A former Campus Press Managing Editor studies abroad
As I sit in a small pub in London’s Islington borough, I’m just over two weeks into my study abroad experience. I chose to study in London for a variety of reasons – the most important being that my high school Spanish was terrible. A common language, an intertwined history, and my Anglophile-ness has brought me to the United Kingdom for the spring.
There are three main things that I have noticed in the last two weeks:
A) The English cannot dance. Every club that I have visited (and I haven’t been to that many) has been host to numerous Europeans slowly, terribly and awkwardly gyrating to terribly remixed pop songs. As Rhianna and Jay-Z’s Umbrella(remixed, of of course) pumps through over-sized speakers, a gaggle of British, zombie-like adolescents slowly sway out of sync. My American cohorts and I know how to dance from years of practice at house parties and Mexican spring breaks. It seems to be ingrained in our American-educated minds that we must thrust, jump and pulsate in rhythm with the too-loud music. One Irishman outside of a concert I was waiting to get into described American dancing as a series of “loose funk maneuvers”.
B) The U.K. has not discovered ice. Seemingly universal, ice, known scientifically as “frozen water”, is virtually absent in England. Ice is not commonly served in drinks; water is lacking its symbiosis with its colder counterpart. No one here seems to understand when ice is ordered with a drink, either. I went to a restaurant last night and ordered ice water. Emphasis on the ICE. The waiter stared at me. “Tap water?” he asked. “Yes.” I was defeated.
C) I have noticed that the English are vigilantly careful about not inconveniencing others. They move out of the way on the subway, they quickly throw everything off the empty chair next to them if someone even looks like they want to sit down. In my experience, the English are also very apologetic if they perceive themselves getting in the way of someone else. I went to the grocery store the other day with an American friend, and when we were leaving, her bag was bursting and at the conceivable point of ripping. We walked down the street, and a few feet ahead was a native Englishman walking towards us. We had that awkward who-will-move-for-who moment just as her bag ripped, sending the food rolling down the sidewalk. The native figured it was his fault and apologized profusely.
To live abroad is an enlightening experience, one in which I have found myself saying to myself on more than one occasion, “What’s going on here?”
I look forward to filing more dispatches as the semester progresses.
London – Jan 25, 2008