6 Things I Learned My First Week in England
With my second week of study at Cambridge under my belt, I’ve learned a thing or two outside the classroom.
- The English are friendly. This, I was not expecting. In the field guides I’d read, in the movies I’d seen, in the stories I’d been told, I had gathered that Brits were not the sociable, approachable type. My barista at the airport immediately shattered this stereotype, and many locals I’ve met since continue to surprise me. Sometimes I could mistake them for Southerners! That’s not to say that there isn’t a fair number of dour duds, but what place in the world doesn’t have a few of those?
- Lemonade = sprite. I never realized how much I liked lemonade, or at least liked having the option to order lemonade, until I couldn’t. When you ask for lemonade at a pub or buy lemonade at a grocer’s, you basically get sprite. Lemonade, with lemons and sugar and ice, doesn’t really exist. I think England is a gloomier place without it.
- 200 years does not make something old. When your tour guide dismisses a branch of the building as ‘new’ when she’s referring to the Victorian-era wing, you soon realize that your standards for ‘old’ are too generous. The cathedral in the small town of Ely was founded in 673 AD. That’s closer to Christ and the Romans than to the modern era. The Round Church in Cambridge, which I pass nearly every day, was first built by the Normans not long after their invasion of Britain. In America, we consider Civil War-era artifacts to be old.
- Don’t walk on the grass. At the university, only college fellows can walk on grass within campus grounds. This proves inconvenient when you’re late to breakfast and can’t cut through the square to reach your Nutella bagel more quickly. Yet, it only took a few days before I started giving scornful looks to tourists who meandered onto the grass. Actually seeing someone walk on the grass who looks like a fellow now feels like a celebrity spotting.
- Iced coffee doesn’t exist. I already knew that Europeans were less liberal with their ice than Americans, but I’m still struggling at coffee shops when the barista informs me that they don’t make iced coffee. Yes, I know I should drink tea while in England, but when it’s 90 degrees and the shop doesn’t have AC, I want my sweetened iced coffee.
Yes, I finally chose sneakers for the trip! (Two pairs, in fact.)
- Wear tennis shoes. Everyone walks or bikes in Cambridge. The area around my college doesn’t even allow cars besides taxis, buses, and approved vehicles. Ten to fifteen minute walks to dinner or coffee starts to feel like a quickie. Thus, the necessity for tennis shoes.