Travel Log 5: “Conversations” by Aileen Sheluck – London, England

Now that I’ve been here for a month, I’m starting to get a better grasp of the culture. However, no matter how long I stay, I will always have a different view of the culture than someone who was born and raised in England. I feel like you form a special connection with the culture of your native country, and you understand the beliefs and norms better than anyone else. I think this is why it was important to meet with someone from this country in order to see the culture and the country from the perspective of a native. I think that Hess put it very well when he stated, “Values, unlike laws, aren’t written for people to read and memorize. They are hidden…until people act. The casual tourist is not likely to be able to determine what a people’s value system is” (Hess 55). English/British natives will have an insight into the population that I could never have because I haven’t been living here for my whole life. My informant (I’ll call him Dan for the sake of his privacy) works at my program affiliate. I specifically chose to meet with him because I know he has a lot of contact with American students, and since he’s from England, he has substantial experience with people of both cultures. I thought this was important because he would already have knowledge of the differences in beliefs between the two countries, and he would have a better understanding of Americans than someone who may have never been to America before.

Our discussion was very informative. He gave me a lot of things to think about in regards to English culture and the differences between Americans and English people. One of the cultural value sets that we discussed that I found the most interesting was equality versus hierarchy and rank. In America, we are really big on equality. We don’t feel that it’s necessary for there to be a social hierarchy, and everyone should be on the same level. Dan mentioned that English culture contrasts from that right off the bat – they have a monarchy. Those people will always be higher in society than everyday members of the culture. In addition, especially in the city of London, there are a lot of homeless people, which you would expect being in any major city. These people are seen as a lot lower than everyone else, and no one is very big on helping them. Their thoughts about the social hierarchy influence their actions towards people they believe are below them. Based on my conversations with Dan and his opinions, I think that the English culture is a contrast culture from America in regards to this value. They value a hierarchy and want society to be structured and ranked, although just because they like ranks doesn’t mean they disrespect each other. When discussing informality versus formality, Dan mentioned that people have a different view of English people in regard to this. People, especially Americans, perceive English people to be so formal, whereas he believes they are not at all. However, Dan and I both agreed that English people are not as informal as Americans, but they aren’t nearly as formal as we perceive them to be. Finally, we also had a deeper discussion about boasting versus modesty. Dan said that he believes that Americans are a lot more willing to share their achievements. They like people knowing when they’ve done something that they believe deserves praise. I agreed with him. I think that Americans also believe that more things deserve praise. I mentioned this to Dan, and he mentioned the idea of receiving a trophy for participation. People in England do not get rewarded for basically doing nothing, which he said English people believe happens a lot in America. He said that if an English person does something that they believe deserves praise, it is actually a very big accomplishment. They are much less boastful in general, but if they do brag about something, it is something worth bragging about. I found this interesting, because I had never thought of that difference before. Overall, my discussion with Dan was very informative and gave be a much better insight into the values of the English culture and the differences between my culture and his.

At home, a big part of campus life is participating in a sorority or fraternity. This is a community that I am not a part of. I don’t have a negative view of this community, I just don’t really interact with that many people who are a part of it. However, I think that sitting down and having a conversation like I had with Dan with a person who is a member of greek life would make me think more. There would definitely be value in discussing the values of different sororities with different people, and how they think those values affect the campus community. Learning more about the values of people in greek life may cause me to reevaluate my decision not to participate in it. The people in greek life bring a lot of positive value to the university community. They do a lot of volunteering and fundraising, which is great for the people involved and for the people receiving the help. It’s really interesting how doing this sort of activity on a larger scale, with completely different cultures, can still apply to my life on a smaller scale once I return home. I think that, as part of bringing value back to my community once I reincorporate, I might try to talk more to my friends in greek life about why they joined and what they think their values are.

Since our meeting was a little bit rushed due to both of our schedules, Dan and I IMG_1926were unable to get a picture together. I decided to include this picture, because I think it describes some of the values of the English culture. This is a mural in Shoreditch, and I came across it with my friends while we were exploring the area. I think it’s really impactful and shows that English people value respect of each other.

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2 thoughts on “Travel Log 5: “Conversations” by Aileen Sheluck – London, England

  1. Interesting points that you and Dan discussed! I also agree that Americans do look for a lot of praise in the things that we do and think it’s interesting how you both talked about the social hierarchy. And I am not a part of the Greek life but think that maybe we could both learn a few things from those that are members, about their values on sororities and fraternities.

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  2. I love what you said about having a special connection with your native culture. I have been thinking a lot about this lately as I am becoming more and more settled into my new home. I feel like I belong more each day, but at the same time, I will never belong as much as a native. There is always something missing in my ways of thinking and cultural values. It’s interesting to think about because it’s sort of like an eternal liminal state. You want to belong, but you will never compare to the natives.

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