When I first arrived here, rather than having something I wanted to do in mind, I had something I knew I didn’t want to do. And that was living like a tourist, rather than immersing myself into the culture. I didn’t want to do average things a tourist would do, as that would be best for a weekend trip. I’m here for two months, so I was determined to make the most of it in an organic way!
This step used to be tough for me, but how my life has been in the past year or so, getting out of my comfort zone is pretty much the norm for me. I’ve met other people from the States who came in the same program as I, but I’ve seen it all before. Falling into my comfort zone, hanging out with people literally from the same country while living in another did not interest me at all. So, my first weekend here, and every weekend thus far, I went out by myself! What I’ve gotten into and the things I’ve learned about the culture here has been amazing for just being here in the past 3 weeks.
The Punk Life
My first weekend here, I wanted to see what Camden was all about. So what better way to do this than go to a couple live music venues! I can go on and on about what happened, but I’ll try to keep the story short, as I have quite a few. Camden Rocks was going on which is a big event where hundred of bands come together and play at many of the popular pubs in Camden. I went to Hawley Arms, and the people working there were really nice to me.
Turns out you needed a bracelet to get to the rooftop bar and watch the band performers, and the wristbands were hard to come by as it was the last day! The manager got me in, I met some friends, one of the friends gave me a wristband and I was allowed to enter any venue with it for free. I ended up in the Electric Ballroom which is a legendary venue that has played host to musical talents such as Prince, The Clash, U2, and The Killers. It was an amazing first night and I felt like I really immersed myself into the Camden punk life.
I have an alternative look to me, and I always enjoyed it. It was a look that I hid back at my University, because the lack of being an individual there makes anyone being even slightly themselves would be seen as ‘different’. And personally I just really enjoy the fashion! Although I really enjoy the punk scene, another big part of my identity is within the LGBTQ Community. Back at my University, the only place that had prominent LGBTQ life was within the one gay club we had. So sticking to what I know, I went to G-A-Y at Heaven, which is said to be the world’s most famous gay nightclub.
The long list of those who have performed at Heaven as well as after going, I can see why they were given such a prestigious title. Madonna, Kelly Clarkson, Lady Gaga, Cher, Miley Cyrus, Adele, and many others have been here to perform! Living here in London, it is absolutely amazing how one can be truly themselves, and not have to worry about their own safety or at least, as much as back in the States.
I love meeting people, and getting to know what the culture is like goes beyond the culture of the country itself. There are communities within each culture, and some communities share names. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are the same and from what I can truly say, it is something you can only understand if you experience both.
Now don’t let this paint the wrong picture. I don’t focus slowly on going to live events and meeting people over a round of drinks. I like seeing everything London has to offer, and I try to do so through the eyes of just anyone who happens to call London their home. Meeting people through these experiences allowed me to go beyond nightlife, as the friendships I have made already has made me feel like I belong here.
I know I said I’d say what I thought was different compared to the States, but it’s too hard to really put into words. Everything is different, from the obvious such as brands you are used to, to how people interact with one another. It’s just something you need to experience yourself, but in a mindset that doesn’t keep you from doing so in the first place. I love it here because it is neither better, nor worse than where I am from. It’s just that, it is different, and thats why I am enjoying myself! And now I’m actually more nervous to go back home, as the initial culture shock here was rough at the start. I can only imagine reverse culture shock!