After deciding to study abroad in London, I got many faces when I started spreading the news. “London? Why aren’t you going somewhere different?” I’ll have you know that London is not New York. England is not the United States of America. Yes, my transition from one developed country to another will be easier than people who transition from a developed country to a developing one. Yes, my transition will be easier going from and English-speaking country to another. But that doesn’t make my experience any less exciting!
Many people figure the transition from the United States to England is quick and painless. After all, the language is basically the same–as are social values. Both countries have large populations of immigrants, free market economies and democratic governments. The only major differences are little idioms and such—fries, chips and crisps.
Well, let me tell you that is false. While there are many similarities between the cultures, there are still some walls that I’ve hit while cruising through the transition. First, when people ask if you would like some bangers and mash, they aren’t threatening you with a beating. They are asking if you would like some sausages with mashed potatoes. And zucchinis? Yea, those are courgettes.
It never occurred to me that everyday items would be called by different things. To my flat mates, pumps are what we, Americans, call flats. Yea. Ballet flats. No heel. To me, pumps are those classic black leather heels that so many women above the age of 20 own. And jumpers are sweaters, not those single color, sleeveless uniform dresses from elementary. Let’s not even discuss the various differences in education systems. I’ll just say that their college is not ours and leave that journey of discovery to you.
But the most shocking difference to me, being a Computer Science major and all, was that they have different keyboards. Don’t mistake me. I know that not all keyboards are exactly the same. I also know that there are different formats for different languages. When I was typing on my Thai friend’s computer I was quite intrigued by all the symbols on her keys and suddenly felt a desire to learn Thai. My cousins have Chinese keyboards. But I figured, quite naïvely, that an English keyboard would be basically the same as an American one.
False. Symbols are in different places and above different numbers and there are extra keys in some rows which meant other keys were squished into different shapes. I’ll just say that the night that I spent working on a program in the computer lab was full of muttered curses about keys being in the ‘wrong’ places. Of course, that might have also been frustration talking.
But now I know. After four weeks here, I take no bit of familiarity for granted. When I count the change at a register correctly on the first go, there is an inner cheer. When I say “peckish” instead of hungry, I mentally pat myself on the back. And now I know that I am going to have to learn how to type all over again. Well, I am supposed to be over here to learn, so…bring it on!