I have to say, when I first encountered Grantham, it took me by surprise. And perhaps that’s because I didn’t know exactly what to expect.
I remembered the shuttle driver dropping us off for the first time. I began walking around and was immediately overwhelmed with how different Grantham was from a rural American town.
I could actually walk from place to place. I didn’t need a car to get around.
As a girl who grew up in small town America, that’s simply something that I had never encountered before. Americans drive everywhere because everything is spaced out.
One minute, I was in Poundland, the next, I heard a little British child asking their mother for a Cadbury chocolate bar. I had to ask the barista at Costa to pick out how many pence I owed her, the next minute I was crossing one of Grantham’s many crooked streets that are laid out like “the paths cows take when roaming for water” according to Dr. Kingsley.
So from the very first hour I spent in Grantham, I realized how different small town England is from small town America. But I also realized how similar they are.
Though Grantham is small, its hospitality to us is not. The town has the same feel that rural America does, one of welcome and charm.
For example, one morning, a woman at church offered to take me to York.
As a confused customer, I inquired after a woman in ASDA (Wal-Mart’s British franchise) on how to use my credit card to buy groceries. She smiled politely and said “Well dear, I can definitely tell by your accent that you’re not used to this.” She then proceeded to help me purchase my goods with understanding and probably sympathy as well.
An employee in the little café, Panini, wanted to know everything about American life and how we were enjoying our time in England as he made us hot chocolates and sandwiches.
These experiences of hospitality I realized happen in the US as well, just with different accents. I look around and I see people just like in America, living their everyday lives. They’re grocery shopping, they like to get a drink after work, they’re getting a bite for lunch, and other things that Americans do too. So we’re different and the same all at once. We go to Wal-Mart, they go to ASDA. We go to Olive Garden for a family dinner, and they go to a pub. And they love to talk to us Americans all the while.
So while rural England and rural America are vastly different, neither neglect welcoming outsiders with open arms.