This place is an adventure everyday- I’m in love with it. It might be too early to say that I’m never coming home but I’m only a few clicks away from looking into dual citizenship. For the past week now I’ve walked between 5 to 10 miles every day exploring my surroundings. I’ve seen churches standing and destroyed, I’ve seen canals that never end, I’ve seen parks hosting everything from rugby fields to rowing to horses. Every turn I make is another opportunity for me to try something new. I wake up ready to take on the city and end every night exhausted but wanting to do it all again. After all, no one is going to live this adventure except for me, so I’ll make the most of every day. Each day is interacting with new people and hearing new stories, including today when I sat down with one of my flat mates to ask her the conversations questions.
Sitting down with her gave me a whole new perspective on the culture here. As she lives only two and a half hours away from London, her view is even different to those in the city. It seems to be that people out more in the country are much more hospitable and open than those that occupy the city. This reminds me of when Hess quoted Myron W. Lustig saying “By providing its members with shared beliefs and assumptions about the ‘right’ and ‘proper’ ways of behaving, cultures provide the context within which individual values develop”. (Hess, pg. 47) I haven’t been outside of the city yet to see this for myself, so I would have no way to tell. But it is incredible how different the cultures can be within such a small geographical area. Perhaps I will experience this again and again as I travel around central Europe for the month of April.
As I was talking to her I realized how similar our cultures really were. I mean if you travel to another state in the US you will come across people with vastly different viewpoints, which is the same here when you go over a few towns. People here live very close to those they grew up with. It seems that they live in their town or village for most of their lives until they come to university. I guess that is pretty much the same as myself back home. I am very used to the people I know in my town and went through my own bit of culture shock when I came to school. We both laughed when we realized that we had never toured around the major cities in our countries. I haven’t been to a number of tourist spots in New York while she hasn’t been to central London more than a handful of times! We did disagree on some of our values, for example, here there is a much bigger emphasis on manners and doing things ‘properly’ whereas back home I find that there is a big support for people to push the system and actively make positive change. However, there are many points that we had in common. We both had a large value on family and tolerance of others which is a tie that will bring us closer together.
Having this conversation really gave me a new perspective on how important it is to find out and explore the differences in others, even when you feel that you are very similar to begin with. There is no telling what you will discover about someone when you get to this level of discussion. Thinking like a computer scientist, it is almost like a phone. Everyone and their brother has an iPhone, but for everyone’s phone there is going to be a different background, different apps downloaded, different pictures and messages stored. Two people with the exact same phone could be polar opposites, but you wouldn’t know unless you looked inside. Now all I want to do is sit down and have more conversations with people of similar and different backgrounds just like this one; I think I would find out a lot about myself and them.
I’ve included this picture from one of my walks. As I was trying to find a dance studio for one of my classes, I stumbled upon this ruin from the old wall that surrounded the city of London. It’s incredible the little bits of history that are scattered throughout the city here! There are little discoveries like this around every corner.
Hess, Daniel J. Studying Abroad/Learning Abroad: An Abridged Edition of The Whole World Guide to Culture Learning. Intercultural Press, INC.