If I could use one word to describe the culture here it would be distant. Now I don’t mean distant in a bad way at all, but the people in London are really in their own little world. Strangers don’t speak to each other on the street or in the tube unless it’s to apologize for running in to one another. And everyone always seems like they have a purpose when they are walking around here. A couple of weeks in I thought I had mastered the art of “walking with a purpose” but it’s still a little difficult to do this all the time.
I think that a few of the things that are very different about England and America are the way that we eat and the way that we present ourselves in a new situation. I spoke in my last blog about how Americans are perceived as loud and rude, but I think this is just because people in England are taught to be more reserved when they are young. This difference can definitely make Americans seem more outspoken and boisterous at first glance. I am a fairly reserved person, so it hasn’t been difficult for me to adapt to this part of the culture. I also think the way we eat is very different from people in England. In England, you almost always use a knife and fork during your meals no matter what the food is. This is something that I have had to adjust to because I am only used to eating this “proper” during a significant meal and not everyday. I’m not saying that we are taught bad manners in America, but my manners have definitely improved in England.
Some of the cultural aspects that I find similar in England and America are the ways that college students interact with each other. Everyone here on campus is extremely friendly. Everyone was very welcoming and willing to answer any questions that I may have had. This reminds me a lot of the ways that people interact at Emporia. This was extremely helpful when I first started at this university, because it can be difficult to transition to a new school.
I think that when I am trying to make sense of these different aspects of culture in England, I can see that they are very concerned with their initial appearance to other. Englanders definitely want to come off as proper people. They want to look like they have everything put together and I know that this is not always the case, but it is definitely the way that people look.
I am going to use the iceberg theory of culture to describe the incidents that I was talking about earlier in this post about tube rides and how no one talks to each other. I observed these behaviors by just riding on the tube and noticing that most people look down at the floor or have their headphones in during their commutes. I think that what I can interpret from these actions is that people just want to have their own time and not have to worry about others around them. I also think that one of their core values is personal space and time. For some people, the tube ride is the only time they have to themselves so they don’t want to spend that time interacting with others around them. This makes a lot of sense if people are parents with lots of kids or if they just have a busy workday. I can totally understand why people need their alone time.
Until next time!
-Hannah, United Kingdom