I’ve only been here two weeks now but it feels like I’ve been here forever. I’ve made so many friends from all around the world and have been having so much fun getting to know them. I don’t even know where to begin when describing the differences between England and America. I think the first major dose of culture shock I experienced was walking into the local grocery store on the first day. I was expecting to see similar brands and ways of storing food but everything is SO different here. It takes me forever to pick out a few groceries because I have to read every little description. They don’t have Alfredo sauce here and they don’t refrigerate their eggs in the store. Their sweets selection is HUGE and I have found that I have an indescribable love for gummy candy (which I know is bad for me but they taste so good here!) Cost has been a big shocker as well. Everything is very expensive compared to back home but I am learning to live on pasta and sharing meals with other people.
A huge difference between the city of London and the town of Monmouth is not only the size but that there is literally always something to do here. There is so much to see that I know I won’t even get to experience a slice of it by the time I leave in December, which I’m not sure I even want to do (leave, I mean.) I really love it here.
I haven’t done much “touristy” things yet aside from the photo scavenger hunt during our orientation week. I’ve been so busy getting to know people and getting absorbed in the London culture that seeing all the touristy sights as rarely crossed my mind. I don’t have classes Tuesdays-Thursdays which is the exact opposite of most of the friends I’ve made here so maybe I can start to explore the town on my free days. I haven’t went into Central London since the photo scavenger hunt during week one but I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know the area around Roehampton and visiting some of the more local spots.
London is so huge but there are always friendly people you can stop and ask for directions from. I haven’t gotten used to the backwards roads and I doubt I ever will. Traffic here is disgusting and I am still learning to allow enough time to get to my destination. Taking a four mile bus ride takes around a half hour at the least. Everyone drives so close to the car in front of them that riding the bus gives me such anxiety wondering if the driver is going to stop in time. Honking always makes me jump but people honk at everyone here. There are a lot more motorcycles here than back home and many of the riders seem to make up their own laws on the road. People run red-lights like no big deal and J-walking is completely legal. Texting and calling while driving is illegal here but just like home I always see drivers on their phones. I usually walk to the crosswalk just to be sure I’m not going to get hit by a bus. There is painted words on the ground by each main crosswalk that tell you which way to look down the road which is super helpful. Buses are everywhere you look but around campus double-decker buses are more rare. I was so excited the first time I rode on a double-decker but the excitement soon faded–they really aren’t as cool as they look on TV and in One Direction music videos. It is hard to get up and down the stairs while the bus is moving so I usually opt for a seat downstairs if I can find one.
I feel like I fit in so much better here than at home and even when walking alone at night (my accommodation building is a good 20+ minute walk from main campus which is annoying but my en-suite room is way nicer than some of the rooms on main campus) I feel safe. I know London has crime just like any other place in the world but I haven’t felt like my safety was threatened one time since I got here. A group of English students (a lot of the English people I have met have told me they like to be called “English” rather than “British” because “British” is all of the UK, not just England,) basically adopted me into their group as the “favorite American” right when they arrived on campus. I spend a lot of time with them and they never cease to put a smile on my face and make me feel at-home. A lot of the English people question me about the use of guns in America and I have to assure them that not everyone owns a gun back home and it is rare that someone carries a gun with them out in the open.
I’ve found that having to describe Oregon as “the state right above California” has quickly gotten old. And telling people that my home town of Salem, Oregon, isn’t where the witch trails were held has also been kind of annoying. When introducing myself here I always have to repeat my name multiple times but that is just like how it is at home so I am used to it. It amazes me how the English people I have met here don’t really know anything about the Hawaiian islands when the Hawaiian’s have such a strong history with England. The last Hawaiian princess was sent to school here in England near the end of the 1800’s and the Hawaiian state flag is the only US flag to have another countries flag inside it (the English flag, the Union Jack.) I feel so inspired that I can sort of follow in the footsteps of Princess Kaiulani and study abroad in England. We actually passed a restaurant while on the bus last week called “Leilani’s Restaurant.” My friend noticed it before I did and right away we decided we have to stop there for dinner some time soon. Seeing my name like that was such a shock to me I can’t even explain it.
Here are some things I have learned since I arrived here:
- “kip” is another word for nap
- English people do drink tea, that is a true stereotype
- alcohol is a huge part of the English culture but they drink it socially more than anything
- a “hoover” is a vacuum
- English people greet one another by asking, “are you alright” instead of “how are you.” (The first time I was asked this was on my first day here when I was walking into a restaurant. I was so confused by the waiters question that I think I responded rudely by saying, “yeah?” in response…)
- I haven’t met one English student who said they didn’t like America, they all want to visit America and a lot of them have already been to New York and are shocked that I haven’t traveled there myself (then I have to remind them how humongous America is compared to England and that New York is on the complete other side of the country from Oregon.)
- McDonald’s are so rare here and tastes a lot different than back home but have queues all the way out the door (no one says the word “line” here, it’s always “queue.) Most McDonald’s are two stories and are way nicer inside than the McDonald’s at home.
I was worried that I would struggle with homesickness being away from my parents for the first time in my life but I think I am doing well. Sometimes the evenings are difficult when I’m alone but I know that my new friends here are only a Whatsapp message away. (Whatsapp is a free texting app you can use when you have access to wifi.) I greatly appreciate the skills my mom has showed me when it comes to making friends with strangers. If I was an introvert like I was when I was younger, I can honestly say my time here would have sucked.
PS– Nana, I cannot thank you enough for the selfie stick you gave me for my birthday. I used to think they were silly but after using one they are actually pretty awesome. It has really come in handy here.