06.09.2008 17 °C
When choosing London as my study abroad destination, I was curious about how much of a difference there would be between our cultures. Since we speak the same language (sometimes anyway), it seems plausible that customs would be the same as well.
So far, however, I am happy to report that I’ve already noticed a number of differences. The most obvious one which everyone immediately announces is that the British drive on the other side of the road. Yes, I realize this, and yes, I use the signs every time I cross the street that tell me which direction to look. Today, I realized that I actually say “look left” or “look right” aloud as I’m reading it, so I’m sure it’s even more painfully obvious that I’m American than just my general appearance (or whatever the British use to determine you aren’t one of them) proclaims.
Another traffic difference, which I actually find very handy, involves the traffic signals. They turn yellow when changing to both red AND green. Maybe this is for the drivers since I think a lot of them drive manual transmission cars, but it’s really handy for pedestrians too. We can see if we have time to sprint across the street or if the light is about to turn green and the cars will floor it right into us. (When people come home saying the cars don’t stop for pedestrians, let me tell you from personal experience that they are most definitely not kidding.)
Next is shopping. I haven’t done any recreational shopping yet because I’ve been too busy acquiring necessities such as a working converter (which I found) and groceries (which I hauled). One of the stores I went into while searching for a converter was called “Argos.” I’d never heard of it before, but one of my flat mates recommended it and he showed me the gigantic catalogue of their products which included pretty much everything you could ever need, including my converter!
In the States we have stores that have everything. But at Argos you don’t go around looking for what you want and putting it into a basket. You stand at one of the counters and look through one of their many catalogues and choose what you want. Then you take your order to the counter and someone goes to the back to fetch your items! It was the strangest thing! (And in case you were wondering, I actually got my converter at the store prior to this one, but I had to come check it out anyway to make sure I got the better deal, which I did.)
The grocery store was entertaining as well. Or at least it was until my arms got too tired to hold all the stuff I wanted to buy. I noticed four distinct differences at the store compared to the ones at home: eggs are not refrigerated (kind of scary); bread can be bought in a half loaf (convenient when buying for one); they have different candy and bigger-than-king-sized American candy (looks tasty); and sauces come in considerably smaller jars (smart really, because there always seems to be too much sauce once the pasta's gone).