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Culture Shock in England


I thought I'd write out some cultural differences I've experienced in the past couple weeks for all to enjoy!
On 20 Sep, at the London Euston train station, they were cancelling every other train up to Manchester due to signalling problems in the Trent Valley. That meant there were like three trains worth of people on my train. Everyone was waiting out on the main concourse in semicircles staring up at the big boards waiting for their train to arrive and begin loading. When the train to Manchester finally arrived (late) and they had finished unloading and preparing, they announced that the train was ready to load, and just about everyone on the main concourse just swarmed off to the platform…
It's French custom for friends to press opposite cheeks and kiss when they meet and depart, for both men and women. My first friends here at Keele were all French and did not realize immediately that we Americans like to keep our separation.
Brits are part of a polite society. So, they dislike how loud North Americans (ie Canadians) can be when they talk. Also, to get good service, you must start with "I'm sorry to bother you, but…" I also found people are more willing to say "hello", or just smile, as they pass and will come to your aide if you're struggling up stairs with a heavy suitcase.
Brits love to drink all the time. At a nice reception with free dinner, we were offered free wine and beer, but had to pay a pound ($2) for a coke. This university has two clubs and various other bars across campus. Alcohol is also sold in the university's convienence store. You'll find that Brits like to get drunk every night.
The food spoils quickly. Open up a container of milk, ham, orange juice, turkey, or chicken and it'll go bad after three days.
They put butter on their ham sandwiches, not mayonaisse or mustard. They do, however, have mustard-coated deli ham and breaded deli ham.
If you eat a burger with coke, the French will point out you're eating a "very American" dinner.
The university degree programmes are very structured. They determine the classes you have to take and tell you when you can take them, you have no say. Actually, they will mix up the specific class lectures from week to week. So, in a single time-slot, you may have one module, but next week it'll be for your other module (class). So, although they give you nice timetable for the week, there's a separate weekly timetable showing what you'll actually be learning about each week. Well, that's how it is in Physics anyway. Math's a lot more like here in America. The classes, though, certainly do not follow our structured scheduling. One of my classes meets ThF, another MTuF, another MTuTh and they each can meet at a different time and location each day. Lastly, when the class is scheduled for an hour, they mean the full hour. The professor may actually arrive a couple minutes late and start a couple minutes after that, but we do not actually leave until it's almost right on the hour. So, no ten/fifteen minute break to socialize and get to your next class, you just better go as soon as class lets out.
I had to register with the health centre (center) in person last week. When I was in the waiting room waiting to talk to a nurse about my medical history, I noticed they had an electronic message board up. A couple times I heard a beep. I had no idea what it was, so I ignored it. When I was in there again to wait to get the vaccine, I heard the beep again, the woman next to me got up and left, and I noticed that her name was up on the message board calling her to see the doctor. We certainly don't do that in America. We just have the nurse come in to call out the person's name. When the beep sounded again, I ignored it, as always. The people around me were looking at me, the guy next to me was like "isn't that you?", and the nurse was outside waiting. I asked the nurse if it was standard in the UK to use the message board, and she said that most places do where they don't need to be discrete.
Where we wrap coins in paper at set values, they put them in little plastic bags.
The cleaning staff here still clean students' rooms every other week.
Last night, I was asked, first, if I own a gun, and then if I'd ever seen anyone get shot… Let me be clear now: no to both. But, people around the world think America is a gun-crazy nation with lots of gun violence.
Well, there are some of the cultural differences I have noticed so far.
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4 Oct 2007