Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford. – Samuel Johnson
I can’t believe that my first week in London is already over. It seems as though it has gone by both quickly and slowly at the same time. Life in this city is so vivacious and fast-paced that I threw myself into it unquestioningly for fear of being left behind if I tried to test the waters. But in the moments of stillness late at night when I think of everything back home, I see how slowly the time has actually gone.
I have never felt more at home in a foreign place though. I feel incredibly safe and unafraid of the city. As long as I have my journal, museum guidebook, map, and my oyster card for the tube (subway), I have unlimited access to history, art, theatre, and most importantly: life.
So far, outside of class, I have done a huge variety of things here in London. Particularly in the realms of museums and theatres (which I will be going into great detail about in my next two blog posts).
Thus far, London has absolutely blown my expectations out of the water. I have been shown nothing but kindness when I have been lost (or as I like to call it: on an adventure) or didn’t know what to do. The city and its people have been so open and kind to me, it is truly incredible for such a large city.
I think that because we speak the same language as they do here that we greatly downplay the cultural differences between the United States and the United Kingdom. There are the more well-known differences such as driving on the “wrong” side of the road, and having thick (however beautiful) accents. But I have been seeing so much more than that just by observing people in shops, restaurants, the tube, etc.
In America, the UK is sort of summarized by the celebrities who are very popular. Right now, One Direction is pretty popular. And we base our ideas of British music around the most forthcoming example of it. But there are musicians who audition in London to play in the tube. I thought that was incredible and provides a much more accurate picture of music here than anything Harry Styles could croon out.
Even though the primary language being spoken is English, there are many synonyms and cultural colloquialisms that can make it seem as if you were speaking a different language. Some examples I’ve run into have included:
line = queue
subway = tube
intermission = interval
buck (referring to a dollar) = quid (referring to a pound)
These are words we all know as English speakers, but they have very different connotations here. It takes you a minute to process what they mean when they use words like this.
Overall, I just sense a difference in the way people carry themselves and conduct themselves here. It just seems to be much more respectful and friendly than most of the decorum demonstrated in the states.
But the largest difference, and my favorite difference, is the mixing of race, culture, and gender that happens everywhere in London: on the streets, in the museums, in line for coffee, in a pub, on the tube, etc. No matter what you are doing, you are blending with cultures that you may have never even known about before. This mixing action defines the basis of humanity on a global scale, and to experience this to such a full extent is incredible and what, I think, makes study abroad meaningful and life-changing to so many students who go. It is a beautiful experience, and I wish that everyone in the universe could experience something so precious and necessary to life.