For a lot of people, a big part of cultural immersion programs means practicing a new language. Language barriers can be great learning experiences, but they can also be very intimidating.
I’m an English-speaking American, and for many reasons, learning another language was not a priority when choosing my study abroad destination in college. I ended up going to England and visiting places such as Bath, London, Oxford, Cornwall, Glastonbury, Salisbury, and more! Before arriving, I had anticipated a lot of similarities between England and the United States. After all, they are both English-speaking countries, how much of a “cultural immersion” was I going to get?
I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I really didn’t know what to expect. That’s why I’m going to share with you a list of eight things I learned while abroad – none of which were a new language.
People move a little slower. That’s not to say there is no hustle-bustle (hello, London) but there is this overall mentality to take time to enjoy life.
My public school education basically taught me what Hamiton accomplished in two hours. I’m totally kidding, but my history knowledge was limited to that of the United States. England has been around way longer, which means they have even more history that I barely knew.
Not only did I not know what a pasty was, I pronounced it wrong for weeks. I was also suspicious of something called ‘black pudding’ which turned out to be one of my favorites. I realized that everything I knew about food was constructed from American culture. Turns out, beans are great for breakfast!
The UK also has different nutrition regulations, so some of the brands you know and love taste a little different.
Having watched every episode of Skins in high school I thought I was prepared with all the lingo, but I barely scratched the surface. Did ‘cheers’ mean thank you? Goodbye? Congratulations? I had to ask the meaning of a handful of words that I thought I already knew.
You might be thinking, “Hey, why is every channel BBC?” or “Is that nudity on a kids’ show?” Although a large amount of content is made in Hollywood, England has its own programming and rules to go along with it.
I didn’t quite get what people meant by ‘British Humor’ until I arrived. I still don’t know how to describe it except to say it’s subtle and ironic. Take note of the differences in the British version of The Office and the remake of the series.
An hour flight in Southern California will get you to Northern California. An hour flight in Bath will get you to Ireland, and lots of other places.
My Midwestern upbringing taught me that jeans and sweaters are a LOOK. On the other hand, England is a few steps ahead. Sure, a lot of people follow my Jean and Sweater™ vibe, but I saw more than the usual amount of fashion risk-takers while in the UK. The style was bold and very put-together.
Some of the things on this list are obvious, but the point is that I didn’t think these things would impact my overall experience as significantly as it did. There is plenty to learn about a different country’s culture; the language is only a part of it.