Monday, 30 January 2012

My first weekend (or so) in London

So... I'm in London! I've planned this study abroad trip for at least 10 months (and have decided to go to at least 5 different locations before finally saying "Hey, I think I'll go to London!" But now that I'm here, I'm glad I decided on London. So, before reading this blog, there are a few things I should tell you. First will be to apologize for the length of this post. I should have posted sooner and more frequently. I will correct that in the future and make them as short, sweet, frequent and interesting as possible. If you need to take a break, go get some popcorn and take an intermission as needed when reading this. Second, I ask that you leave all stereotypes about London and the UK at the last website you read. They are probably not true enough to generalize for the whole population, just like the idea of all Americans are fat and act and speak like the people on American TV shows and movies (yes, they watch American shows over here. I saw The Big Bang Theory the other day).

Ok, so let's debunk a few myths and common beliefs. Lot's of people in the US seem to think that the UK is quite similar the the US: we come from the same background, we both speak English, we probably eat the same foods (except they eat fish and chips, of course!). But really, we are quite different. Haven't seen fish and chips once since I've gotten here. But I have eaten McDonald's (they call it Macky's like we call it Mickey D's... and they laugh at me saying Mickey D's just like you probably laughed at Mackey's), Domino's (which is just as disgusting, if not more, as it is in the US), and have been in the KFC (which they seem to like quite a bit). And I feel I've only touched the surface of the differences. Let's start with the topic on everyone's mind... I know you are thinking about it and I'm probably not suppose to talk about it in a blog that anyone in the world can read, but here it goes.

Drinking. The British drink. They drink quite a bit actually from what I've seen. And it's quite different to see all these people drinking whenever and wherever they want (including walking down the street and getting on the tube with an open can of beer. That might just be a crazy young person thing, but whatever. Oh yea, they don't say whatever like we do). They also smoke. And when I say they, I'm talking about almost every student I've met so far. It's just not as looked down upon as it is in the US. They drink. They smoke. Both are not illegal here. They can do both all they want. I think that the differences in drinking and smoking need to be talked about because 1. People are probably interested in hearing about it. 2. Drinking under 21 here is not taboo like it is in the US. And it's not celebrated once you are able to drink (as far as I've seen). 3. It's not taboo to smoke here either. That's just the way it is. It's quite different and deserves mention as a cultural difference. The best part about the drinking age being 18 or 19:  Going to pubs and clubs. The first pub I went to, The World's End, was really huge (massive in UK English) and had a great atmosphere. It's such a fun place to socialize and meet people. Pubs. Very cool.

Now, about the clubs. The clubs basically look like junky basements with nice bars in them. I'm not saying all of them are like that, but both that I went to so far have been. Sometimes they play music I know, sometimes they don't. At one of the clubs, Proud Camden, you had to have the correct guy to girl ratio, type your email address, and then pay 10 quid (UK English for pounds). It was interesting, but not worth 10 quid to me. In a contest, pubs beat clubs any day. Well, so far.

Oh, and by the way, did I mention that there are 2 different forms of English? There is UK English and there is American English. More than once have I asked someone in the building to translate what they just said into American English. No one yet has been offended by the request, and a few chuckle, so I will continue to do it as a type of joke (But no, seriously, what did you just say?). They say words like 'sick' (meaning something good, which I know Americans understand, but they use it a lot) and massive (no one says huge). Oh, and if a girl finds a guy attractive, she says he's fit, not that he's hot. And the difference in University speak are crazy. Here, you earn levels based on what coursework you've completed. In the US, we call a class a course. Here, a course is a course of study, like your major or minor. I think I might need to make an entire blog about the different words that I learn and the different slang they use.

Let's talk about the building I live in. It's noteworthy because it will probably be mentioned in future posts. It's an interesting residence hall on top of a hill in a residential neighborhood. Note the residential neighborhood part (yea, not a good idea to have a student living facility in a quiet neighborhood, even though the neighborhood is nice and quiet. There are no elevators. Word of advice to anyone going to the UK for an extended period of time:  Don't bring 2 suitcases. You never know which floor your will have to carry those up to. For me, it was 4 flights of stairs on the top floor. Heck, don't bring one suitcase. Bring a backpacking backpack and a carry on. That's all you will need I promise. Oh, and never underestimate the tininess of the room you may get. Part of my desk hangs over my bed. If I wanted to lay widthwise across my room with everything cleared out, I couldn't. And I'm 5 feet tall. Ok, maybe I could... But it would be very close. (PS I just tried... I can).

Also, the other day I sat in a room and watched an American movie with someone from Nigeria, Poland, and Italy (well, Malta). So if you think you will be the only one asking questions, be prepared to represent the American culture and to explain things. And if you think the British accent is the only one you will need to get used to, you are in for a ride! Imagine an Italian speaking English in a British accent. Or a Polish person. Or a Russian. Or a German. Or a Japanese person. London is probably the most diverse city in the world, with at least 10 countries being represented in this building! At least! And just this building! Each person comes from a different background here in the UK, usually looking to learn English. So the accents aren't the only communication barrier; the languages are as well. I always felt like people thought going to London was the option for students in the US that don't speak another language (kinda like the cop out location). But, in reality, I'll probably learn more about communicating with people from all sorts of languages and backgrounds than I ever imagined. And just because people here are trying to learn English doesn't mean that they speak it well, or that you will be able to understand it. Or that they will understand you.

So yea, that's all I've got from the past few days. I promise I will blog more frequently about the cool things I learn while here in the UK. If there is anything you want to know about the UK, London, or something you want me to experience, let me know and I try my best to find out about it for you. Oh, and I'll take some pictures for next time. Cheers!

1 comment:

  1. Dearest,

    I'm glad that you're having a lot of fun in London! You are definitely getting to experience some really cool stuff...I'm also excited to hear about your upcoming ventures into the city.