This update will take place as a rambling of sorts, as it is more of a focus on cultural differences noted during my three weeks in the UK thus far. For those of you who crave a little structure, the general layout will be as follows: language barriers and jargon, smoking, food quality, Edinburgh differences.
English is English, no matter where you English – this is certainly not the case. Even within the States, one catches different pronunciation of words or the dropping of some (as in AAVE, or African American Vernacular English). Having taken Linguistics classes on the matter previously, I knew that in the UK, words would be different, but they would also drop the article ‘the’. This can be found in speakers saying “You go to University?” or another example, “I have to go to Hospital”. For my own personal enjoyment, I have been keeping a list of items that have occurred in the UK, along with their US exchange. Below, I have posted a few of those items from my list:
Garbage — Rubbish
Elevator — Lift
Bathroom — Toilet
Sidewalk — Footpath
Thief — Tea Leaf (derogatory/insult)
Smoking. Smoking everywhere. On the streets, outside every door, in and out of the pub, wafting in the entrances to anywhere you go, clinging to the clothes of some chap bustling in front of you on the tube . . .smoke. This is something I had never really thought about when I pictured London. Instead, it is almost overwhelming to see how many people smoke here. Men and women equally, and of all ages, as well. One thing that I have noticed with this, however, is that most of their packs of cigarettes have ads on them showing pictures of blackened lungs or hold facts regarding secondhand smoke, etc. These are scattered about the sidewalks and filling the nearby rubbish bins, but a public message nonetheless.
At first, I was slightly apprehensive about the food in the UK – those I spoke to had mixed reviews, but it was always either love or hate. I had a 50-50 chance of either loving or hating the food I was about to have to experience for a month. On top of that, being a vegan worried me. In the states, especially those on the West Coast, we have a very ‘hippie’ way of handling what goes into our bodies. This was something I was used to having, a privilege if you will.
However, all of the food that I have eaten so far has been wonderful. The expiration dates come sooner, suggesting less preservatives, and everything I have tasted has been fresh and well-prepared. Even finding vegetarian options has been easy (most places have it clearly labeled – grocery stores and pubs alike). One thing I had noticed was that things labeled vegetarian still included egg. For some this may have been confusing, as some still partake in eggs as vegetarians, while others do not.
Another thing that I have noticed, and was noting with a friend today about, was that their sweets are delicious because they are not overwhelmingly sugary. If they are a treat, such as a cookie or even a chocolate bar, it is not terribly full of sugar – it is made with more whole ingredients to balance it out. The two of us discussed how back in the States, we were not apt to eat as many treats or were more picky about what we ate because of the content of sugary sweetness in them – yet here we had not had that trouble so far. An interesting thought, that is for sure.
Lastly, I had the pleasure of spending this last weekend in Edinburgh, Scotland. It was definitely a place I wished I had made more time for. This would be an area that I could spend months in and never grow tired of. Just a few hours north, and what a difference! First, it was an atmosphere I was more comfortable with, since I come from the Pacific Northwest. I was happy to see greenery, and have an overcast sky over my head at most hours of the day. Second, the people were more varied in styles and expression than London. In London, one sees most people in business attire. Meaning dress shoes, blouses and suits, skirts and slacks, and so forth. In Edinburgh, there were people of all shapes, sizes, hairstyles, and the like, making our little group feel more comfortable without standing out like sore thumbs.
Speaking of the people in Edinburgh. . .they were always pleasant. They were less standoffish as those in London. They smiled warmly, greeted us with ‘good morning’ and such as we passed, and always were happy to hold up conversations during transactions. It was an interesting contrast to those we had been interacting with thus far.
For now, I believe that is all in regards to London, but surely there will be more coming in with each passing day.