My first week in London, England.
Hello, fellow Travelers. I’m Anna, a junior at Gallatin originally from Seattle, and I am concentrating in Literature, Globalization, and Cultural Anthropology . . . or something like that. I wanted to come to London because, ever since I saw 3 Men and a Baby
(and its delightful sequel 3 Men and a Little Lady
) at age five, I decided that New York and London were the greatest cities in the world. I did not understand at age five that all of New York does not looks like NYC, nor that the entire U.K. does not look like London, but nonetheless, the sentiments these movies gave me about these two places stuck. Having already achieved a visit to the former, it was time, I decided, to visit the latter. Besides, as a student of literature, an avid reader and writer, and a regular theater-goer, there did not seem any place to go but London.
I have to say that living in London has been a bit of an uphill struggle so far. Although I am bedazzled by much of London – the friendly atmosphere and delicious food of the pubs, the crazy mixture of archaic and modern architecture around every corner, the charming British accents – I find myself frequently overwhelmed by tasks that I hardly think twice about in NYC. Trying to find my way to a new location (these meandering streets make no sense to me; NYC’s grid has spoiled me). Wandering through a grocery store and attempting to figure out if said grocery store does not carry my desired item (I still can’t get over the fact that there are no Saltines here) or if is merely called something else (I spent about five minutes trying to locate dish soap when, all along, it was merely the ‘washing up liquid’ right under my nose). Jaywalking across a street (even with those painted words upon the ground telling me which way to turn my head, I invariably still look the wrong way half the time). Staying out past midnight (aka closing time for the Tube) and then fretting as to how I am going to get home without shelling out 50 pounds for a cab. The list goes on.
At first, I was annoyed with myself for getting so flustered by these mundane activities, but then I realized that there’s no reason to chide myself. Culture shock is a normal part of travel; I just need to learn how to adapt to it – and once I do, I can thrive (sorry, just rehashed some Darwin stuff in my Psych class today).
I’m already far more adjusted than, exactly one week ago, I ever thought I would be. I’m becoming more comfortable than I ever had in all my twenty years with a street map, and when that fails, I’m realizing that (most) locals are happy to help out a befuddled tourist. I’ve resigned myself to the lack of Saltines and am training myself to eat Digestives instead. Although it wounds my proud-independent-jaywalking-New-Yorker pride, I currently only jaywalk on one-lane streets or if I can attach myself to a large group of people (safety in numbers, right?). I am learning how the public buses (which run all night) work, something I never actually learned in Seattle or NYC.
Perhaps most importantly, I’m growing more comfortable with the idea that this is going to be an adventure. I don’t just mean adventure in the sense of jetting around Europe, visiting all the tall touristy buildings, tasting all varieties of English ale, etc (though I certainly plan to do those things too). I mean adventure in the sense of uncertainty. I am going to be uncomfortable very frequently in the next four months, and I am comfortable with that discomfort. That, after all, is what will push me, both physically and emotionally, into new territories. And I am ready.