperatures, the grass in Britain, especially southern England where I come from, is bright green in the winter.  You can see this greenness from the air, and it raises my spirits when I first see “green England”;

The cacophony of London:  it’s a busy city, full of signs, adverts, and other messages at airports, on public transport, on buildings.  They compete for the attention of wandering eyes.  In the digital age, when we can shut out the world and listen to music on mobile phones, the riot of colours and messages seems even more intense.  This cacophony was my first and enduring sense of what London was, and is, about;

The smell of damp mud:  smells often evoke the most powerful emotions.  I grew up on a farm near a river, where the heavy clay soil turned into thick mud during the wet, winter months and would give off a slightly rotting smell.  While it’s not as strong in the city, I hope to catch a whiff when I go for a walk in one of the London parks;

British car number plates:  I don’t notice that the traffic is on the left hand side of the road.  But I notice the large letters and number of our car registration plates.  They are slightly larger than those of other countries, perhaps because our system still has only 7 numbers and letters.  I’m always pleased to see them;

Sunday lunch:  a British Sunday is not the same without “meat and two veg”:  a piece of meat roasted in the oven, with roast potatoes and at least one other vegetable.  Many British pubs produce an excellent Sunday roast lunch.  I’ve already got one lined up.

Best wishes to all readers.  Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Please follow my twitter feed @Bruce_Bucknell over the holiday period to get a flavour of Christmas in Britain.

About Bruce Bucknell

Bruce was the British Deputy High Commissioner in Kolkata from 2016 to 2019. Previously he was Ambassador in Minsk from July 2012 to January 2016. Bruce grew up on a…

Bruce was the British Deputy High Commissioner in Kolkata from 2016 to 2019. Previously he was Ambassador in Minsk from July 2012 to January 2016.

Bruce grew up on a farm in southern England and enjoys walking in the countryside and visiting wild places.

He studied modern history at Durham University, and takes a keen interest in the history of the places he visits.

Bruce used to play cricket when he could see the ball. Now he enjoys watching cricket and many other sports in his spare time.

He has had a varied career in the Foreign Office. Between his postings to Amman (1988-91), Milan (1995-9) and Madrid (2003-7), he has spent much of his career in London mostly dealing with Europe and Africa.

He is married with two grown up sons.