Listening to: She & Him – London.
Before I left for the UK I had lots of errands to run and loose ends to tie up, which included telling lots of strangers about my upcoming travels and studies.
"Oh wow, that sounds like such a great opportunity," they would say. "Now is the best time in your life to do those kind of things," they'd comment. Admittedly, I never tired of the excitement of telling new people about my London jaunt, and I presume I never will.
There was one very kind lady whose polite, follow up question caught me off guard:
"No way, London? Do you speak the language?"
"Oh yea, that definitely helps!" I said with a forced smile as I turned and left the building.
I would be lying if I said I didn't seriously verbally bash this woman (in my head of course, and then again over text to my mom and bff, like you do) for her absolutely ridiculous question.
"Ummm, ya think they'd speak ENGLISH in ENGLAND?? Lolz. Srsly, WTF??"
[Underlying sub-context to be discussed at a later time: Women can be each other's worst critics. We're all guilty of it. I seriously need to cut it out.]
If I had the chance (and if it wasn't socially unacceptable to apologize to people for rude thoughts you've had towards them that they're completely unaware of), I'd like to not only apologize to that lady, but also tell her she might have been on to something.
Seriously. Sometimes I feel like Alice in freaking Wonderland over here…chasing around a smartly-dressed, completely preoccupied bunny rabbit in search of a clear answer on just anything. Between the sayings and the food and the accents and the entire disciplines that you've never studied at all (thanks a lot for the complete UNemphasis on Geography, America...), you start to wonder if you're even a real person with the ability to comprehend anything ever.
[Google search history: "adult learning disorders," "do I have dyslexia," "how fast should I be able to read," "good shout," "Guy Fawkes." (<-- seriously click on that link. I literally LOL'd.)]
Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love immersing myself in and exploring different cultures. Call it what you want (*cough - escapism - cough*), I just like to be reminded that there's a world out there that's different from the one that I know. What I didn't mentally prepare for was the unending list of foreign cultural isms, very persistent men (inspectors, apparently) who ask to see your Oyster (subway) card and you have to show it to them, and bits and pieces of conversation that would serve as constant reminders that I am most certainly, not from here.
Discovering a new culture is most definitely exciting, but for a personality type like mine (yea, I'm not even going to try and define that for you), or maybe just humans in general (trying to make myself feel a little better here), it can start to wear a bit on your emotional/mental/general psyche.
"What was that?"
"I'm sorry, what?"
"Tell me your name one more time."
"Wait, what are we talking about?"
"No, I've never heard of that kind of candy."
"What's Half & Half? Oh, probably the reason America is so fat..."
"You've never even heard of ranch dressing?"
"Haha I don't have an accent - YOU have an accent…why are you laughing so hard?"
"Yea, I have no idea where that is…"
"You've never had pumpkin pie??"
Okay now I'm rambling…but really though.
If there's one bit of advice I can offer from my measly almost-two-months of living abroad experience it would be this: don't underestimate the amount of newness you will encounter and don't overestimate your ability to just sail right through it all. You'll crave familiarity, be it food or friends, and you may even feel a bit guilty for not enjoying every single second of every single day as if it were Christmas morning. But what you can choose to do is stay positive, and not just in the cheesy daily quote kind of way (not hating on people who love cheesy quotes, man, I'm just cynical). Even with that fancy undergraduate degree and/or years of experience working with all different kinds of people, ahem: you really don't know anything (haha, silly person).
Go ahead, get frustrated, but channel that frustrated energy into something better.
Like kick ass papers that show complete and utter mastery of the subject (fingers crossed).
Or like a book of funny phrases and memories that you'll make a coffee table book out of and sell at Urban Outfitters one day:
Stuff Americans in England Like, or
'What's queso?' - How To Deal With Alarming Questions You'll Hear During Your Experience Living Abroad, or
How to Really Freak British People Out…Step 1 - Smile at People When You Walk Down the Street.
It's obviously a work in progress, okay…also don't steal my idea. Kthanks.
The moral of the story is: being new to a place is really fun, and it can also be overwhelming. But generally people are understanding (especially if you have an 'exotic' American accent) and more than willing to repeat themselves and do things like go out to pubs and explain even more things you don't know over a pint (or 4).
So it's all good.
…and don't fall behind on your reading list or you will cry.