A Bison Abroad | Facing Cultural Differences, Similarities


On the surface, traveling to another English-speaking country (like, for example, England) does not seem too intimidating. Media from the United Kingdom is also prevalent in much of American culture. For cultural preparation, I watched shows like “Doctor Who,” “Sherlock” and “Downton Abbey.” Okay, well, maybe more just because they are on Netflix, but they count anyways.

When I came to England, I thought I had a pretty solid understanding of the English way of life. There is tea, of course: afternoon tea, English breakfast tea, tea-cakes, etc. I knew that they would have accents from my point of view and they would use different terms for things.

While all of those things did turn out to be true, there were also far more intricate parts of daily life I had not considered. Do not get me wrong: living in England is definitely easier for an American than living in another country, like Japan. After all, much of our culture stems from theirs.

Here are some of the notable differences I have come across so far in my 18 days living here. This is by no means a conclusive list, as I discover more differences every day. I also think it is important to state that just because these are differences does not mean they are bad — part of the fun of traveling to other countries is experiencing their way of life.

  1. Not everyone talks like news anchors on the BBC. Just like in other countries, the U.K. has a varied set of regional accents, some of which are more specific like others. Also, it is likely that while here you will meet people from all over the world, especially other European countries. This means that you may occasionally have to politely ask people to repeat themselves, but it also opens up a whole conversation: where they are from, why they are studying here, what they are studying, etc.
  2. Everyone drives on the left. Even if you are not driving or cycling whilst here, this is very important for safety when crossing the road. There are different road rules here, so your best bet is to stick with other people and watch what they do to know when it is safe to go.
  3. English pounds currently take around 1.6 dollars per pound. This means that basically you have to add a third of the cost to whatever you are buying to find its worth in U.S. dollars. So, if something is £30, it is really about $50.
  4. Money again. They rely more heavily on coins than we do. For instance, there are coins for one pound instead of paper notes. There is a whole range of coins, including a two pence coin (which is like two pennies). They also call pounds “quid” and pence “p,” which can get a bit confusing when you first arrive.
  5. Be prepared to walk. It is more common to either walk or use public transportation here. To save money, walking is the better option for short distances. Just make sure to bring an umbrella, jacket and comfortable shoes: it really does rain a lot here.

Linda is studying at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston, England. Visit her blog lindagoestoengland.tumblr.com for more photos and advice or to ask a question.

LINDA NORLAND | THE SPECTRUM Admiring the view from the top of Liverpool Cathedral.
Admiring the view from the top of Liverpool Cathedral.

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