I’ve been in London for just a few short weeks and yet I feel as though I have acquired many skills and traditions known to residents of London already. Though I’ve been here for just a little while I think its safe to say I’m never going back to the U.S! Just kidding, but like I wish. Anyway, I’ve already noticed differences between British and American culture that while are not obvious are in my opinion better than how we do things in the U.S. I have talked about this with my British coworkers at my internship and with my British professors and they all both agree and find these small things amusing.
For example, one of my favorite things so far has to be the grocery stores. Though the prices are comparative, many times cheaper, the products in themselves are healthier. The dairy is wholly made, the eggs are unrefrigerated (as they should be), and most products contain an overall less amount of sugar and salt—something noticeable to us Americans who are both lovers and addicts of sugar and salt content. Even cereal which is the same brand and kind as in the U.S. has fewer and more natural ingredients with less sugar. This small difference has resulted in many conversations among myself and my fellow American students of why exactly the U.S. is so inherently dependent on its love and culture surrounding sugar—we talk about all of this while we crave our Dunkin Donuts, Chik Fil A, and our American peanut butter.
Another thing I’ve noticed in London is the overall cleanliness and environmental consciousness. London pays quite a bit I’m told to keep its streets as clean as possible, which is noticeable to visitors like myself which compare it to cities back home that are even smaller and notice the lack of litter on the streets. London is also environmentally friendly, most coffee shops/restaurants using paper straws and having a heavy focus on recycling—which includes the discouragement of plastic bags by having to pay for them (which can be a struggle sometimes when you forget your bags at home).
Lastly, something I’ve noticed and discussed with local Londoners is how much I’ve noticed the celebration of women. I’ve noticed the large sections of women’s studies books in bookstores and even large sections of children’s books about famous women in history. I noticed monuments throughout this city and an overall respect for women in leadership positions—something inevitable possibly of a country under a queen and a female prime minister.
I can feel myself truly loving this city and belonging here. I have fully embraced the London art of jay-walking, and almost being hit by cars multiple times I might add (now I am a true Londoner). I have embraced the tube during rush hour, which means having your headphones in and making no noise or any eye contact even though many bodies are crushed together in a cylindrical car. This is living like a Londoner.
During this week I fulfilled a childhood dream of mine which was to see the greatest musical of all time: Phantom of the Opera. I have been obsessed with Phantom of the Opera since I was a very young child, I know every lyric, every dialogue, everything. Needless to say seeing the show in London was basically the best night of my life.
Over the weekend CAPA organized a day trip to Bath and Stonehenge which was incredible. We saw the Roman Baths which was amazing to be reminded that Britain is not just British but built upon Rome and Roman culture. Bath is also a very cool city; wonderfully there was a Jane Austen Festival happening that same day and so the whole city was dressed in period costumes which was a sight to see.
Stonehenge was truly breathtaking. As a history major I am one of those rare and weird people that is frequently frozen in awe of the ancient, and especially of the mysterious—which Stonehenge is kind of both. Being a remain of something so old and that being so close was so incredible for me, my one disappointment was that I couldn’t touch the really old stones (understandable for preservation reasons but the History nerd in me really wanted to touch them).
Each week gets better and better and I might joke about it but I’m kind of serious when I say that I don’t know how I’m going to leave this incredible place in just a few short months.