Some people go abroad expecting to experience a complete change in culture and lifestyle. Others leave thinking the destination will probably not be that different. I was part of the latter group: having lived in London as a child, I considered myself already somewhat familiar with England, and didn’t think I would have much of a culture shock when arriving here from France. Little did I know how wrong I was.
with pre-drinks starting at 6pm during Fresher’s week instead of 10pm like I was used to, I got very confused, very quickly.
The first challenge happened when I met my flatmates in first year. I realised I didn’t how to greet people in England. Do you hug them even though they are still strangers to you? Do you sternly shake their hand? Or do you just awkwardly stand in front of them and give a slight wave? Needless to say, I was already uneasy by simply greeting the people I was going to live with for the next year. Not the best start.
I then had to learn names, and it’s not as easy as it sounds. With all the abbreviations like ‘Abby’, ‘Gabby’, ‘Tom’ and ‘Dom’ sounding so similar, and pre-drinks starting at 6pm during Fresher’s week instead of 10pm like I was used to, I got very confused, very quickly.
Then came the “guess where I’m from in the UK” game. How is it possible for such a small country to have so many variations in accents? To me, it all sounded just the same, even though I was repeatedly taught how to differentiate the Welsh from the Londoner, the Londoner from the Southerner, and so on.
How is it possible for such a small country to have so many variations in accents?
Next, I did what most of us do in an uneasy situation, and went to find something familiar and comforting. I made my way to the shops to buy cigarettes. But to buy tobacco here, you have to name the brand you want before actually seeing the product shelf. Turns out, England and France barely have any brands in common, so you can imagine how relieved I was when I finally managed to get one name right! However, smoking cigarettes with French people was not going to help me discover the British culture I came to experience, so I decided to go full out and taste the renowned English breakfast. Since then, bacon and beans on toast have been the highlight of my mornings. Yes, I would rather have bacon than a croissant for breakfast, and that probably says a lot.
bacon and beans on toast have been the highlight of my mornings
I realised the simplest things such as greeting people or buying the weekly shopping were what destabilised me most, instead of the big changes like language and location.
The hardest part about being abroad is probably losing the everyday habits you had before, but that creates possibilities to engage in new experiences, and discover new ways of life that may be much more enjoyable!