Seriously, though. Let’s get this straight: Yes, I have officially encountered the meaning of “culture shock” in the UK, and, yes, there are exactly six words beginning with the letter T that quickly define my experience in the UK.
DISCLAIMER: You WILL want to drink tea. Also, “tea” is not real tea… But you’ll thank me later!
Let’s start with perhaps the most obvious T-word:
Time. Before I flew across the pond, a six-hour time change didn’t seem all that intimidating.
What was I thinking?!? I’ll tell you what: It’s not easy. Talking to the ‘rents and (wait for it…) even the significant others is far from an easy task.
Picture this: It’s 8 o’clock in the morning in England. The sun has just barely risen, shimmering her golden rays onto our fresh faces, as the roomie and I trot our way through the snow and up the hill into the refectory to eat a tired breakfast before Monday morning’s lecture begins…
Meanwhile, it’s 2am back in the States, and mom’s rolling over in bed to tell dad, once again, to “stop that snoring!!!”
Oh, the sentiment! The good news is that you don’t have to hear from mom at 2 in the morning.
Toilets. Ah, my personal favorite: toilets. What would we do without ‘em? Studying abroad certainly answered that one for me! Oddly enough, finding a bathroom (eh hem, toilet) has truly transformed into a full-time job, especially in the public setting.
Now, I will be straightforward in admitting that I have a water-drinking problem, so it is possible that I need to use the Ladies more often than the average human. Regardless, there are definitely less toilets in the UK, and I would know!
Upon my first-time arrival in London, it was only fitting to immediately find a bathroom. Relieved when finally spotting a “toilet” sign in The Tube, I ran to the entrance, only to be greeted by… a toll? There was a fee to pee! Of course this was an interesting experience because I still didn’t know the difference between a pence and a pound.
Speaking of prices… On a lighter note, we have
Tips. …or do we? Whether or not to tip the waiter, waitress, or bartender and, if so, how much seemed to be a continuously floating question for a while. However, thankfully, due to the Brits’ pretty hefty minimum wage, tipping is completely unnecessary.
Yep, that’s right! And, of course, this could mean only one thing: Drink more!
. . . Tea? You know what they say about the Brits? Me neither. But I do know that the British habit of fast-talking is most likely to make up for the lost time we spend drinking! And, by now, you’ve hopefully caught on that I’m not just talking tea, people.
Speaking of booze, it’s expensive. Which brings me to the “GBP” part of the equation, more commonly referred to as the British Pound.
I may be a mathematical genius (as clearly demonstrated by the very title of this post), but currency conversion is an entirely different story.
According to XE.com’s nifty currency exchange rate app, I can tell you that one British Pound is equivalent to one US Dollar and fifty-two cents.
But check back in 10 minutes, and it may be different! The exchange rate system is something that still often catches me off-guard. At least I know that a pence is like the British version of a penny… Right?? Right.
Talk (& Telephone, if you’re lucky).
“Talk is cheap.” – a beautiful quote, written by someone who has yet to encounter an International cellphone plan.
Can Wireless Internet fall under this category, too? Facebook and Skype are supposedly the ways to go about Study-Abroad communication, but no one mentioned the scarcity of a free Internet connection! This is when our American-beloved Micky D’s and Starbucks come in clutch. They are often the only public settings to offer wi-fi service, free of charge.
Aaaand we’re back to the Pound!
Trust. Fear not, parents! You can trust these tea-drinking Brits with your wee ones… When Sally leaves a pound or two extra on the pub counter as a tip (or maybe even her Passport and credit card… Yep, guilty…), you can at least be sure that the kind, young bartender will run after her in order to safely secure the “misplaced” change.
Indeed, I will be the first to admit that it is not uncommon to feel a bit misplaced, here, in my new home. However, waking up to an alarm clock is particularly less painful when I look out my dorm window, only to gaze upon the dewy English hillside, accompanied by the old, yet powerful, beauty of castle-structured Harlaxton Manor.
Yes, it is undoubtedly during such moments that I realize the rare privilege I have received by spending a semester abroad.
Sure, a few extra pounds may have been sacrificed, but this culture-shocking experience is a priceless one, for sure.
University of Evansville, Harlaxton College
BFA Theatre Performance '17
Assistant, Special Projects & Events