Last week marked six months living in the UK. What. A. Journey.
I intended this post to go up the day of, but I'll admit...I've been second guessing myself about many things. Overthinking can take a toll on you. That along with deadlines and seminars consistently reminding me that I am here primarily for a degree, have all shifted my energy. There is a lot of writing, reading and discussion involved in my day-to-day. But for the most part, I'm feeling grateful, still and humbled. It's crazy to wake up and say "wow, I'm living here". There is much.. so much more for me to explore. I have yet to visit Borough Market (even though I live like five minutes from this place. I know, I know, there is no excuse), make a trip to the Shard and make some day trips to the UK Islands. Can't say there has been a massive culture shock...I mean, let's be honest....New York City...London...the basic difference other than Big Ben and 42nd street is the accent and subtle change of vocabulary. But then again, this is off the top of my head. Who knows... I can experience a crazy culture shock tomorrow. But, there are a couple of things I've come across that I do want to pin point. Not so much exclusively evident in London, but things that tend to pop out to a foreigner when residing elsewhere. So here are six that stand out to me in-particular,
1. Tea and crumpets please
As a natural tea lover I've come to really enjoy my hot water and leaves every morning. It's crazy expensive here but purchasing in bulk has been working in my favor. I will admit that I've been gravitating towards cappuccinos now and again, and caffeine has helped me stay awake for that extra hour. But for the most part most, although I have gravitated towards a sit-down now and again in a cafe, there are reasons why I shy away from doing so. It's relaxing, sure. But paying to actually sit and eat doesn't help...so I normally take it to go and munch elsewhere.
2. Just Walk
Everything is pretty much close in central London, and if you have the time and want to fit in some effortless exercising, you should definitely walk...everywhere. When Mercy and Yvonne came to visit, Mercy intrinsically decided that we should walk everywhere which helped for me since the gym was closed for the holiday. At the end of the day, we would return to my studio, check our phones only to find that we would be walking 40,000 plus steps a day. Funny, I don't see myself walking from King's Plaza Mall to the junction on a regular basis. I've done it before, but for the most part you'll find my sitting in the B41 headed either direction.
Well, duh. I know, as much as NYC and London have an overlap, there are differences inevitable in the two. For starters, you pay for bags when you go to the grocery. Then again the same concept applies in Buenos Aires, Copenhagen... the list is long. I will say that I see a massive difference in ways of approaching conflict and debates. Besides the heavy saturation of passive-aggressive approaches (which I tend to find myself shutting down once and awhile), the only debate I notice from time to time is that of Parliament, a ten-minute discussion on BBC, Good Morning Britain, or a polite-passive-aggressive discussion in class here and there. People have different opinions, yes. But I also find that it's not at all 'normal' for there to be a discussion of problems amongst colleagues. The most I've had is one. I brought up the subject to my friends here and they agree. There's not much of outspoken-protests here as much as there are in the U.S. A lot seems to be brushed under the rug with no follow-up of any question or intrinsic discussion of some sort. And I have noticed that distinctively.
4. The Doctors
Complete and absolute rubbish. That should be the end of it but after hearing my professor's story this morning on being sick for over a week, and the 'treatment' given to her, I feel the need to elaborate. So allow me, yeah? I understand that antibiotics are shied away from being distributed in the UK, but man...can a doctor be sympathetic once in awhile? It's become so tiring that a lot of my friends have decided to go to private doctors. Another friend has told me that the GP actually canceled her appointment a number of times the day before she was due to walk in. So no...it's not just me. I do hear that pleasant experiences with doctors begin to occur in hospitals. I mean, if that's the case, I didn't know I had to be so close to the end to be treated with some type of kindness. And in order to have a walk in the hospital, without it going through the emergency room, is to get a referral from a GP...which they are also hesitate to give. All in all, it feels like a call to the GP is a waste of time. I've completely given up. You can read that story here.
5. Small Trains & performances
This one came to me within minutes of my stay in London years ago. The tube is tiny. Of course I am comparing the space to what I am use to in NYC, and it's pretty small compared to it. The buses, however, are spacious. Also, as a New Yorker, I am well accustomed to transportation performances either in the subway or in the train itself. I have not witnessed that much since living here... not much at all. There are guitarists, singers and one time even a huge choir caroling in Southwark Station back in December...but other than that, not many. I quickly noticed lingering silence when taking public transportation. It could be that I walk most of the time or that I evade rush hour to the best of my ability, but from my experience, I've really only witnessed performances in public places- millennial bridge, London bridge, outside National Gallery....but so far not so much on the subway. For my New Yorkers, a detailed way for me to give you a decent image is to say that it's the complete opposite of union square 14th street station. Complete. Opposite...yeah. And hey, it makes sense because the trains are small...and rush hour is not something to play with in this city.
I noticed the difference in this one after a good week or two moving here. Now, before I continue, I have to thank my mother for always pushing me to ask questions. My favorite is "why". As a kid, I dare not ask why we were having rice and beans again for dinner, but I was timelessly encouraged to ask why an event in history happened and why a belief was believed. Even through high school and learning abroad, I noticed the subtle education from teacher to student and from student to teacher. I've had great instructors in the past but I'm also not saying every teacher I had was amazing. Even from the bad ones, I was able to learn a thing or two...such as noticing when rubbish is spoken or ignoring them when they begin to speak rubbish (I'm just being honest). Then again, I'm from Brooklyn, and the education system in the city I hear is continuously changing. I witnessed instructors explain concepts, discuss the bad, and then also explain how students are able to make it better and improve the now. Some things I agreed with and others I thought were just ignorant. That's not really the case here. My first class as a post-graduate, I found there is a method of "here-is-what-happened" followed with a "do-what-you-will-with-the information". No follow-up. I'm guessing, but it could be a post-graduate system, thus leaving the students with the decision to write what we will for our dissertations. But it's definitely a system I've noticed in a number of my other classes. In the end, I'm not a fan of it but I want to take it as an opportunity to express my thoughts in my final essay topics...which, in fact, I should be getting to...
Again, I'm sure there are other differences that I've seemed to forget but these are six I've personally noticed here in London. Differences that still jump out to me once and awhile. But when I walk the Waterloo bridge everyday, with a clear view of the city, it reminds me of my adoration for London. Sure, my view from the studio isn't the greatest and my area can get noisy. Still, I enjoy walking through this city and discovering something new. And I enjoy noticing that too.
What differences do you notice in the countries you visit?